Taxpayers Are Safer with Commissioner Government

Commissioner government does not need “independence” from the state legislature.  We have important checks and balances in commissioner government provided, not by the state legislature, but by our own delegation.  If our delegation likes what the commissioners want, they agree and ask for “local courtesy” to pass the bill which applies only to this county and it virtually always passes.  Commissioners are elected by their district, but our delegates represent the majority of Carroll county and provide a safeguard against overreaching commissioner intent.

For example, Commissioner Julia Gouge wanted to create an appointed chief of police to replace the elected sheriff’s role.   The delegation knew that residents across the county didn’t want that even though she did.  The delegation didn’t support it so that issue didn’t go any farther.  Today we have a strong elected sheriff accountable to the voters, not a weak chief of police accountable to the commissioners, thanks to the check on the power of the commissioners provided by our delegation.

Under Charter government a single person, the county executive, holds the vast majority of the power rather than having it distributed equally among 5 commissioners with checks and balances of our delegation. Distributed power protects taxpayers.  Concentrated power threatens us.

Top 10 Reasons for Keeping Commissioner form of Government

1. Keep taxes under control. Carroll County Commissioners cut taxes twice in the past 8 years. Baltimore’s County Executive wants to raise taxes by $81 million. Before charter, Frederick County residents paid $.93 per hundred dollars of assessed evaluation. After charter they pay $1.06 per $100 of evaluation. Charter makes it easier for the county to raise taxes.  Currently, the Board of Commissioners requires a super majority of 4 votes out of 5 commissioners to raise taxes.  Under Charter a County Executive can raise taxes. To stop a tax increase the council must have a vote of the majority to stop a county executive’s tax increase

2. Keep salaries under control. Commissioners earn part time salaries.  County Executives make six figure salaries and so do many County administrators.  Carroll Commissioners earn $47K and our administrator earns $90K. Salaries of the County Executive in Frederick $95,000; Baltimore County $175,000; Howard County $180,000; and Montgomery County $192,000.  In addition, Montgomery County pays their Chief Administrative Officer $303,000.

3. Keep the size and cost of county government under control. Not only does Charter add a County Executive to the payroll, it adds an additional layer of bureaucrats also. A County Executive has the entire staff of the county government working for him/her and the County Council can hire support people to work for them, adding high salaries and long-term health insurance and pensions to the county’s budget.

4. Carroll County is out of money. There is no money to fund the higher costs of charter government. The county is having difficulty providing the money requested by the school board and the County’s Budget Director is warning of coming budgetary concerns.  Charter government will require an increase in our real estate taxes to pay for it.

5. Commissioner form of government has 3 branches, just like the state and federal governments do. The elected legislative branch which creates the law; the elected executive branch which enforces the law; and the appointed judicial branch which adjudicates the law.  In Carroll County the legislative branch is the elected Commissioners who create local ordinances; the executive branch is the elected Sheriff who enforces the law; and the judicial branch are the Judges in our court system.  In Charter counties, the County Executive usually subsumes the elected sheriff’s position of executive and creates an appointed police chief accountable to the County Executive, not to the people of the county.

6. Keep the checks and balances in local government intact. Changing to Charter takes away an important check and balance on the local government provided by our locally elected House and Senate Delegation. Commissioners ask the locally elected delegation to support increasing their authority to tax, to increase their salaries and to create new government departments.  Where our delegation agrees, the request for this increase in local authority is brought to the General Assembly and passed as a local courtesy.  This is a check on increased power of the county government and protects the citizenry from overactive county government.

7. “Independence” from the General Assembly is a myth. Charter and Code governments must also ask the General Assembly for permission to create local laws in a variety of areas which are the purview of the General Assembly.  For example, exercising authority over gambling, alcohol, and ethics need the approval of the General Assembly before being granted to any county regardless of form of government.

8. Keep decisions out in the open. Commissioner government requires decisions be made by at least 3 votes in public open session. Charter concentrates power in one person, the County Executive, who can operate out of public view with no required open session discussions or decisions.

9. Carroll citizens don’t want charter. A move to charter government has been voted down 6 times in the past. Certain politicians are pushing charter so they can run for county executive, increase their power, and make a big salary at taxpayer expense. Carroll’s 5 Commissioner district system has been in place for only 2 terms and has hardly even been tested yet.

10. No problem is being solved.  There is no need to change our Commissioner form of government. County officials have not provided any objective accurate justification to replace the current Commissioner form of government. 

Join Us, the Carroll Taxpayers Coalition. Sign up, get informed, get involved – this is your chance to improve your government.

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