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?
Warburton: Based on the current ratio of residential vs. commercial/industrial properties in the county, a higher percentage of new growth should be focused on the latter. While zoning is one issue that impacts this growth, the more limiting factors are access to water, sewer, good transportation routes, and high-speed internet. The 2014 Carroll County Master Plan which was adopted in February 2015 identifies areas where some limited rezoning could be practical. These areas, as well as many already zoned for commercial and industrials uses, are in compliance with state-mandated requirements as they are located in Designated Growth Areas.
What is your vision/strategy for economic development in the county. What incentives do you think are appropriate to lure businesses/employers to Carroll?
Warburton: The strategy for economic development in the county should be multi-layered. The county has in place several agencies and programs that have been successful in working with large companies such as Fuchs North America and Knorr Brake to build and expand in the county by having ready-to-build lots and securing low interest loans through the State. The Miller- Resources for Entrepreneurs center at Carroll Community College aids smaller businesses in starting and growing. Additionally, past zoning changes for agricultural uses, such as allowing wineries that are open to the public have helped agricultural businesses stay viable. I think consideration should be giving to additional non-traditional uses of agricultural land such as allowing a certain percentage of a property be used for ground mounted solar panels or other sustainable energy production. Incentives to other businesses might include the expansion of water and sewer lines where feasible and temporary loans or grants to help with the initial set-up costs. Employers, however, also want to locate where there is a dependable workforce and in an area where their families can take advantage of good schools and other amenities. Therefore, assuring that our schools and infrastructure remain in good condition are also important to attracting new businesses.
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?
Warburton: The percentage of the county’s budget dedicated to the Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) has decreased several percentage points over the past few years. While the actual dollar amount is more important than the percentage figure, the expectation should be that the commissioners value the CCPS and are committed to funding it accordingly. One advantage of setting aside a percentage of the budget is that there is not a dollar for dollar decrease in county funds when State funds are increased. For instance, if the State provides additional funds for school safety initiatives or from casino profits, the county should not use these funds to offset funds provided from property tax revenue or other county contributions. Setting a percentage could help ensure this doesn’t happen. If a percentage were to be set, I think 50% would be a good starting point for discussion.
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?
Warburton: For the time being, the operating budget can be balanced with the existing revenue given some adjustments in funding allocations. There are funding items into the future that will considerably stretch the budget, including the funding of LOSAP and competitive salaries for sheriff deputies, teachers, and other county employees. Continual attention must be given to improving our economic development and working with our state delegation to ensure we are receiving our fair share of State funds. As to requiring a super majority to raise taxes, I think this was an unnecessary action but I am not looking to change it.
Do you support or oppose a move from the commissioner form of government to charter government?
Warburton: There have been several attempts during times of rapid growth in the county to move to charter government. While this move may be feasible at some point in the future, I do not think it is practical at this time. If the time does come, there are ways to structure the charter government to achieve varying balances of power between the county executive and council persons.
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?
Warburton: The best path forward would be to maintain the current system of paid EMTs and engine drivers, along with the firehouses primarily staffed by volunteers. However, the reality that this may not be possible needs to be acknowledged. Long range plans must include the possibility of adding more paid positions. At a minimum, volunteers should not have to pay for their safety equipment and required training. I would encourage the Board of Commissioners to work with the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association and others to determine the best way the county can help all its emergency services personnel and ensure adequate fire and emergency services into the future.
What do you believe county government’s role should be in combating the opioid epidemic?
Warburton: The government should play a supporting role in combating the opioid epidemic. Our States’ Attorney’s office, Sheriff’s Department, local police departments, public school system, and non profit agencies are working on a multitude of initiatives and programs. One of the most pressing issues is the lack of treatment facilities, even for those directed to attend one based on a drug court ruling. County government could facilitate coordination between the many agencies working on the epidemic and determine where county funds can do the most good, particularly where they can leveraged for additional resources through grants and expanding existing programs.