Board reviews budget requests

County, nonprofit groups discuss spending needs with commissioners

March 13, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll officials began the weeks-long task of balancing the county's proposed $225 million spending plan for next fiscal year yesterday by tackling less costly and contentious budget requests first.

Requests for slight increases in operating costs and more space are easier to accommodate than the nearly $6 million gap between the money Carroll has to offer its Board of Education and what the school system says it needs. The commissioners will review school spending requests this month.

The commissioners met yesterday with representatives from the Orphans Court, the board of elections and two nonprofit organizations: Union Mills Homestead and the Historical Society of Carroll County, both of which contribute to the county's growing tourism industry.

During the workshops, which will continue for several weeks, the commissioners will not decide on the requests.

Public hearings scheduled

Several public hearings are scheduled before the budget for fiscal year 2002, which begins July 1, is adopted.

Before its budget request was reviewed, the historical society asked the commissioners for a one-time donation of $50,000 to defray the cost of purchasing two East Main Street buildings, bringing to four the number of structures it owns along the downtown corridor.

The request is roughly 10 percent of the acquisition cost of nearly $500,000 for the houses, built in the 19th century. One is the former Cockey's Tavern, once a popular restaurant.

The purchase will allow the society to proceed with a $1.5 million expansion that will include its museum and library.

Members are pursuing state and federal grants and private donations toward renovation costs.

Construction could begin in the fall.

"We would like to create a campus with exhibit rooms and a lecture hall," said Douglas P. Velnoskey, president of the society's board of trustees. "We want to preserve and develop interest in local history."

Plans call for creating a historic campus in downtown Westminster, with gardens and ample parking.

"We could become the premier cultural and educational institution in Carroll County," Velnoskey said. "We will have a critical impact on the county seat and the revitalization of Westminster's Main Street."

Jay Graybeal, director of the historical society, asked the county to maintain its $15,000 annual contribution to the organization's operating budget.

No change since 1983

Union Mills Homestead asked the commissioners for a $5,000 increase, money members would use to raise the director's salary. The county has not increased its $15,000 annual allocation since 1983.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge pledged her support to the mill, which has been in operation for more than 200 years.

"Union Mills is an important part of our history, a real walk back in time," Gouge said.

The Orphans Court asked for about a $3,000 increase in its budget - now at $31,400 - and more office space in the county annex building. The judges examined 2,100 estates last year and held more than 50 hearings.

Patricia K. Matsko, elections director, did not ask for more money this year, but used the meeting to review proposed statewide innovations to the voting system with the commissioners.

The 2002 budget includes $70,700 to extend the county's contract with Election Systems and Software until a uniform operation is selected. State funds will be available for transition costs, Matsko said.

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