MANCHESTER — As town officials embark on their annual journey through budget-preparation land this month, they'll have a new tool to guide them for years to come.
The new tool -- actually an old one in dozens of political subdivisions throughout the state -- is a five-year capital budget, a device the town's projects administrator says will eliminate much of the guesswork in their yearly spending plans.
"There really has been a need for some long-range planning aroundhere," David Warner, the projects administrator, said before last night's Town Council meeting. "The town always seemed to have handled the immediate problems, whatever ones seem to be waving a flag in our face."
While details of the proposed budget for the year beginningJuly 1 will not be available for at least a month, Warner said the five-year planning already has begun. Among the most likely expenditures to be tracked include vehicle and equipment replacement, interest expenses on the new $11 million sewage treatment plant and roadway resurfacing projects.
"We need to be able to see the dollars we can expect to pay out and the money we expect to take in," Warner said. "We have got to get in the habit of replacing vehicles before they're rusted off the frame."
Manchester's budget -- close to $900,000 this fiscal year -- is expected to come close to $1 million in the coming year.
Last night's meeting touched briefly on the impending budget preparations, which will take over the next council meeting on Feb. 26. The 7 p.m. meeting will be the season's first budget work session.
In other business:
* The council learned that Warner and Police Chief David Myers have found a company that would enable the town to place flags on the registrations of cars whose owners have unpaid parking tickets. The flags make it impossible to renew car registrations with the Motor Vehicle Administration until the parking tickets are paid.
The flagging system, used in many municipalities in Maryland, has been successful in reducing the number of parking scofflaws. Until recently, Manchester officials couldn't find a firm interested in providing the service.
* The council is prepared to pay fora water quality study in conjunction with new phases of the sewage treatment plant. Those phases -- which include the beginning of spray irrigation with treated water -- are expected to be operational by the end of the year. The study also will look at how the water quality will be affected by new federal water regulations. It is expected to cost around $20,000.
* The council is beginning to consider makinga change in the town charter to accommodate the need for a town manager. A full-time manager likely will be hired sometime during the upcoming fiscal year, town officials have said.
* The council began interviewing six candidates for the two openings for officers on the three-man town police force. The six were chosen from a larger field by the chief; the council hopes to hire two officers -- at a yearly salary of about $20,000 each -- within a week or two.
Two-thirds of the force resigned last month when two officers took jobs with the Carroll County Sheriff's Department.
* Councilman John A. Riley is working on developing new water and sewer fees for next year.