Carroll commissioners propose budget of $260.7 million for '05

Most of increase allotted for education, public safety

April 23, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Faced with more demands for services and numerous requests for additional funding from county agencies, Carroll County commissioners unveiled yesterday a $260.7 million operating budget for next year that commits more money for public safety, the community college's new nursing program and numerous one-time capital projects.

The proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2005, which begins July 1, is 6.5 percent higher than this year's budget of $244.7 million. Most of the $16 million increase would pay for continued funding for the county school system, round-the-clock ambulance services, the Sheriff's Office and the detention center.

In preparing the budget, the commissioners were faced with an increased demand for public safety and other services, rising expenses and a growing population with higher expectations, said Ted Zaleski, the county's budget director.

"In Carroll County, consistently, we have had more people to serve," he said. "Arguably, if the commissioners are hearing `This is what you should be offering,' at least they need to consider them."

The three officials are also proposing to transfer $4.4 million to the capital budget to pay for much-needed road repairs and maintenance, the library's new Finksburg branch and infrastructure projects to encourage economic development.

"Anyone driving on Carroll County roads can easily see they need work," Zaleski said.

Of that $4.4 million, the commissioners have set aside $500,000 to begin planning for a project to relieve crowding at North Carroll High School in Hampstead. School officials are considering several options, including building a school.

"The commissioners felt strongly that when the Board of Education decides where to go, money will be available," Zaleski said.

The spending plan also takes into account uncertainties about the state budget. The commissioners are proposing to increase the county's reserve by $782,990 to make up for possible state cuts.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has yet to sign a budget, and the Board of Public Works has suggested that it may make additional cuts in anticipation of a looming $800 million state deficit for the fiscal 2006 budget, Zaleski said.

At the beginning of the budget process, county staff recommended a $259.5 million spending plan.

The latest proposal increased by about $1 million because the county received higher property tax estimates from the state, Zaleski said.

In the proposed budget, one-time revenues were used for one-time projects so the county would not be faced with scrambling to find more money for continuing expenses, Zaleski said.

More than half of the county's proposed budget for next year goes to Carroll schools, but education officials asked for about $2.5 million more than they have been allotted.

Carroll Community College is receiving $99,000 to hire two new staff members for the college's nursing program at its new nursing and allied health building, scheduled to open in the fall.

The county's library system receives an increase of about $400,000 over this year's budget.

Other agencies that asked for more money didn't fare as well. Most departments saw little or no increases in their budgets.

During three days of hearings, numerous nonprofit organizations, including those that provide services for mentally and developmentally disabled people, said they were facing rising demands for such services.

The agencies - including CHANGE Inc., Target Community and Education Services Inc. and the Arc of Carroll County - did not get their requests for an additional $5,000 each.

The county's proposed $60.2 million capital budget includes money for farmland preservation, road repairs and relocation of the county's 911 center.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. May 11 at Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road.

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