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Letters to the Editor

December 30, 2007

State gave much more money to schools in 1972



To the editor:

In his argument against Washington County's Building Excise Tax, Thomas Firey repeatedly states that Washington County had more students in public schools in 1972 than we now have. Although he hasn't fully explained his point, Firey seems to infer that the county was able to build schools without collecting an excise tax in 1972, therefore, we shouldn't expect any help from developers now.

I recently learned from a former county commissioner, that funding for school construction in 1972 was very different than in 2007.

The Mandel Administration (1969-1979), being a strong advocate of education, was paying 85 percent to 100 percent of school construction costs with state funding. So the county's cost, at that time, was next to nothing.

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We are in a very different situation now. In 2007, the state is paying only about 13 percent of Washington County's school construction costs. The balance will be paid from the county's general fund or with borrowed money that will eventually be repaid from the general fund.

Whatever the county can collect from excise tax will lighten the burden on all county taxpayers, but so far that help has been very minimal. In four years since the county began collecting excise tax, the total revenue collected is enough to pay only 16 percent of the school construction costs we are now facing.

To put things in perspective, Frederick County collects $13,000 per housing unit. Montgomery County recently increased its rate from $15,000 to $31,105 per unit.

Jefferson County, W.Va. charges $11,000 per unit. The Washington County Commissioners are proposing a rate of $3 per square foot on all new residential construction.

On an average house of 3,000 square feet, Washington County would collect $9,000. Firey thinks we shouldn't ask for more. What do you think? Let your elected officials know.

Jim Laird
Hagerstown




Ignoring or twisting the facts won't solve problem



To the editor:

Yes, there is indeed an element of the population that keeps itself perpetually alarmed and frightened. They are called "conservatives" and they keep themselves entertained by fearing that the liberals led by Al Gore are out to destroy our society ? or at least to wreck our economy. It is the irrational fear of change.

Relax. We all understand that it will be a challenge to overcome the threat of global warming. But meeting challenges is not something to be afraid of. On the contrary, meeting challenges has always invigorated the economy, advanced our society and improved our standards of living. Global warming will have the same effect.

Nobody would be happier than Al Gore if global warming turned out to be a dud.

But the one thing we must not do is put our heads in the sand and wishfully think that global warming was not real. To be able to combat it, we have to take the threat of global warming seriously. And take appropriate action, even if it seems inconvenient at first.

James Warner takes this "I don't like it therefore I'm closing my eyes and pretending it's not real" kind of attitude to a new high.

He rationalizes his rejection of global warming by cherry-picking arguments that seem to contradict it, without really understanding the science behind global warming.

Science does not cherry-pick arguments. Science looks at all the pros and cons and then passes a judgment based on the preponderance of the evidence. And the current judgment is that global warming is real and it is caused by human activities ? inconvenient or not.

Let me close by briefly addressing some of the factual inaccuracies in James Warner's opinion:

· CO2 is a well-studied gas and its greenhouse properties are well known and quantitatively predictable.

· Water vapor is much less potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. Water vapor is important only because it is so prevalent in Earth's atmosphere.

· Burning fossil fuels releases both CO2 and water vapor.

· We do not know of solar cycles other than the 11-year (actually 22-year) cycle. There are other cycles associated with Earth's precession and the shape of Earth's orbit around the Sun.

· In most past warming periods, we actually don't know what came first, temperature increase or CO2 increase. The question is not particularly significant however, because CO2 acts as a powerful amplifier of warming trends that would otherwise be minute or short lived.

· We are not overdue for a warming cycle. We have been in a warm period for the last 10,000 years. If anything, we are overdue for an ice age ? though any such claims are scientifically shaky.

Hans K. Buhrer
Smithsburg

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