How the Commissioners Can Save More Money
While it has become patently apparent that the county commissioners don't speak for the citizens of Carroll County, they now decided not to speak to us.
In an effort to save money, they have decided, now, not to replace the heads of various departments in Carroll County. As a donation of my time, I will, at no cost to Carroll County, do the thinking for the commissioners as they don't have the time to do this. The first thing I think for the commissioners is that they should fire themselves as a way to save money and put an end to their reckless disregard of citizen input.
The end of May brought an additional burden to the already overtaxed Carroll citizens. The tax increase amounted to a change in the "piggyback" from 50 percent to 58 percent, an actual increase in cost to the taxpayer of 16 percent and equal to a property tax increase of about 24 cents. Sadly, this increase could have been avoided simply by reducing the increases in departments other than the Department of Education. Further, this increase was opposed by the vast majority of Carroll voters, those who voted overwhelmingly for Ellen Sauerbrey for governor and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, both ardent advocates of tax decrease.
It has been obvious for a long time that Commissioner Ben Brown was eager to increase taxes; in early March, when the increase was publicly proposed, Mr. Brown was not really proposing the tax increase, he was defending it. He sat through town meetings which were designed to elicit "citizen input" to PTC which he paid no attention. In fact, he, apparently, had decided ++ to increase taxes even before he was elected. Commissioner Donald Dell declared until the last moment that he was undecided, but then voted to increase the tax. Commissioner Richard Yates voted against the tax, as he said he would. Carroll voters are bitterly disappointed with Mr. Brown and Mr. Dell. Mr. Yates is to be applauded; he recognized and respected the will of the people.
The Carroll County Taxpayers Association circulated a petition in opposition to the tax increase and collected more than 5,000 signatures, which were presented to Mr. Dell (many thousands more could have been added if time had allowed). This exercise determined that Carroll citizens were more than 100 to 1 in opposition. These people were ignored and their wishes
dismissed with a comment suggesting that they were just unwilling to support the government.
This cavalier attitude characterizes the position of many elected representatives, like Mr. Brown who blandly stated, "We need more revenue" and this with no regard for the ability of the citizen to tolerate additional taxes. The fact is that Marylanders are grossly overtaxed. . . .
The "piggyback" increase is not the only "beneficence" afforded us by the county commissioners. Early in the term, the impact fee was increased (another pet project of Mr. Brown).
This increase in taxes made absolutely no sense. It will have great adverse effect on a very small segment of our people and will afford little increase in revenue. Some think the impact tax will affect only "outsiders," but, in fact, 60 percent of new homes in Carroll are built by present citizens of Carroll. The advance hype for this tax increase projected a $1.8 million addition to the existing impact tax revenue to provide $4.5 million; now, only $1.4 million is expected ($3 million short) -- and this from the county budget office.
The need for taxes is a very sad, though we all concede necessary, fact of life. However, those who impose taxes should regard them not as characterless monies spewing forth in never-ending stream, but as the lifeblood of people. They should realize that the taking of these resources is a coercive act; an act when performed by government is called taxation, but when performed by a gunman is called robbery. The first is legal and the second is illegal; both require forced compliance and both have the same result. . . .
The county government must cut operating costs; this of necessity requires reduction in the largest budget item, the Department of Education. This will not be easy. The entrenched bureaucracy, the teachers unions, and even young parents who are deceived by teacher communications via notes carried home by small children; all these will mount big-time opposition. Cutting costs, however, will be supported by taxpayers and even some county governments, such as Baltimore County, who have awakened to the fact that the prime mission of the departments of education is to perpetuate their bureaucracies.
We have hope, in the foreseeable future, to realize this absolutely unavoidable and necessary economy and to restore Carroll to sound fiscal health.
Arthur B. Lego
The writer is vice president of the Carroll County Taxpayers Association.