Should county government incentivize growth in the county through zoning and, if so, what types of growth (residential, commercial, high density, etc.) should the county focus on and why? What steps should the county take to comply with state-mandated planning requirements?
Wantz: Carroll should focus on all types of growth while maintaining a balanced geographical distributed population. The county worked long and hard on a master plan which passed in 2015 and we are currently working on the Freedom Plan for the Sykesville/Eldersburg area. These plans assure we are placing importance on future growth in the best manner possible. Our 8 municipalities have designated growth areas as well, and the county needs to continue the positive working relationship with them as they plan for the future. We are blessed to be one of the leading counties in the nation for agricultural preservation. We should promote orderly and balanced growth to assure we maintain our rural setting with agricultural preservation, our heritage, but assure we also have affordable housing for young families. Growth in the correct areas will promote the balance we enjoy. We are also currently upgrading our zoning regulations which is critically needed. Carroll County has and will continue to work with our state to assure compliance and provide reasonable alternatives in the event mandates are overly restrictive.
What is your vision/strategy for economic development in the county. What incentives do you think are appropriate to lure businesses/employers to Carroll?
Wantz: Carroll County enjoys a thriving economic growth and development atmosphere, and since I have been in office it has increased each year. We are the leading county in the state in new light manufacturing. Job growth and retention are important and that starts with a well educated and trained work force which allows our businesses to choose from the best pool of employees, supporting our career tech center and Carroll Community College to assure local job and education training reaches our local job market. High standards in education and a safe environment with the right infrastructure are also important factors. It is important for our economic development department to remain a department in our government structure. I represent Carroll County on the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore and the Baltimore Metro Council. This outreach with colleagues around the region pays dividends. Best practices and strategies continue to be the driving force as well. Streamlined permitting procedures should also be maintained to assure opening a business, whether small or large, remains easy. From our main streets to our commercial areas, we continue to realize progress and Carroll County is truly open for business.
Approximately 47 percent of the county’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget goes toward Carroll County Public Schools. Do you believe this number is appropriate, too low or too high? Should there be a set percentage of the budget dedicated to public education each year?
Wantz: Carroll County enjoys a top rated school system, including the lowest drop out rate and highest graduation rate. This requires investing in education in the most fiscally responsible manner possible. Over the last 3 budgets, that I have worked, including the current budget, education spending has increased each year. Many public schools costs are variable and not fixed. Healthcare, transportation, utilities, etc., are constantly changing. It is my expectation that the needs brought forth by our school system and Board of Education are presented in the most fiscally responsible manner keeping students and schools based staff as priorities. There should be no reason, with creative thinking, that our schools can not meet their needs with this percentage. The proper set percentage should be dedicated annually. As a life long resident of Carroll County, I have many family members involved in our schools. Investing in education is one of the most important budgeting decisions we must make to assure the positive future of or children and the positive aspects it brings to our communities. My family and grandchildren depend on it.
Do you believe existing revenue sources are sufficient to effectively cover necessary expenditures in Carroll County? Currently a supermajority (4-1 vote) is required to raise taxes. Do you think that is appropriate or should only a simple majority (3-2 vote) be required?
Wantz: We must continue to live within our means. With our location in the metro region comes a responsibility to maintain our citizens quality of life and delivered services by local government. We are rural but we incur expenses differently than many of the rural counties based on our location. Correct utilization of funds will lead to fiscally responsible spending. Our bond ratings depend on sound reserves and fund balances. With an improving economy, higher assessments and the uncertainty of the affects of new tax laws, I would not entertain any increases. As long as I am in office, the supermajority remains. This most crucial decision depends on it.
Do you support or oppose a move from the commissioner form of government to charter government?
Wantz: There are several forms of charter and to immediately assume that switching would be a budget buster is not correct. The five Commissioner format was the decision of our electorate and should be allowed to prove its efficiency as this is only the second group. I am becoming increasingly concerned about the way in which we make decisions by needing permission from Annapolis on issues that we know best. One example of this is the enabling legislation for our Fire and Emergency Services. Having jurisdictions decide our future is not the best practice. I would entertain, that in the not to distant future, we should examine code home rule, which would allow decisions such a this remain in the hands of our elected folks and maintain our Commissioner form of government. We must, however, put the right group of Commissioners in place who work together, communicate with staff, constituents, and legislatures to make the best decisions.
Enabling legislation in the Maryland General Assembly gives county government authority over fire and emergency services. What do you see as the best path forward for emergency services in Carroll County?
Wantz: With over 42 years in public safety this issue remains near an dear. Our volunteer fire companies are the hubs of our communities and we must continue to assure they remain including their autonomy. As we continue to see challenges in public safety, which is the most important obligation we have as elected officials, as it pertains to increased need, the right manner to proceed is crucial. Establishing a structured command staff, and infusing personnel in our current stations establishing a top rated combination system is the way to do this. We must also work with our 14 volunteer fire companies to ensure all are on the same page as we combine goals and objectives, for example ambulance billing, as we move closer to a combination system. This will not happen overnight and I applaud the efforts of the committee put forward by the Carroll County Emergency Services Association, as we are in the incipient stage. Working together we can achieve our goals.
What do you believe county government’s role should be in combating the opioid epidemic?
Wantz: This is a critical issue, one in which I have been involved with from day 1. Along with one of my colleagues, I put together the Not in Carroll initiative in 2014 that remains in place. This led to increased funding for our Sheriff and States Attorney and they continue to see great strides in our ability to fight this crisis. All of our partners from the Health Department to our non-profits to our hospital to our schools, and the list goes on and on, must team with us as we continue to provide funding and strategies moving forward. I am a member of the Senior Policy Opioid Group in Carroll and am appointed to the Governors Emergency Management Advisory Council. Through the efforts of these groups and their outreach we are realizing some success. We must continue to take a leading role on all of the efforts in combatting this epidemic including prescription and street drug abuse. An escalating drug problem directly affects every aspect of life not only in our county, but across our great state.