$130 million budget calls for level taxes, new schools CARROLL COUNTY

April 16, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Carroll County will have about $10 million more to spend in the next fiscal year, which means taxes won't increase, employees will get raises and schools will be built.

County officials expect an 8.9 percent increase in revenues for fiscal 1994, which begins July 1, compared with the current year.

The commissioners released their proposed $130 million budget for the next fiscal year during a meeting yesterday with employees and the media at the County Office Building.

"It is the first budget that represents a step toward the turnaround," budget director Steven D. Powell said.

"It's a complete switch today to be happy and announce there is some good news out there," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said.

"We did not wish to raise taxes when the citizens also are under very difficult economic times," Commissioner Donald I. Dell said.

"It's only been possible because every county employee wanted to make it happen," Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said.

She and the other commissioners thanked employees for "doing more with less."

Carroll lost $17 million in state money during the past three years, Mr. Dell said.

"We have labored and kept going due to the intense cooperation of everybody here," Mr. Lippy said. "We are able to come here today with good news, and it proves we've operated better than most counties in these difficult times."

A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. May 13 at the Westminster High School auditorium. The commissioners will adopt a budget May 27.

The current budget is $119.7 million.

The $130 million includes 3 percent raises for school employees in each of the next two years and $1,000 across-the-board raises for full-time county employees in the next year.

County workers have not had a raise in three years. The $1,000 increase is a 7.6 percent raise for employees at the lowest end of the pay scale and 2.2 percent for those at the high end of the scale. The county has about 500 employees.

Employees were told about the raise Wednesday, said Ed Bilz, president of Chapter 550 of the Maryland Classified Employees Association.

"I've yet to hear anyone complain. Everybody has been very happy. It's well deserved and well needed, and definitely greatly appreciated," he said about the raise.

The union had asked for 5 percent cost-of-living raises for employees, plus longevity and merit raises.

School Superintendent R. Edward Shilling thanked the commissioners for approving the raises the Board of Education had negotiated with school employee unions.

He said there is "a lot more cooperation between the Board of Education and the commissioners than the public realizes."

The raises would cost $2.4 million in fiscal 1994. The commissioners propose to fund 47 percent of that amount but said the school board must come up with 53 percent, or $1.3 million, because the $69 million school budget is 53 percent of the county's operating budget.

"I think it's a very fair appropriation for us," Mr. Shilling said, but he wasn't sure where the board will find the $1.3 million.

School employees have received their scheduled step raises in the past two years but no cost-of-living raises. Employees at the top of the scale received no increases.

Mr. Lippy said he expects to "catch it" from residents who don't think school employees deserve a raise. The increase is justified in part because students have scored high in statewide tests, he said.

The proposed $32.6 million capital budget includes almost $8 million to build a new middle school in New Windsor. It also includes planning money for a middle school in the Sykesville area and an elementary school in Taneytown.

Money is budgeted for improvements to Route 32 at Mechanicsville Elementary and to Salem Bottom Road at Winfield Elementary.

The proposed county budget includes money to hire seven new employees -- five in the Sheriff's Department and two in the State's Attorney's Office.

The commissioners want to hire five corrections officers for the county jail. Sheriff John H. Brown had asked for nine officers but said he was happy with five.

"I'll take whatever I can get. This is long overdue," he said.

The jail often is crowded, and officers must work overtime and suffer from burnout, he said.

Each officer will earn $20,550 a year, but benefits and other costs bring the total cost of each officer to $30,000 a year.

The commissioners also want to hire an investigator and an assistant state's attorney for the non-support unit, which investigates people who do not pay child support.

The posts are "badly needed," State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said.

The investigator would earn $27,900 a year; with benefits, the cost would be $37,700. The assistant state's attorney would earn $33,100; with benefits, the cost would be $44,700.

The state would reimburse the county for 66 percent of the cost of the salaries for the two jobs.

Mr. Hickman had asked the commissioners to add two other jobs -- a secretary and an assistant state's attorney for criminal prosecutions.

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