Thoughts from the Publisher's Desk
Worcester is the wealthiest county in Maryland. Those of us who call this county home understand this is a ridiculous claim. The unfortunate aspect is that's how the state views it. That's why the county has to fork over so much money for education, and it could be why taxes will soon be going up for county property owners. This needs to be a concern for all of us because the antiquated and inaccurate formula the state uses to calculate jurisdictional wealth will not be changing anytime soon. Consequently, the amount of taxes the county charges will inevitably be heading up. It will not happen next year, thanks to officials being sensitive in an election year, but my guess is property taxes will be increased in Worcester in 2011. With real estate assessments unlikely to bounce back by then, a tax hike of some sort will be approved because the county has such a burden to bear with education funding, which state law says cannot drop below the previous year's per-pupil figure.
In a press release this week, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes talked about the small amount of aid the county gets from the state. '[Due to the state formula] our school system receives the second lowest amount of state aid per-pupil. At the same time, 37 percent of our student population comes from households of poverty, compared with the state's average of 31 percent. Without sufficient funding from county government, we simply could not meet the needs of our children. We depend on county government for over 76 percent of our budget. •€¦' Andes said.
An impractical idea got the official boot off the Ocean City Council's table last week. Apparently, at some point, a high-ranking official with an outfit called Amoeba Wear requested the council consider making it mandatory for swimmers to wear one of their necklaces, which apparently glow in the water. It appears the idea was it would allow lifeguards better visibility, despite the fact it would be unnoticeable during the day. Ocean City Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin frowned on the apparatus, telling Staff Writer Bryan Russo, 'The request works under the assumption that our lifeguards have a hard time locating people in the ocean, and that simply isn't the case. Even if it was a great idea, these necklaces are a contrast thing, and would only be visible at night. We've been preaching for years that we don't want anyone swimming in the ocean when the lifeguards aren't on duty. •€¦ They were proposing to solve a problem that really doesn't exist.'
Worcester was blistered in an editorial in The Sun Tuesday for merging three departments that specifically deal with development and firing 11 employees to make it happen. A couple excerpts:
-- 'When are layoffs a genuine effort to streamline government and when are they an excuse to change policy in a backdoor manner? In Worcester County, home to Ocean City and some of Maryland's most valuable (and sensitive) waterfront land, it appears the latter is at work.'
-- 'Three years ago, Worcester County developed a comprehensive plan that was considered a model for the state. With this latest downsizing, the county is sending an entirely different message: Protecting the environment is no longer considered so important here.'
Perhaps coincidentally, on Wednesday, the county issued a press release on the topic. A couple highlights:
-- 'Through this action, our commitment to smart growth and the protection and preservation of our precious natural resources has not faltered. In fact, Worcester County is now more committed than ever to these tenets prescribed in our Comprehensive Plan. By teaming our policy-makers with our policy implementers in the same office, Worcester County will benefit by more effective and enforceable land use policies and practices.'
-- 'Through this action, Worcester County Government has renewed our commitment to offer the most efficient and effective local services to our citizens, and we have rededicated ourselves to providing land use services in an efficient and timely manner ...'