County staff proposing 23% jump in spending

January 20, 1995|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll County government departments and agencies have told the commissioners they want to spend about $33 million, or 23 percent, more in the next fiscal year than in the current year.

They need the additional money for an upgraded emergency radio system, road repairs, higher medical insurance bills and capital projects, such as schools.

Budget Director Steven D. Powell yesterday briefed county commissioners on preliminary operating and capital budgets and estimated revenues for fiscal year 1996, which begins July 1.

"There are some serious issues you'll have to address," he told Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown was ill yesterday and did not attend the meeting.

Mr. Powell has estimated that the county will have about $7 million more to spend than it has in the current year. But almost all of it is spoken for, he said.

The county must pay $3.2 million in principal and interest on money borrowed for county and school projects, $1.3 million for increased costs for employee benefits and $2.25 million to cover costs for additional students.

The commissioners also will have to consider possible salary increases that could result from negotiations between the Board of Education and its unions and from cost-of-living increases for all employees, Mr. Powell said.

Departments and agencies have requested a total operating budget of $177 million. The current budget is $144 million.

Mr. Powell and his staff have estimated that county revenues will increase about 5 percent to $151 million in fiscal 1996, compared with $144 million this year.

Officials have asked for increases in these areas:

* Personnel -- Forty-two new full- and part-time positions in various departments that would cost a total of $1.5 million.

* Public safety -- An upgraded emergency radio communications system that would include towers, radios and eight channels and allow emergency personnel to communicate more efficiently. The cost in fiscal 1996 would be $1 million. The total cost is about $6 million.

* Roads -- Repairs to roads damaged during last winter's storms. The public works department has requested $2.4 million for the work. * Fringe benefits -- Costs for employee health and dental benefits are expected to increase 50 percent, or $1.7 million, next year. The county budgeted $3.4 million this year and expects the benefits to cost $5.1 million next year.

* Capital projects -- The Planning Commission has recommended that the county pay for more capital projects with cash instead of borrowing money.

Members recommended that the commissioners transfer $8.1 million from the operating budget to the capital budget. The amount is a 346 percent increase over the amount transferred this year -- $1.8 million.

School construction projects needed to handle population growth in Carroll dominate the capital budget. The Planning Commission last month recommended a $55.8 million budget for fiscal 1996, which would be $1.5 million higher than the current budget.

Mr. Powell and his staff pared the capital budget to $50.3 million by eliminating or delaying several projects. They were:

* Large gymnasium at the new Elmer Wolfe Elementary School -- $350,000.

* Eldersburg library branch expansion -- $834,000.

* School renovation projects -- $1.5 million.

* Construction cost overruns at New Windsor Middle -- $300,000.

* Public Works Department land management shop -- $147,700.

* Consulting and engineering work on heating and air-conditioning systems at the Courthouse Annex -- $110,000.

The budget staff also reduced the amount recommended for agriculture preservation by $2.2 million.

The Planning Commission had recommended the county spend

$3.75 million. The commissioners have the final say over the budget. They will study the requests and meet with Mr. Powell and his staff before making changes.

They must approve a final budget in late May.

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