Public budget forums begin

Discussions include sale of Quaker house, animal shelter growth

March 14, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

In the first of a series of public work sessions on the budget for the year beginning July 1, Carroll County commissioners heard yesterday about a building for cats at the Humane Society's animal shelter and the county historical society's plans to sell a Quaker house near Union Bridge.

The Historical Society of Carroll County is putting the 19th-century house, known as Hard Lodging, on the market this month. The society has maintained the home at a loss for many years.

"It's a shame it won't be open to the public any longer. That house is so unique; I don't think there's another one like it in the county," Commissioner Donald I. Dell told Jay Graybeal, the society's director, during the one-hour budget meeting.

The historical society decided to sell the Federal-style, side-hall house to raise money for preservation efforts. The nonprofit society has a collection of more than 100,000 items and is seeking storage space.

Under the spending plan proposed by Budget Director Steven Powell, the historical society would receive $15,000 to help cover daily operating costs -- the same amount it has received for many years.

In his $268 million spending plan for the new fiscal year, Powell has recommended a 12.5 percent increase in the Humane Society's budget. A portion of the agency's proposed $528,820 budget would be used to purchase a new animal control van.

The agency has received modest budget increases each of the past two years. Animal Control is on call 24 hours a day to help in emergencies and investigate complaints of cruelty to animals. Last year, the agency responded to more than 5,000 calls for assistance.

To help meet the demand for service, the Humane Society will open a new building for cats this spring.

Disease control

Carolyn Ratliff, director of the Humane Society, said the addition will curb the spread of infectious diseases among the approximately 3,000 cats the shelter houses annually.

The Union Mills Homestead is also expected to receive $15,000, the amount it has been granted each year since 1983. The homestead, once a family-owned grist mill and saw mill, attracts about 18,000 visitors a year.

The commissioners are considering a spending plan that includes $202 million for day-to-day operating costs and $66 million for capital improvements. Powell's proposed spending plan is based on the property tax rate of $2.62 per $100 of assessed value that has been in effect since 1996, and the local 55 percent "piggyback" tax collected through the state income tax.

Hearing schedules

At 2: 30 p.m. tomorrow, the commissioners will hold hearings on budgets for the Carroll County Board of Elections, the Department of the Comptroller and the county attorney's office.

The circuit court, county health department, and Department of Planning will present their budgets to the commissioners at 9 a.m. Friday. At 2 p.m., the Department of Permits, Inspection and Review and the farm museum are scheduled to appear. All meetings will be held in the County Office Building, 225 N. Center St., Westminster.

Meetings on issues that generate strong public interest -- parks and recreation, the county's public libraries, economic development and the fireman's association -- will be held in the evening.

The commissioners took no formal action on the funding requests yesterday. They will listen to several additional presentations before making any funding decisions, Powell said. The commissioners are expected to adopt a budget by May 23.

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