With a severe shortage of money but a long list of worthwhil capital projects, Carroll County's Planning Commission has an unenviable job of recommending the few winners that should be funded for the fiscal year that begins next July.
Making the job doubly difficult is the reality that there is expected to be $5 million less in county money budgeted than the $13.5 million available last year.
Capital projects are investments in the county's future. The capital budget pays for school construction, park acquisition, road building and repairs and large equipment purchases. The choices facing the Planning Commission are difficult.
The six-year capital spending plan calls for the county to use $7.5 million in borrowed money and about $1 million in taxes, fees and other revenues for the coming fiscal year. With expected state and federal matching funds, the entire capital spending will amount to about $18 million -- the lowest level in recent memory.
The choices are difficult because a few projects can claim large portions of this meager budget. For example, if the commission recommends construction of New Windsor Middle School in the next year, it will commit $5 million, or two-thirds of the borrowed money, on that one project. That would leave only about $2.5 million in borrowed money for all the other projects.
The county has to comply with certain mandated construction programs that further reduce the amount available for spending.
The enactment of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act means that Carroll County will have to spend $2 million during the next two years to comply with the law's provisions by 1995.
Most of the remaining projects on the list for the coming fiscal year are of high priority: repairing roofs on schools and public buildings, purchasing land for future schools, improving roads and replacing computer equipment.
County budget and planning officials feel this capital budget cuts beyond the bone. They are hoping that the county's revenue picture improves in future years.
Even if it does, they warn it will be several years before the county can resume the level of spending necessary to meet its needs.