Our grandparents voted and paid for our today
Condition of the City
February 4, 2014
(Following is the text of Carroll Mayor Adam Schweers' Condition of the City speech delivered last week in the Farner Government Building during a regular council session.)
Citizens of Carroll, council members and city staff:
I'm presenting this Condition of the City address to you as we embark on another busy budget season. "What we do makes a difference, and we have to decide what kind of difference we want to make." I think this is something each of us must consider as we move forward this next year. We will spend the next couple weeks taking inventory of our community and making plans to maintain and update it.
But our decisions must go beyond bricks and mortar and beyond dollars and cents
We are here to improve the quality of life for our families, friends and neighbors. We have to be willing to make the hard decisions and lead. Local government is the best government because it is more about community service than politics. Communities thrive on good process and policy not political pandering and indecision.
To me, the core function of city government is to provide safety of its people and property, clean water, waste water service and the infrastructure to complement travel and commerce. Carroll does these better than any community our size. We have very little crime, fire response time that is second-to-none, over 62 miles of well-conditioned roads during all forms of weather, ample water supply and a waste water facility that is still relatively new.
We have staff who have dedicated the whole of their professional lives to these principles and take pride in the level of service they deliver.
But as the saying goes, "The things we do for our kids."
We have eight public parks spread throughout the city, a fantastic Rec Center facility, library, aquatic center, skate park, tennis courts, municipal golf course, Little League fields and baseball/softball complexes.
Some would argue that these things are not necessities, but those of us in business, economic development and community development would disagree. These things are important to our quality of life. These things add to the communities resume when people consider where they choose to live. These amenities make living and working in Carroll better. These amenities make Carroll unique.
Carroll's vision to continuously improve benefits every small town around us. My grandparents voted and paid for my today so I can strive for a better tomorrow. I ask you, do you believe in this vision?
As of November, Carroll County's unemployment rate is still holding at a very low 2.6 percent. That means of the 12,040 eligible people to work, only 318 are unemployed. While virtually everyone having a job is fantastic, this poses a huge challenge for businesses looking to expand their skilled workforce.
Business attraction is also a challenge if we don't have the necessary workers to accommodate them. As elected officials we recognize there are opportunities for recruitment through succession but those numbers are limiting. It will take bold moves by existing businesses, risk taking by new emerging entrepreneurs and the support of our community and region to keep Carroll strong.
Property values have increased with taxable valuation growing 16.83 percent from the previous year, and our valuation of $509 million is up from $374 million in 2008. This last year, 20 new homes had a construction value of over $5.7 million and there were 51 residential remodel projects totaling over $1 million. In addition this last year, there were nine new commercial construction projects totaling $1.95 million and 18 commercial remodel projects valued at almost $2.8 million. This tells me that people and businesses are proud of Carroll and they want to reinvest in their businesses and homes.
Our general fund balance is $2.7 million, and Carroll has the highest bond rating a city our size can obtain at AA2. General obligation debt is going to $0 in 2018 and the lowest interest rates on record have left us in a strong position to improve our buildings and infrastructure while being proactive with future legislation and added amenities.
Our local option sales tax generates Carroll around $1.3 million per year. The county budget is positively impacted by over $900,000, and the communities around Carroll also receive significant financial gain. Carroll by law commits 25 percent of this $1.3 million to debt relief. That affords us the ability to issue a debt payment of $325,000 per year (remember, we have no debt as of 2018). In addition to the debt payment, we commit $500,000 to our roads every year still leaving us $475,000 to improve our buildings and quality of life.
I'm proud to tell you Carroll is fiscally sound and here to tell you as an elected official we have the ability to plan for upgrades so no citizen feels hit through taxation. In fact, with our financials, we can craft our future to accommodate things well within our means. Having a positive plan and encouraging thoughtful conversation will never be considered flawed.
In the last year Carroll completed our first-ever strategic plan and have sought more community input than ever before through public meetings and work sessions. We tackled considerable street improvements and water main abandonment. We worked with developers to plot new housing and with the county on preparing new ground for tax base. We completed replacement of all park playground equipment. We have commissioned and completed several professional studies to determine details and cost of projects to help make decisions.
Carroll received an award for our tennis court project. The Recreation Center reroofing project was completed. A new gym floor, removal of the ceiling tiles and painting of the gym was completed. Ten pieces of reconditioned fitness equipment with TV's were implemented and two new family change rooms were constructed. We accomplished our first annual community event Carroll Fest through the leadership of Carroll County Young Professionals. We purchased equipment for the fire department. We added public restrooms to our downtown and prepared the intersection of Highway 30/Grant Road for future improvements and development.
In the next several years, we will implement upgrades to our water and waste sater facilities, closely monitor adjustments relating to commercial and industrial property tax revenue, adjust for costs associated with the new health care laws, adjust for slow growth in population trends that impact per capita funding formulas and work with our Carroll Area Development Corporation and community college partners to capitalize on and expand employment numbers.
We will tackle the expansion and improvement of our library, improve our aquatic center, create trails, upgrade our maintenance garage, and renovate our historic baseball facility along with a number of other quality of life improvements.
It is important that as community leaders we remain dedicated to continuous improvement. We must work with our business owners and entrepreneurs to encourage growth and expansion within. Carroll's leaders and elected officials must communicate the need to remain competitive to our citizens in order to attract the people necessary to live and commerce in Carroll.
To our citizens I say: "We need your participation, support and vote on public projects"
Today I turned 35 years old. Almost 10 years ago I experienced a year that I can only described as life-changing. I lost my father at age 46, moved my 13-year-old sister and mother halfway across the country, had my first child, lost my job of seven years and started my own company. What I learned is to persevere, plan and remain positive. It was my family, friends and neighbors that were there for me and I do my best for you. Carroll and Carroll County have a foundation built on these ideals.
Last evening at the annual Chamber Banquet we celebrated new businesses, recognized companies that have provided jobs and services for decades and thanked people who have committed so much of their time and talents to making Carroll great. To me, this is what it is all about. That American dream. To create a business, provide great service, meet and experience a diverse number of people, generate dollars, provide my family and employee's opportunity and pay it forward to those I live with each day. A progressive and positive city provides the foundation to accomplish this dream.
Carroll has a long history of volunteerism, compassion and the general attitude we can get things done. We have some important decisions to make in the upcoming months and years. "The things we do for ourselves are gone when we are gone, but the things we do for others remains as our legacy".
I look forward to working with everyone to continue to make our City great. Thank you, God bless and good evening.
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