Carroll commissioners OK budgets

Capital spending plan includes $79 million for new high school

May 23, 2007|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

The Carroll County commissioners adopted yesterday a $328.4 million operating budget for fiscal year 2008 and a $187.1 million capital spending plan that represents a nearly 70 percent increase over this year's capital budget.

The six-year capital plan includes a new $79 million northeast high school that Hampstead and Manchester parents pushed for after county management and budget director Ted Zaleski cut it from his initial proposal.

Funds for the public schools - $149.2 million - plus another $10.7 million for debt service on school construction projects consume nearly 50 percent of the operating budget for fiscal year 2008, which begins July 1.

Also included is $13.7 million for other educational expenses, including Carroll Community College.

The Carroll County Board of Education had requested an additional $8.6 million that the commissioners did not fund, Zaleski said. A seven percent salary increase approved for contract school employees will be maintained next year, but only about 50 of the more than 140 new positions proposed have been funded, said Drew Sexton, the school board's supervisor of budget. Most of the funded positions are for state-mandated all-day kindergarten.

A 7 percent raise for school employees seemed steep given that Carroll government employees are getting only a 2 percent increase for cost-of-living expenses, county spokeswoman Vivian D. Laxton said yesterday.

As water supply continues to be a pressing issue, the commissioners added $2 million to their capital budget for land acquisition for long-planned reservoirs at Gillis Falls and Union Mills. Another $2 million will go to designing and engineering for the reservoirs, projects that face regulatory hurdles and are expected to cost more than $160 million, officials have said.

The commissioners' also approved a $1 million contribution to the Length of Service Award Program, a benefit awarded to the county's volunteer firefighters at age 60 after 25 years of active service, county comptroller Rob Burk said.

The program's base monthly payments will increase from $110 to $125, with $8 for each additional year of service, Burk said.

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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