Carroll commissioners debate potential budget scenario

Carroll County commissioners Doug Howard and Haven Shoemaker kicked off their month-long set of community meetings Tuesday at Charles Carroll Elementary School. And if the first session is any indication of what is to come, the meetings could further illustrate the different philosophies on the five-member Board of County Commissioners as it enters budget discussions.

What was scheduled to be a presentation by Howard and Shoemaker on potential budget discussions, county education funding, and other county issues turned into a debate on which commissioner presented facts the public could believe.

At one point, Commissioner Richard Rothschild, who attended the meeting with Commissioner Robin Frazier, shouted from his seat during a discussion on how much funding was allocated for teacher bonuses.

More than 30 people attended the meeting held in the gymnasium of Charles Carroll Elementary School, whose future was a popular topic for commissioners.

A recent study, commissioned by the Carroll County Board of Education, has recommended the school system replace Charles Carroll, but allocating the funds for a new school could be problematic.

Howard said Tuesday that it would be "wholly irresponsible" for the Board of Education to pass a budget without a plan for replacing Charles Carroll.

Howard also proposed a potential source of funding for education during the meeting.

If the county receives higher than projected revenues from economic development and income tax, which Howard believes is possible, he is proposing a five-year plan that designates the additional funds be used for education, tax cuts, and infrastructure.

He said 40 percent of additional revenues should go toward education, 40 percent toward tax reduction, and 20 percent to infrastructure and other needs.

Under Howard's scenario, if the county sees a two-and-a-half percent increase over a six year period that would mean about $21 million for education, he said.

But Rothschild, who, along with Frazier, was given an opportunity to address the audience, said Howard's goal was laudable, but not achievable.

He said it's unlikely the county sees additional revenue with projections remaining flat.

"The numbers don't work, that's the problem," Rothschild said, adding that Howard's presentation was "deceptive."

This is the second year that Howard and Shoemaker have hosted their around-the-county meetings in advance of county budget deliberations.

After the meeting, Rothschild said other commissioners were purposely excluded from the meetings "to give them [Howard and Shoemaker] a one-sided forum."

Howard disagreed, saying that commissioners need to be out in the community talking to residents.

"Anybody should be out talking to citizens," he said.

In a news release Jan. 2 announcing the meeting schedule, Howard and Shoemaker said they "are also willing to accommodate the commissioner representing the district in which the meeting will be held with some time to make a brief presentation."

One thing that commissioners did agree on was that the school system should not have spent $88,000 for the facilities study.

Shoemaker went as far as calling the study "silly."

The rest of the commissioners' meetings are as follows:

•Tuesday, Jan 14 at Liberty High School, 5855 Bartholow Road, Eldersburg

•Monday, Jan. 27 at North Carroll High School, 1400 Panther Drive, Hampstead

•Tuesday, Jan. 28 at Mt. Airy Middle School, 102 Watersville Road, Mt. Airy

•Monday, Feb. 3 at East Middle School, 121 Longwell Avenue, Westminster

All meetings will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

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