Bare-bones Budget Is Readied

BALANCING ACT. Carrol County government juggles expense, revenues

April 03, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

After more than two months of repeatedly going back to the budget drawing board, the County Commissioners are close to proposing a $115.8million spending plan that leaves little room for error.

At that level, the operating budget for the year beginning July 1 would be nearly 2 percent below the current $117.5 million and would leave only about $500,000 for emergencies.

"Back in February, reality hit us pretty hard," said Management and Budget Director Steven D. Powell as he took the commissioners through his office's recommended operating and capital budgets. In February, Powell ordered agency directors to resubmit requests that were 2 percent below their currently approved budgets.

During a lengthy work session that lasted past press time last night, the commissionersand Powell worked out details on a budget that slashes spending, increases long-term debt and calls for one of the smallest construction outlays in more than five years.

In fact, at $35.6 million, the recommended capital budget -- which pays for roads, bridges, schools, buildings, and other bricks-and-mortar projects -- would be nearly 30 percent below this year's $50.5 million. And of the $35.6 million, only $1.9 million is in cash -- $21.2 million is in bonds, $4.9 millionin state funds and the rest comes from the federal government.

By1997, the county is expected to spend $396.3 million on capital projects; all but $38.1 million of that is to come from bonds, the state and federal governments and other sources.

As the county veers away from "pay-as-you-go" financing for capital projects, it also faces a fiscal 1992 budget that is shorter on services and spending increases than in any other year in more than a decade.

The $115.7 million operating budget calls for no increase in the tax rate of $2.35 per$100 of assessed value. But it does call for an increase in development and environmental review fees as well as a jump in the landfill dumping fee.

Also included are cuts in travel, office hours and energy consumption, as well as a hiring ban and salary freeze. The county also is expected to scrap a $300,000 pilot curbside recycling program that was to begin during the 1992 budget year.

At the same timethe budget office is recommending a $115.7 million spending plan, italso is expecting revenues from property taxes and other sources to total $111.02 million, up only slightly from what is expected by the end of the current fiscal year.

The additional revenue is to come from fees, a $1.1 million surplus from this year, transfers from other county budgets and other sources.

At $500,000, the proposed surplus for the 1992 budget would be one of the smallest ever maintained by the county. Before the deteriorating economy and the round of state and federal budget cuts, Carroll County was expecting a $3 million surplus for the current fiscal year.

During last night's session, the commissioners were deciding what to do with about $300,000 -- theamount left over after setting aside the half-million dollars for a surplus -- in unexpended money. While they had made no decisions as of press time, they were looking to spend that money on an agency "wish list" that totaled $1.02 million.

Among the items on the list were requests for three new state troopers at a cost of $224,137; restoration of a month of transportation services for the Department of Aging at a cost of $20,000; seven new employees for the Sheriff's Department at a cost of more than $200,000.

The County Commissioners must approve a final budget and set the tax rate and all fees by May 30.

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