Larger capital budget proposed Public works, school construction would get most of increase

April 25, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners unveiled an $82.3 million 1997 capital budget yesterday that, if approved, would be spent almost entirely on public works projects and schools.

The spending proposal is $31 million greater than the current capital budget -- a 61 percent increase over fiscal 1996.

Among the recommended expenditures for the budget year that begins July 1 are:

$33 million for a solid-waste composting facility and $1.4 million for a solid-waste transfer station.

$7.9 million for a Westminster area elementary school, $7 million of which would come from an 8 percent piggyback income tax increase the commissioners approved last year and pledged for school construction.

$5.4 million for road work and another $1 million for bridge repair.

$4 million for agricultural land preservation and another $1 million for the county land bank.

$1.55 million for library, computer and learning resource center additions at the community.

The recommendations appear to be highly negotiable, however.

Commissioner Richard T. Yates did not sign yesterday's "letter to citizens" prefacing the capital and operating budget proposals, and Commissioner Donald I. Dell has questions about a several capital projects.

Commissioner Dell said he was "befuddled" as to why $33 million for the solid waste composting facility was included in the proposal. "We don't have money for that," he said. "There's been no talk about it. It is premature."

Mr. Dell said the commissioners have heard "all kinds of scenarios" about solid waste disposal, but "haven't addressed those issues they way I would like."

What most likely will occur, he said, is that private industry will build a facility and the county will pay what are called tipping fees to use it.

Commissioner Dell also was surprised to see all of the expected piggyback revenue designated for the Westminster area elementary school. "We're looking at Linton Springs [elementary school in South Carroll] first," he said. If the county doesn't get the state funding he hopes will be allocated for Linton Springs, then the county should underwrite it, Mr. Dell said.

Despite that preference, Mr. Dell said he believes in letting the school board determine the priorities. "I am not in any way, shape or form going to dictate to the Board of Education."

In their budget message to residents, Commissioners Brown and Dell said the "the process leading to the proposed budget has been even more difficult than we could have imagined" due to the "harsh reality of the '90s."

Property taxes and local income taxes account for 80 percent of county revenues, they said, but property assessments on which property taxes are based have been "flat" and income tax revenue has lagged.

"It is important for us to point out which areas have not received money in recent years," they said. "Funding for our roads and bridges has fallen $25 million under what is necessary. [and] we will never reach our goal of 100,000 acres in the Agricultural Preservation Program. The farm land will be gone before the money is available."

Residents will have their first opportunity to react to the proposal May 9 in a public hearing.

Pub Date: 4/25/96

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