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?
Weaver: Growth should be centered around areas with sewer and water capabilities designated as sustainable growth areas. Zoning should be a mix of residential, commercial, industrial and employment campus designations. The counties’ state approved “Master Plan” is the blueprint for growth focus.
What is your vision/strategy for economic development in the county. What incentives do you think are appropriate to lure businesses/employers to Carroll?
Weaver: Carroll County is the leader in Maryland for growth regarding companies specializing in manufacturing. Our economic development program, working alongside the Maryland Department of Commerce has worked collaboratively to develop over 1000 jobs in the past 2 years. In the future, the development of employment campuses, the Harrison-Leishear Industrial Park, the North Carroll Industrial Park, and the Warfield Commerce Center will lead to further industrial and high-tech development. Carroll County is continually striving to develop an industrial tax base to take the pressure off residential tax-payers.
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?
Weaver: A set percentage allocated to public school funding is not a sustainable practice for budget development. A plethora of variables will always exist when funding education. Presently, our school system is experiencing a major decline in enrollment which has led to a decrease in state funding. The county has had to supplement this financial gap for the past 4 years to the amount of $29 million. We are faced with schools in need of physical upgrades, teacher salary increases, and keeping curriculums and curricular resources updated in order to maintain the best possible learning environments for the students of Carroll. We presently fall short of the financial means to properly fund our public education system. We hope that by working collaboratively with our state delegation, and by employing forward thinking, financially responsible approaches we can meet the needs of our school system.
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?
Weaver: Currently, existing revenue sources to effectively cover necessary expenditures in Carroll County is a daunting task. We are faced with issues including infrastructure maintenance, keeping police, school and county employee salaries competitive, maintaining parks and recreation facilities, and navigating facilities uses including county buildings and surplus schools being returned to county control. We also have an increased demand for non-profit organization funding as well as making meaningful investments in programs to combat the growing issue of opioid abuse.
Do you support or oppose a move from the commissioner form of government to charter government?
Weaver: Throughout my previous four-year term as commissioner I believe we have seen very positive results from 5 individuals working in collaboration to develop policy for the county. Presently, this system is the most efficient form of government for Carroll County. As our population grows we may inevitably reach a point when charter government could become the most logical and effective form of government for Carroll.
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?
Weaver: Enabling legislation in the Maryland General Assembly gives Carroll County the authority to provide funding for our volunteer fire departments. Currently, 14 individual fire departments hire emergency EMT’s and the funding we provide to CC-vesa is distributed to help provide funding for paid EMT’s and in certain cases, firefighters. We are at a critical point where our volunteer workforce cannot adequately provide fire and EMT services 24 hours/ day, 7 days/week. My hope is that we work with the volunteer organization and the 14 departments to cultivate a plan to fund and assist these companies in critical areas. I absolutely do not want to usurp any authority from our volunteer fire companies. These individuals are pillars in our communities. My sole objective is to provide relief for these companies so they can provide the best possible services for the citizens of Carroll County.
What do you believe county government’s role should be in combating the opioid epidemic?
Weaver: The most effective tool in the battle against opioid abuse is prevention. Carroll County’s responsibility is multi-faceted. First, an education program must be the basis for elementary, middle and high school students as well as adults. Educating our medical community is also paramount to the sustainable success of reducing instances of opioid overdose and general abuse. Additionally, addiction must have programs which act as an alternative to incarceration. These programs include drug court, day reporting centers and counseling services. Success will hinge on a collaborative effort between the Sheriff’s Department, Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, non-profit organizations, and private organizations. No one entity, including the government will solve this problem alone. A combined, well-articulated and focused effort is our best chance to effectively stop these abuses.