Carroll commission OKs budget, fee rise

$320 million in spending approved for fiscal year

water, sewer cost boosted

May 26, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County commissioners approved yesterday more than $320 million in spending for next year without any tax increases, but the budget will include a boost in public water and sewer fees.

The $262.7 million operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 calls for continued funding for economic development programs, the county school system, round-the-clock ambulance services, the Sheriff's Office and the detention center.

The $62.5 million capital budget includes money for farmland preservation, road maintenance, school projects and the library system.

The budget also includes increases in public water and sewer fees that would affect most of the county's 10,180 customers, most of whom live in South Carroll.

Those increases amount to about $43 more a year for water and sewer service for an average household in South Carroll using 100,000 gallons a year. Heavy users - those who consume more than 160,000 gallons a year - will pay up to $70 more a year. South Carroll customers currently pay an average of about $800 per year for water and sewer service.

The spending plan drew little criticism during the five-month budget process. The commissioners said they faced more demands for public safety and other services, rising expenses and a growing population with higher expectations.

Numerous county agencies and departments requested hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional funding as the county had few discretionary dollars.

"There was a lot of people who didn't get the full amount they requested, but considering what we had to work with, we had a very good budget process this year," Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. said after the meeting.

The commissioners said they looked at funding programs and departments that would affect the most residents, including education, economic development, roads and farmland preservation.

"I thought the commissioners looked at the budget very carefully, and I think we chose issues that we felt were going to have long-term effect for the county," Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said.

"All of it is really looking at working for the future, preserving the heritage of Carroll County and, at the same time, trying to ready ourselves for economic development for the future," she said.

At a public hearing this month, Carroll's volunteer firefighters asked for $228,000 more to pay for their annual physical exams.

The commissioners have not granted their request because they said they're waiting for a comprehensive and cost-effective plan from the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association on how the physicals would be administered.

"We have money for the physicals, but we're waiting for a plan for the program," Jones said.

More than half of the county's operating budget for next year goes to Carroll schools. The budget also includes $3 million for an economic development program that provides grants for businesses interested in moving to the county.

County officials have set aside $500,000 to begin planning for a project to relieve crowding at North Carroll High School in Hampstead. The county also increased its reserves by $782,990 to guard against last-minute changes to the state budget for next year.

The capital budget includes improvements at Carroll County Community College, numerous road projects and relocation of the county's 911 center. Nearly $11 million for farmland preservation also is included in the budget - $5.5 million of which will be funded by selling bonds.

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