Candidates speak out on growth, funding

October 17, 2002|by TARA REILLY

The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce held a forum for Washington County Commissioner candidates Wednesday at the Four Points Sheraton.

Each of the 10 candidates was asked what they would do to make up for cuts in state funding, how they would ensure the Washington County Public Schools system receives its fair share of state education funding, how they would make sure the county's infrastructure can handle growth and what city and county services they would consolidate to save money.

Here are some of their responses:

  • Jim Brown, Democrat, said he would consider hiring freezes, reducing purchasing expenses and salary freezes to help balance a tight budget. He'd only consider staff cuts as a last resort. He said he thinks recent Thornton Commission-prompted legislation allocating additional dollars for public education should be used appropriately and that the county should continue to direct growth to designated growth areas.

  • Constance S. Cramer, Democrat, said the county should cut wasteful spending to deal with possible state budget cuts and plan carefully for growth so it doesn't get out of control. She said she doesn't think growth should be relied upon as a sole provider of increasing county revenues. "It depletes the infrastructure and makes it more costly in the long run," she said.

  • J. Herbert Hardin, Democrat, said he thinks the county needs to consider excise taxes and possibly charge developers a fee for each dwelling they propose. He said he doesn't think growth is bad for the county and that the county is seeing minimal growth. He said he would like to hear what builders have to say about a possible county moratorium on major residential developments in rural areas.

  • Bert L. Iseminger, Democrat, said the county needs to continue to work with the local delegation to the General Assembly to ensure the county gets its fair share of state education funding. He thinks the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan will help the county positively manage growth and that amendments to the county Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, which deals with roads and school capacities, will help the effort. Iseminger said he supports a transfer tax and dedicating the revenue from that tax to education capital projects, fire and rescue needs and agricultural land preservation.

  • James F. Kercheval, Republican, believes the public should pressure the local delegation to bring back as much money from Annapolis as possible and hold its members accountable it if doesn't. He thinks the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan should be fair and that the county should make sure growth occurs in the designated areas. He believes the county should find other revenue sources to make up for budget shortfalls and cut unnecessary spending. Raising taxes should be a last resort, he said.

  • John C. Munson, Republican, said county spending should be stopped until the more than $150 million debt is paid off. He also thinks state approved Thornton Commission funding for education should go straight to the School Board, but that stipulations should be attached on how the board can spend the money. Munson said he opposed increasing county income and property taxes, but supports impact fees.

  • Doris J. Nipps, Republican, said she faced budget cuts as a School Board member and said the experience was difficult but not impossible. She said the County Commissioners should allow department heads to determine what needs to be cut in times of tight budgets. She thinks the county might have to consider excise, transfer and impact fees. "I'm not a real fan of any of these, but I know the county will have to step up to the plate and do something," she said.

  • Gregory I. Snook, Republican, said the commissioners have set spending priorities over the last few years, which has prepared the county for possible state budget cuts. He thinks the state should increase funding for education every year. He said more than 60 percent of the county budget goes toward education.

  • Paul L. Swartz, Democrat, said good financial planning over the past four years by the current commissioners will keep the county from raises property taxes in the next fiscal year. He said the county should make sure funding for education or public safety isn't reduced during tight budget years. He thinks working with the city to consolidate services is a matter of trust and that consolidations will never happen if both jurisdictions don't trust each other.

  • William J. Wivell, Republican, said he thinks elected officials and residents should lobby state lawmakers for more state funding and that slot machines should be considered if it means increased funding for education. He said the county should "think twice, spend once" and that hiring freezes might also be considered in tight budget years.

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