In their final State of the County address of their four-year term, Carroll County commissioners said Tuesday the county is in a strong financial situation and well positioned for the future.
"We have raised the bar of expectation in Carroll County and are confident that this is the right time and Carroll County is the right place for business to locate and grow," Commissioners president Dave Roush said.
The annual State of the County event was hosted by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster and sponsored by M&T Bank. About 160 people attended the hour-long presentation and discussion of the commissioners' report to the business community.
In his remarks, Roush cited a "rapid expansion" in commercial and economic development, the county's highly diversified tax base, and the county's 5.2 percent unemployment rate as reasons he believes the county is in a strong financial position.
Commissioner Haven Shoemaker, who is seeking election to the House of Delegates next year instead of re-election as commissioner, said cuts to the county income and property tax rates have a lot to do with the uptick in recent economic development announcements.
Within the last week, the county has announced the expansion of clothing firm Tom James Co. in Westminster and the relocation of Fuchs North America from Owings Mills to Hampstead.
Although Shoemaker said the county has been able to do "some very good things," he added that the county must be committed to funding the school system adequately.
"If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. Companies will not locate in a county with a lousy school system," he said.
Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Steve Guthrie has proposed an operating budget calling for a 2 percent increase, to $166.8 million, for fiscal year 2015.
Commissioner Doug Howard said the state of Carroll County is "very good," citing the county's balanced budget, school system graduation rates, low crime rate, and agriculture preservation efforts..
Howard said the real question that should be considered is not the state of the county today, but the state of the county in the future.
Howard also addressed education funding, adding that it will be one of the biggest challenges in the upcoming budget discussions.
Howard said he will seek funding the school system at $165 million, up from the originally planned $162 million, while establishing a long-term strategy for school funding.
"We have to continue to lower taxes and invest in education," he said.
Commissioner Robin Frazier was unable to attend the event, but did record a statement in which she said Carroll needs to continue to battle federal and state overreach.
Frazier serenaded the crowd with a "commissioner carol," in which she said state policies were pushing businesses into other states.
"Get up off your fanny, take a stand, don't be shy," she said in her song.
Commissioner Richard Rothschild used his time to speak on stormwater management.
Rothschild urged local officials to use all of the tools available to stop harmful mandates, such as the stormwater fee.
"Otherwise, we'll run out of money before we run out of pollution and critical services with suffer," he said.
The commissioners State of the County address can be viewed online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfe2S_XgyEs.