Review of cash requests to begin

Officials begin task of allocating funds for next year's budget

Carroll County

March 11, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | By Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County commissioners this week will begin reviewing spending requests for the next budget year, knowing they have too few dollars to dispense and too many wishes to fulfill.

The county is projecting $225 million in revenue and has $220 million in expenses, giving officials little leeway for such incidentals as new roofs and pothole repairs. County budget director Steven D. Powell said about $3 million of the difference is a one-time windfall and cannot be used to cover costs the county would continue to incur.

"Everything has to come out of that difference - the library, the schools, the fire departments, the health department, the roads and everything else," Powell said. "There are a lot of costs, and it is not like we are loaded. We have some short-term money that will not be available every year."

For example, the Carroll school system, which generally accounts for nearly half the budget, has requested $6 million more than the county has available.

Powell expects an increase in state income tax revenue this year - as much as $2 million - but that too is a one-time occurrence, he said.

Before adopting a budget in late May, the commissioners must decide whether Carroll Community College will have a much-needed nursing program, which roads will be repaired and how much more farmland can be preserved in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The county has about 33,000 acres of farmland preserved and has set a goal of 100,000 acres by 2020. Officials have made the program a priority, but additional funding is needed if Carroll is to reach that goal.

And those are only a few of the requests the board must review.

"All those requests for copiers, mowers and trucks are not included - those are for the commissioners to decide," Powell said. "Everyone has issues with the current fiscal year and the five-year plan."

There are staffing, building renovation and equipment needs to be considered and a costly proposed long-term residential treatment center for heroin abusers. In addition, the sheriff's office is asking for $85,000 to treat incarcerated heroin addicts.

During two days of budget briefings closed to the public last week, Powell made several preliminary recommendations. There was no discussion of a property tax decrease, which Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier had said earlier this year she would pursue.

"We did not discuss a tax cut," he said.

The parade of requests for county dollars starts at 10 a.m. tomorrow with presentations from the Orphan's Court, the Union Mills Homestead and the Carroll County Historical Society. It continues for the next several weeks as agencies lobby for their share of tax revenues. The county cannot afford to make everyone happy, Powell said.

"All these issues will be coming up in the next several weeks as different agencies come in to speak," he said. "With roughly $2 million to address all these requests, we have to be careful how we apportion."

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