Commissioners make wish list for legislators

One proposal would allow small bets by elderly

September 04, 2005|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's proposals for the 2006 General Assembly include a routine bond bill, a salary increase for the sheriff and a measure to allow small-time gambling at senior centers.

Absent is a request for a transfer tax on real estate sales, which has dominated the commissioners' wish list for three years.

Since these three commissioners were elected in 2002, they have pushed for a transfer tax to be levied at the time of settlement. Revenue would be used for roads and schools necessary to meet the demands of growth. The county legislative delegation has repeatedly rejected the proposal.

"Politically and realistically speaking, none of the delegation will go along with this," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich. "We asked the delegation last year to find us a way to give taxpayers a break, but everybody kept playing politics. It is a dead issue this year. I am not bringing it up."

Given the increased tax revenues from higher assessments and recordation fees, Minnich said, a transfer tax is not critical this year.

Although redistricting and a five-member board of commissioners that would begin next year were not among the proposals delivered to the board last week, both issues are likely to figure in conversations with the delegation.

Voters decided last year to expand the commissioners' board from three to five members and to elect them by district. The new districts are subject to the approval by the legislators, who also could modify them during the next session.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of the all-Republican delegation, plans to schedule a public hearing on his proposal to allow the electorate to vote for all five commissioners regardless of district.

Next year, the commissioners will continue to push for tax credits for the elderly, many of whom are facing higher property tax bills that could force them to sell their homes, Minnich said.

The county staff is working on measures including a reduction in the tax rate, deferral of payment and credits.

Among the legislative proposals is the annual bond bill that would give the commissioners authority to borrow an unspecified amount of money for capital improvements.

The commissioner form of government requires county officials to ask the legislature for that authority.

The sheriff's salary, set by state law, would increase through 2009, after a new term of office that will begin next year.

The sheriff, who is elected, earns $65,000 annually. The job would pay $71,532 next year and $75,910 by the end of the four-year term.

The commissioners are also proposing reworking the local government tort claims act with language to include two nonprofit organizations whose insurance premiums have risen sharply.

Because much of what the Carroll Area Transit System and the Carroll County Humane Society do involves government service, they should be considered under the county government's insurance umbrella, officials said.

A measure to provide the agencies insurance relief failed in the House of Delegates last year, but the reworded proposal addresses legislators' concerns, said Kimberly Millender, the county attorney.

The board will ask the delegation to modify state laws to allow small wagers on bingo, card games and billiards at the five area senior centers.

The centers have obtained permits that allow gambling on bingo one day a week.

"The seniors want small betting five days a week, but, with the way the law is written they can't," said Jolene Sullivan, county director of citizen services.

"This has been hard for folks playing for nickels and dimes," she said.

Minnich contributed some levity, saying, "There is no truth to the rumors that neon signs will be placed on the senior centers and we will become a version of Atlantic City."

The commissioners plan a legislative workshop at 7 p.m. Sept. 12 to gather public comment on the proposals and will meet with the legislative delegation at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 3. Both sessions will be held in the County Office Building.

We want your opinions

THE ISSUE: The Carroll County commissioners will ask the county legislative delegation to propose a bill that would allow small-time gambling at the five senior centers. The ordinance would allow small amounts to be bet daily on bingo, cards and billiards. Do you think the legislators should sponsor the bill in the 2006 General Assembly session?

YOUR VIEW: Send e-mail responses by Thursday to carroll.letters, letters to The Carroll Sun, 2 Locust Lane, Suite 202, Westminster, 21157, or faxes to 410-876-0439. A selection of responses will be published Sunday. Please keep your responses short and include your name, address and telephone number. Addresses and phone numbers will not be published.

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