March 17, 2001

Fire, aim, ready!

THE COLUMBIA Council found itself with a heaping portion of crow two weeks ago.

It had rushed through a re-structuring of its tax rate, putting Columbia on a 100 percent valuation system along with the rest of the state.

Then, the state attorney general said the change was unnecessary since Columbia is not a city nor a governmental subdivision. Councilwoman Barbara L. Russell, one of those who opposed the change, had asked for the opinion. She did not gloat.

The council voted to repeal its earlier action, which had generated some concerns that higher tax rates might have resulted.

"This," said Vince Marando, another member of the council who opposed the change, "is probably the best example of the worst decision-making I've ever been party to.

"We really fired and then we aimed and we're still not sure where we're going."

There's a lot of that going around in Columbia.

Taxed two times?

WITH A quarter of Carroll County residents living in the eight incorporated municipalities, which levy additional taxes, it's important that those citizens feel like they're not double-taxed for services.

The good news is that seven towns are getting their legal share of county funds to compensate for locally provided services, such as police. The exception is Hampstead, which is due an extra $15,000 under the formula, according to a recently concluded study done for Carroll County.

The study by an economic research contractor shows the county is complying with the state law against double taxation. But that doesn't mean municipal officials are satisfied with the Carroll formula.

"We're always interested in more," says Gerald R. Johnson, the mayor of Mount Airy.

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