What are your views on the use of tax-increment financing as an incentive for private building and redevelopment projects, including remodeling blighted village centers in Columbia?
Kathuria: At one point TIFs were needed to build Columbia. Now that Columbia is flourishing, and builders can sustain themselves without public funding, we should consider allocating those funds for other public good items such as building HS#14 in Elkridge or reducing the portable classrooms from Howard County School System.
With rising concern over school safety, should county police officers or sheriff’s deputies be assigned to all public schools, along with additional screening methods, such as metal detectors, student pat-downs and clear backpacks?
Kathuria: Howard County had for past few years deployed Resource Officers all the time in High Schools. I am in favor of this policy. I do not believe that metal detectors or student pat-downs are any helpful in our schools at this time. I would like to see better security system technologies implemented to ensure that the bad elements are restricted to enter the schools. It could be as simple as implementing a badging system to understand who has entered the building and who has exited.
Are there any county government services that should be privatized to save money and improve efficiency?
Kathuria: I am in favor of doing Public Private partnerships where it makes sense. One area that we as the County has not looked at is Public Transportation in “uber age” to consider voucher based transportation system where we do not have to wait for the bus for hours.
Is a provision in the county’s recently adopted Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that allows developers to build affordable housing in areas where a building moratorium is in place a responsible approach?
Kathuria: We have seen the unintended consequences of over-crowded schools and roads from higher-density residential development in the eastern Howard County. I do not agree with the Ordinance that allows the developers to build affordable housing in the Closed Areas. However, I believe that Commercial and industrial development generates more tax revenue and they consume much less in services. We need to work on increasing our commercial and industrial tax base as much as possible to ensure a balance of services so that we can live, work and play within Howard County.
Is it appropriate for Howard to be a “sanctuary county” and prohibit county police from reporting detainees in the county detention center to federal authorities?
Kathuria: As a first generation, legal migrant from India I am empathetic to migrant community. But, do not believe that we should for any reason make Howard County as a sanctuary county. Howard County is already in belt tightening mode! By making it a sanctuary, we add a risk of flooding HoCo with non-tax generating population that will be a strain to already stretched schools, public health, public services and safety systems. Instead we should lobby Congress to create a path for all the undocumented people.
What efforts, if any, should Howard County take to install more flood-control systems in and around Ellicott City, and how many tax dollars should be involved?
Kathuria: I have attended the presentation on the Master Plan and believe that the County has done a good job in identifying problem areas. The County should consider the recommendations of the Watershed Master Plan and implement those ideas of stormwater management in upstream areas to relieve some of the pressure on Ellicott City. In terms of the funding we should consider the requests made by the experts and request that State of MD to share costs with Howard County.
How would you respond to the opiod overdose epidemic? Should Howard expedite construction of an in-patient drug treatment center?
Kathuria: opioid is a serious issue and does require a swift response. I am in favor of expediting the construction of an in-patient drug treatment center in Howard County.
Has the county invested enough in public transportation projects, including the regional bus network and BikeHoward program?
Kathuria: Howard County population is aging and I can envision a massive need for service that helps adults over 50 and adults with disabilities finding transportation for medical services, errands, social activities and more. We should look at a great program of Montgomery County; Connect-A-Ride (CAR) links people with public, private, and volunteer transportation services.
The state is recommending a constant yield property tax rate of 99 cents for the budget year ahead, below the current tax rate. Do you support reducing the tax rate to the constant yield level and adopting zero-based budgeting?
Kathuria: More data is needed before we can say with certainty that the constant yield level with zero-based budgeting can be advantageous for the Counties. I am always open to reducing the Tax rates only if we can be certain of not reducing our standards and our quality of life within Howard County.