Carroll County Times
Carroll County News

Carroll commissioner candidates discuss effectiveness of property tax cuts

The current five-member Carroll County Board of Commissioners has lowered taxes every year since it has taken office but the tax breaks have been minimal.

The board recently approved a Fiscal Year 2015 budget that includes giving a one-time-only county property tax rebate of 1 cent per $100 of assessed value to property owners and lowering the local income tax, or "piggyback tax," from 3.04 percent to 3.03 percent. The cost to the county to offer the tax rebate and cut totals $2.2 million.


We asked all 20 of the candidates for the board of commissioners: Do you believe the incremental decreases in property taxes are really helping Carroll residents, or hurting them because of the resultant decrease in county revenues, leading to cuts in the county budget?

Here are the responses from the candidates who chose to answer the question:


District 1

Cynthia L. Foley, Republican: Chose not to answer the question.

Robin Bartlett Frazier, Republican, incumbent: I proposed a 5 cent tax decrease starting in 2010; my colleagues did not vote to make this reduction. Currently we've seen 3.25 cents in tax cuts. This year the county's portion of the surplus is $12.6 million which indicates $2.75 million additional could have been absorbed. I will continue to push for the total 5 cent tax cut. Residents benefit from tax cuts by having a property tax bill that is not increasing keeping their mortgage payments stable. All citizens benefit when businesses are able to stay in business or expand with the more substantial savings they realize by the tax cuts. Small business is the backbone of the economy. Revenues have NOT decreased from year to year, nor was there a reduction in total county spending as the words "cuts in the county budget" would indicate.

Jackie Jones, Democrat: Cutting taxes does not help the economy. If I heard correctly, from the county budget briefing that Carroll County received less tax revenue this past year and some of that is because the commissioners lowered taxes. Historically, if taxes are lowered, we end up paying more in the coming years. It is a fact the commissioners have neglected schools, services and employees for past 4-6 yeas and not all was due to economics.

Tina Mawhinney, Republican: Lowering taxes makes a commission popular to the public but unfortunately the repercussions of the lower revenue is not worth the nominal per person savings.

Stephen Albert Wantz, Republican: With our location in the metro region comes a responsibility to maintain our citizens expected quality of life, and level of delivered service by local government. While all appreciate lower taxes, these tax decreases have been minimal per household, so we must make sure the cut is worth the benefit. We are cutting public education but putting $800,000 into a private education fund. Carroll is fifth in the state in median property taxes. We are rural but we incur expenses differently than many of the rural counties based on our location. As a small business and property owner I plan for and budget tax expenses.There is no need to increase taxes, as correct utilization of funds can lead to better spending. Our bond ratings depend on sound reserves and fund balances. With an improving economy and being fiscally responsible, I anticipate future tax decreases.

District 2

Brian K. DiMaggio, Republican: This current board of commissioners went into office claiming that the county taxes were too high. This means that they believed there was too much money in the budget. They kept their promises and lowered the taxes each year by small amounts. So if anyone is complaining about smaller budgets, what did you expect? We elected them to cut the budget. Duh. That being said, this year they gave a 3% increase to most of the departments that weren't even asking for it. I believe the commissioners could have done much better than a (1 penny per thousand dollars) decrease in our property tax every year. The average income for our citizens has been flat for the past 5 years, and if the tax payers haven't had a raise in 5 years, why are we so focused on raises and bonuses for government employees?

William Niner, Republican: I support lower/reduced taxes. I don't think the Carroll County Government has a money issue, but has a spending issue. More needs to be done to lower/reduce taxes so people can keep more of their hard earned money in their pockets. The efficient and effective use of tax dollars is very important. Streamlining services and programs will also save tax dollars. Income taxes and property taxes need to be lowered/reduced in Carroll County.

C. Richard Weaver, Republican: We do not need higher taxes we need more efficient government. Spending without bids and inefficiency in our present ways of doing business would help to offset the decreases in county revenues.

District 3

Mae Alexander, Unaffiliated: Chose not to answer the question.

