Thursday, September 28, 2006

Confusing headlines, assumptions...

I’m honestly a little confused by this story and its headline, “Schools, police costs could fall short of Town Center growth.”

This is from the story itself:

The schooling and police costs might not be enough to address the redevelopment of downtown Columbia into an urban center.

“I’m concerned that the increase in density would require an increase in police presence,” said Jen Terrasa, a Democratic candidate for Howard County Council District 3.

The redevelopment is expected to yield an average of $11.7 million each year for 30 years, after expenses such as police and schooling, according to a Planning and Zoning Department study. But the county is expected to spend about $2 million extra per year on schooling and about $2.1 million on additional police, according to the study presented Tuesday at the final meeting of the Downtown Focus Group, in which residents met with the department about plans for the Town Center.
OK, so the projected costs of school and police services in Town Center are too low because, some believe, the projected levels of service are too low to meet the needs of the new Columbia downtown. Is that right?

But if it’s the assumed levels of service that are too low, why not just say that?

Well, further down in the piece someone does.
Columbia Association Board Member Cynthia Coyle said more children should have been tallied in the predicted costs for schooling.

“If you bring in more affordable housing [into the Town Center], you will probably bring in more children,” she said.

The study was based on ratios from the current population in Town Center. Bronow said he only counted 84 children in his study of the Town Center communities of Ryland, Evergreens, Archstone, Whitney, Governor’s Grant and Gramercy.
This I agree with. I generally think the ratios are going to increase as Town Center gets developed, and not just because of the affordable housing. I think in time a good amount of families will choose to move downtown, specifically in the more residential areas, though not in percentages as significant as the rest of the county.

Town Center now is largely a commercial area, but as more houses get built and parts of it take on a more neighborhood-y feel, kids won’t be such an uncommon site (I’d be lying if I said I haven’t considered moving to Town Center myself and, barring some strange unforeseen circumstance, it’s a pretty safe bet to say you’re going to be subsidizing my progeny’s education in the coming decades).

Besides, when making these projections isn’t it better to err on the side of caution? At least the projected revenue figures seem to indicate there’s some wiggle room to cover additional costs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a confusing story. There is a better synopsis of the study in the Columbia Flier.

But your last sentence pretty much sums it up. The study showed that the proposed development of Town Center would not be a drain on the economy of the county since it actually predicted a net increase in income. The purpose was just to get a general feeling for the impact, but it would be a good idea to rerun the numbers with increased numbers of school children and more police, which was suggested by the focus group.