Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Julia Walsh Gouge claimed the strong probability of more new school construction in Carroll as an overriding reason for keeping the county property tax at $2.62 per $100 of assessed value Friday, minutes after Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier made a motion to decrease the county property tax rate by 1 cent.
The motion by Frazier died for lack of a second.
"I would like to second the motion, but I don't see it as a logical move," Dell said. "It would be irresponsible to cut revenues and then have to sell bonds to finance projects. My experience says no."
Dell was serving on the previous board of commissioners five years ago when Carroll had to raise its tax rate by 27 cents to meet the demands of growth. The rate has not changed since. A one-cent reduction would equal about $18 to the owner of a $150,000 home.
"We are a growing county and we are going to continue to grow and people will continue to demand services," he said. "This would be a penny in the wrong direction."
Gouge said she still sees new schools in the future and a consistent demand for reduced class sizes.
"I see no end anytime shortly," Gouge said. "I see more and more need for classrooms. I think people are more interested in schools than in saving a penny on their tax rate."
Frazier said she wants to return revenue to residents. The county is at the end of a 10-year capital improvements cycle that saw the construction of several schools.
"We have finished those projects, and I would like to see the tax rate come down," she said.
Carroll's industrial tax base should top 13 percent this year - the highest it has been in memory - and property assessments are on the rise, she said.
"Any revenue increases should pay down the debt," Dell said. "Let's get out of debt and then we can talk about reducing taxes."
The proposal came as the commissioners reviewed the $225.3 million budget for fiscal 2002, which begins July 1. They expect to adopt the budget Thursday and made only minor changes, including a one-time expense of $535,000 for middle school books and $4,000 for equipment at the Carroll County Farm Museum.
Frazier was successful in having a policy change approved. Any capital project request from the school board or any county agency must be accompanied by a statement detailing the project's impact on operational costs.
The commissioners will meet early this week with the Board of Education to reconcile a few budget items before the final approval.