State of the County 2016
Westminster, MD
01/12/2016 02:25 PM

The Board of County Commissioners presented their individual perspectives on the state of the county this morning. A common theme was the way that the 60th Board has come together to face, debate, and make the challenging strategic decisions needed to ensure a balanced and sustainable economy not only for today, but also for five, ten, and fifteen years into the future.

 

Commissioner Wantz opened by emphasizing the strong working relationship not only among the commissioners themselves, but also with the state delegation. He revisited his theme from last year of the “3 E’s – Economic Development, Education, and Emergency Services. Commissioner Wantz spoke of the strong and growing economic base here in the county; from new companies relocating to Carroll County to the growth of existing businesses. Balancing educational needs with financial reality resulted in decisions that have strengthened the school system for future generations. Recent enhancements to the public safety system, from the completion of the Public Service Training Center to the enhancement of emergency communications, were cited, as well as the critical funding provided by the Board to the Sheriff and State’s Attorney for the Not in Carroll initiative to eliminate drug overdoses in the county.

 

Commissioner Weaver dovetailed on the education theme, noting that declining enrollments have resulted in a disproportionate decrease in state funding. The funds that the governor has pledged to place in the FY2017 state budget will only recover 25 percent of the funding lost in recent years. The Commissioner noted that we need to address teacher compensation, as we cannot continue to lose our best teachers to neighboring jurisdictions due to the pay disparity. The Farm Museum was highlighted by the Commissioner, noting that over 1000 volunteer hours were donated to make the museum a valuable asset to the county; from hosting the annual Maryland Wine Festival to the partnership with Gypsy’s Tea Room. Through three programs, the county was able to designate 2360 acres as agricultural preserve, bringing the county’s total of land preserved for agricultural use to 66,642 acres.

 

Commissioner Frazier emphasized the many ways the county’s economy has been strengthened during the past year, citing the example of several new businesses that have moved into the county and the anticipated $500,000 in tax revenue that will be generated from these companies. Completion of the backbone of the high-speed fiber network has connected 130 state and local agencies in the county as well as emergency services. The installation of solar panels will provide an estimated $500,000 in electrical cost savings and Commissioner Frazier would like to see the solar project expanded to all county buildings. Finally, Commissioner Frazier thanked the Board of Education for taking action and looks forward to working with them to continue this process.

 

Commissioner Rothschild spoke on how decisions made at the state and federal level heavily impact the work of the county. From his position as Vice-Chair of the Rural Counties Coalition as well as his work with the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, Commissioner Rothschild provided an example of environmental legislation that negatively impacts growth in Carroll County. He has met with representatives of the governor’s administration and hopes to work with the administration to make changes that will result in real improvements to the Chesapeake Bay while relieving some of the burden on the county.

 

Commissioner Howard also spoke of the growing economic base in the county, resulting in our strong financial position. Passing the master plan and completing the broadband backbone contributed to Carroll County being ranked highly in several national surveys; with excellent schools, Carroll Community College, and our library system leading the way in attracting new families to the county. To strengthen our schools, Commissioner Howard calls for the Board of Education to address teacher salaries and for the state to adjust the Thornton Plan spending formulas as well as to take back responsibility for pension funding. He issued his challenge to the Board of Education to embrace Celebrating America within the schools; resulting in students who are not only college and career ready, but also citizen ready. A second challenge was issued to reduce drug overdoses by 20 percent annually until no deaths are reported due to drug overdose. Commissioner Howard will work on convening a long-term strategic planning group to develop the goals necessary to continue our strong economic growth and prepare for the challenges of the future.

Reference
Deborah Lundahl
410-386-2043
 
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