Carroll Digest

CARROLL COUNTY DIGEST

October 06, 2004

Commissioners vote to limit increase in yearly tax bills

The Carroll County commissioners voted yesterday to give county residents some relief on their future property tax bills in a hot housing market that has led to higher assessments by the state.

The commissioners lowered the rate of the Homestead Tax Credit - which had been set at 110 percent for more than 15 years - to 107 percent, said Ted Zaleski, director of management and budget.

"This limits how much your property tax bill can go up in any one year," Zaleski said. "In South Carroll, this year, the average assessments were up 36 percent."

Because increases are phased in over three years, he said, the 36 percent increase would mean a 12 percent increase per year in the property tax bill, if there were no cap. The county had limited the increase to 10 percent per year, but yesterday's vote means the cap will drop to 7 percent, beginning in July.

While this will affect county revenue, Zaleski said, "The county commissioners felt they needed to do something to provide some relief from these rapidly rising reassessments."

The county is divided into three zones, with property assessed by the state on a rotating basis every three years, he said.

"The northeast is happening this year," Zaleski said, "and what I'm hearing is that we're going to see something similar to South Carroll."

The commissioners have been considering lowering the rate for the past year, said Zaleski, but had to act by Nov. 15 if they planned to change it.

Committee to begin work on airport master plan

A committee of 19 members will begin next week to work with two consultants to update the master plan for the Carroll County Regional Airport.

The first in a series of meetings, which are open to the public, will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 13 in Room 003 at the County Office Building, said Gary L. Horst, the county director of enterprise and recreation services.

The committee includes county staff members, residents, people who use the airport and aviation enthusiasts, Horst said.

The current master plan is almost 20 years old, he said.

The committee will make recommendations to the commissioners about whether to extend the runway and to separate the runway-taxiway and about the best use of existing facilities and undeveloped property, he said.

Health-plan costs increase OK'd by commissioners

The Carroll County commissioners voted yesterday to increase some health-coverage costs that are paid by county employees beginning Jan. 1.

The increases include:

An increase in premiums to be deducted from biweekly paychecks for an health maintenance organization-type plan of $1.25 for an individual, $2 for a couple and $3 for a family and an increase for a preferred-provider service of $2.50 for an individual, $3.75 for a couple and $5 for a family, said Bill Bates, chief of the bureau of benefits in the Department of Human Resources.

An increase in the co-payment for brand-name drugs from $10 to $15.

A new $10 co-pay for an eye examination every two years, plus a $10 co-pay for glasses. The plan has been free to employees.

An increase of less than $1 for dental coverage, in response to a 5 percent increase in costs to the county.

The commissioners rejected some suggestions, such as an increase in the costs to employees for office visits to doctors.

The possible changes were outlined by Bates and Carole V. Hammen, director of the Department of Human Resources. Bates said the changes will mean a savings to the county of about $230,000.

The county has about 1,100 employees, including offices of the state's attorney, sheriff and courthouse, Bates said.

The increases were approved unanimously by the commissioners.

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