WASHINGTON – Joyce Easton gets the dead-squirrel call all the time.
New residents of Pennsylvania’s Shrewsbury Township often call one of the township supervisors, like Easton, and ask to have someone pick up a dead squirrel from their front yards, build a playground in their neighborhood or quiet barking dogs.
But Easton has to tell the residents that they are responsible for their own dead squirrels and the construction of their own playgrounds — they are not in Maryland anymore. That’s part of the deal in Pennsylvania, say local officials — lower taxes mean fewer government services.
Over the last decade, 11,000 Baltimore residents moved to York County, Pa., according to a Capital News Service analysis of Internal Revenue Service data. It’s the most-popular out-of-state destination for people fleeing Baltimore, and so many Marylanders have moved in to one Shrewsbury development that it calls itself “Little Baltimore,” she said.
It is not a new phenomenon. Paul Hayes, chief analyst of the York County Planning Commission, said that Maryland residents started arriving in the 1970s and 1980s when there was “a tremendous difference” in home prices between Maryland and York County.
Patrick Fero, chairman of the Southern York County Regional Planning Commission, said 1976 “was when it became painful.” Land and housing prices took off, and traffic, sprawl, and property tax increases soon followed.
In the 1990s, the price difference shrank, Hayes said, although you still get more for your money in York County.
But the influx of relatively wealthy Maryland residents has forced York to deal with the problems that the newcomers bring — higher taxes, more traffic and demand for the services they are used to getting back home.
“I think that’s the biggest adjustment,” Easton said of the lack of governmental services Maryland residents find north of the border. Shrewsbury simply can’t provide all the desired services and keep taxes low, she said.
There is another problem: As young families move into the county, new schools are needed and the local school jurisdiction needs more money, she said.
Fero said there have been 316 houses built in his township alone this decade, during which the school district built three schools and started renovating another.
That school construction boom brings another surprise for the new residents, who often move because they think taxes are much lower in Pennsylvania. While state taxes are lower, Easton said, the local school district raises money through property taxes, per capita taxes and an occupation tax — and those taxes have been rising lately.
“School taxes are the big issue right now,” Easton said. Everyone’s “fed up.”
Existing residents also have to deal with the traffic that comes with the new residents. Easton’s husband, a Baltimore City employee, has seen traffic on Interstate 83, the main commuter route to Maryland, grow congested in the 16 years since the family moved from Baltimore County.
And Hayes said that local roads were designed for rural traffic, not the suburban loads they have been receiving lately.
Marylanders like the low taxes and the low home prices, Hayes said, but they say “we’re used to better services.”
Hayes has one response: “You get what you pay for.”