Budget plan tentatively agreed on Proposal includes no increase in property tax rate

Final adoption in late May

Commissioners to meet tomorrow for review, changes

April 09, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners tentatively agreed yesterday on a $168 million operating budget and a $46 million capital spending plan for the 1998 fiscal year that begins July 1.

They will meet again tomorrow afternoon to review the proposal and make any last-minute changes before presenting it to the public at a hearing on May 8. Final adoption is scheduled for late May.

The proposed budget is based on the current property tax rate of $2.62 per $100 of assessed value. The commissioners raised the tax rate 27 cents last year to maintain essential services.

The commissioners made minor alternations yesterday to the operating and capital proposals and agreed to new developer-related fees expected to produce $61,525 in revenue.

If the proposals stay as they are, the operating budget for fiscal 1998 would be $5.8 million, or 3.6 percent, higher than the current $162 million budget and the capital budget would increase by $1 million, or 2 percent, over the current $45 million.

A large portion of the commissioners' time yesterday and Monday was spent in closed-door executive sessions with county personnel director Beverly Billingslea talking about the salary, benefits and performance package that will be given employees.

Billingslea asked for the closed-door session, telling the commissioners she preferred that her department break the news to employees rather than have them learn it from the newspaper.

When the issue first came up Monday, Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said he see not see a problem discussing the salary and benefits package in public. But Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates granted Billingslea's request, and yesterday, Brown voted with them to go into executive session.

The closed-door discussions became so sensitive that budget analysts -- with the exception of Budget Director Steven D. Powell -- were excluded.

In open session yesterday, the commissioners added $428,000 to the capital budget proposal. Most of the new money would be used to help pay for computers at Carroll Community College and in the public school system.

The college, which had asked for $300,000 a year to keep it on the cutting edge of computer technology, would receive two-thirds of that amount in the next fiscal year -- $100,000 from the redistribution of money elsewhere in the budget proposal and an additional $100,000.

Likewise, the school system would get some, but not all, of what it requested. The system would receive $220,000 extra to complete a computer network linking public schools with each other, the school system's administrative headquarters and the public library. The school board had asked for $4,742,600 over three years to provide the school board with state-of-the-art computer technology.

The school system also would get $50,000 extra for a canopy to give disabled children protection from the weather when leaving or boarding school buses. Similar increases would be given the school system over the next five years to erect canopies at each of the county's regional special education schools.

Other capital budget additions yesterday were $33,000 for an 11,250-square-foot concrete pad for an administration building at the firefighters training center and $25,800 for a sports complex maintenance building sought by the county recreation department.

Additions to the operating budget proposal totaled $158,111, with the Department of Public Works getting the largest increase -- $120,000 from reserves for tree trimming, lawn mowing, and snow removal.

The Department of Citizen Services would get an additional $23,901 under the proposal for administrative help in the sexual abuse treatment center and the rape crisis program, and for a counselor in the domestic violence program.

Others receiving increases were the Humane Society of Carroll County -- $3,710 for a part-time attendant; the state's attorney's office -- $6,000 for a computer program relating to crime victims; and the Cooperative Extension Service -- $4,500 to give employees a 2 percent salary increase.

Pub Date: 4/09/97

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