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Letters to the editor - 11/3/02 - F6

November 04, 2002

Bob McKee has plenty of business experience

To the editor:


I am a CPA in Hagerstown and have been the volunteer treasurer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County for many years.

I read with interest Peter Perini's comments on his Web site concerning Bob McKee's supposed lack of business experience because McKee has been the executive director of a nonprofit agency for 23 years.

Big Brothers Big Sisters operates on a strict budget with a portion of its funding coming from and controlled by the United Way, and the remainder coming from fund-raising events such as Bowl for Kids' Sake. Tight-fisted control of spending is an absolute must.

The agency will not survive if we allow deficit spending.

This type of management experience is precisely what we need in a delegate.

The folks in Annapolis who created the state's current astronomical budget deficit could take lessons in fiscal management from McKee. You can create program after program, but if you cannot manage your financial house, you will not accomplish anything in the long term.

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I have known and respected McKee for more than 20 years. He has represented us in Annapolis with dignity and honesty for the last eight years. Ask yourself this question: Do you want a delegate who is honest, dependable, and most importantly, experienced in the ways of the legislature, or an unknown with no experience?

Personally, I will go with experience every time.

Kenneth W. Graber, CPA

Smithsburg




Gambling will help, but education can't live by slots alone



After reading The Herald-Mail article appearing in Sunday's paper on the various Washington County Commissioner candidate positions on school funding, I felt some clarification was needed.

The article listed the legalization of slot machines at the state's horse racing tracks as my solution for educational funding needs. The Herald-Mail apparently picked up my statement at a recent Chamber of Commerce forum that asked the candidates "How would you guarantee state funding of the Thornton Commission recommendations?"

At that forum, I did remark that I have grown quite tired of having my property and income taxes constantly raised, and that slot machines at the state's horse racing tracks were a viable option to fund the recommendations of the Thornton Commission - recommendations that carry a price tag of hundreds of millions of dollars at the state level.

Although this might be my belief for appropriate action at the state level, it is certainly not my position for solutions at the local level.

I realize that, as a commissioner, I would not have a vote on the slot-machine issue. In fact, my campaign literature does not even mention the subject. I do, however, focus on several issues, all interrelated, that affect our ability to fund education. These include debt management, economic development, fiscal responsibility and water and sewer and pre-treatment issues.

The most important of these might be economic development and the county's ability to compete regionally in attracting and retaining quality employment. County wealth currently ranks 16th in Maryland and average household incomes lag behind. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Washington County's average household income ranks $12,000 below the state average and $20,000 below Frederick County. These conditions directly affect local government's ability to raise revenue.

I have had the opportunity to meet many fine businesspeople over the past four years, and most speak favorably of the business climate in Washington County. We need to focus on these positive attributes and also target our economic development efforts on specific industry or target markets in order to grow our tax base without the need to raise tax rates.

The incremental revenues from successful projects could then be reinvested in related, supporting infrastructure in order to continuously improve our earning ability. We must also capitalize upon established foreign trade and enterprise zones and continue our focus on wastewater issues.

County government needs also to work closely with educational institutions to improve attainment of high school diplomas, higher education, and technical degrees so our students and adult population are prepared to meet the needs of employers. The continuing fostering of public-private partnerships, higher education institutions, potential for charter-like schools or school autonomy and additional integration of technology into the classroom are all areas where we can focus our efforts.

The recent concept of magnet schools and virtual high schools brought forward by Superintendent Betty Morgan should make progress toward these goals. A virtual high school, for instance, could be used to assist current high school students in finishing their education, to allow adults to complete their GED or high school diploma requirements, and advance home-schooling to a higher level.

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