Dennis Frazier, Republican: It is definitely hurting us all. When the county has to cut funding to schools, police and nonprofits the communities suffer. On top of that add not maintaining infrastructure and you have the recipe for disaster. The current board of commissioners is kicking the can down the road, the price of fixing all these problems will cost much more later. It's the old pay me now or pay me later and later is always a much higher bill.

Matthew P. Holbert, Republican: First and foremost, the budget is not the salary of the county — this is something that most residents do not know about, which they will find disturbing if they locate and examine their local Comprehensive Annual Finance Report (CAFR). Second, I do not think that it is hurting anything to lower the tax rate, I think that it is due to a lack of vision and backbone of the local politicians that our infrastructure is a mess.

Lyn Mallick, Republican: Let's be clear; these tax decreases have been covered by annual surpluses and therefore should have had no impact on the annual budget as the question implies.

Kenneth J. Mercer, Republican: I believe the tax cuts should have been timed with the recovery of the economy. These cuts have hurt Carroll's ability to continue making it the great place we know it to be. Carroll has the second lowest property tax rate compared to the surrounding counties Howard, Frederick and Baltimore which demonstrates we are not at a disadvantage in attracting business or homeowners to Carroll. Leaders would have been more prudent with the timing of the tax cuts.

Dave Roush, Republican, incumbent: I think it is appropriate to lower taxes whenever we can. Our tax burden got where it is today from years of "incremental" increases. It is unrealistic to think that it can go down in large chunks without causing significant disruptions. You must be careful in using the term "budget cuts". There has been much talk about cuts in the state budget, cuts in the County budget, and cuts in the school system's budget. But spending has increased in all of these organizations. What is usually cut is the requested increase in spending. That Carroll has cut taxes helps us recruit new businesses and this is where future spending needs will be met.

Maria Warburton, Democrat: Chose not to answer the question.

District 4

Barbara Joan Biller, Republican: I support lowering taxes and offering tax cuts — I pay personal income taxes, residential and commercial property taxes as well as all the taxes that my business is burdened with to be the tax collector for local, state and federal governments. I am keenly aware of the overall tax burden to both business and individuals and the increases for the last 15 years. I will work to offer Carroll residents reduced taxes balanced with adequate services. I will also work to inform tax payers regarding the progress Carroll is making to reduce their tax burden. In speaking with many constituents, they repeatedly claim that their taxes have gone up. People tend to be more in tune with deductions from their paycheck than the escrow amount collected for property taxes through their mortgage payments. The reality is that more people felt the impact of increased withholdings from the expiration of the "payroll tax cut" at the end of 2012.

Richard Rothschild, Republican, incumbent: Let me make something very clear. State taxes continue to increase. The small reductions in County tax rates only partially offset tax increases from state government. We have many citizens that are on fixed income, or struggling with lower paying jobs and reduced income. These small tax reductions help these struggling homeowners stay in their homes and balance their budgets. Furthermore, I'm disappointed by the misleading information being transmitted by the Board of Education. Citizens were deceived into wrongly believing school funding was cut $24M "over the past 6 years", when in fact, funding increased $22M during this ongoing period of declining enrollment that will continue another 5 years.

Sean Shaffer, Republican: There is no correlation between the two. Cuts are also necessary because of rising costs. Tax structure needs to be changed as needed for the time. If house values are truly on the rise then lower property taxes would break even or in fact still increase revenue. If not then we might need to reevaluate the situation.

District 5

Cathey Allison, Republican: Chose not to answer the question.

Doug Howard, Republican, incumbent: Taxes tend to creep up over time when governments are based on the premise that it is the government's role to solve all problems, that certain "feel good" project areas like "bay restoration" where science and common sense are widely disregarded and when there is no accountability. I completely reject this approach to government. When our community has a need or problem, we need to look at both public and private solutions, and opportunities to combine those. We should only use taxpayer dollars when service levels, progress and results can be measured. We must continually look for efficiency in all that we do. If so, Carroll will be able to continue down the path of steady incremental tax reduction without damage to our county. And, at some time, the difference between our taxing philosophy and that of other counties will help us be competitive and attract more business here.