In a 3-2 vote, the Board of County Commissioners this week approved an operating budget of $362 million for fiscal year 2013 and a capital budget plan of $62.2 million.
The biggest chunk of the operating budget goes toward Carroll County Public Schools, which will see about $165 million in direct funding, plus $13 million toward school construction debt service and another $4 million for teacher pensions — a expense passed down from the state.
Another education allocation goes to the community college, which sees about $6.9 million.
Commissioners Richard Rothschild and Robin Frazier voted against the plan. Rothschild said he felt the budget counted too much on revenue projections that he felt are faulty; and that the budget allocated too much for a school system that is seeing a decline in enrollments — but has risen steadily in costs over the past several years.
Frazier said she disagreed with the plan's use of some county surplus funds for recurring expenses, saying those funds would be better spent paying down debt or to pay for one-time expenses that would reduce the county's bond needs.
But commissioners Doug Howard, Haven Shoemaker and David Roush all backed the plan.
Shoemaker noted that the plan reduces the county debt service and lowers the county property tax rate by 1 cent, and said any suggestion that the budget isn't conservative enough was, "bunkum."
Under the approved budget, the county property tax rate will go from $1.028 for every $100 of assessed value to $1.018.
The budget plan, first introduced in April, was the subject of several public meetings and a countywide hearing last month.
At the same meeting, the commissioners also approved new, higher water and sewer rates that officials said were necessary to support the county Bureau of Utilities' operating and capital budgets.
County comptroller Rob Burke said the average increase for residential users will be approximately 9 percent, or $7 to $10 per quarter, for water service and 3 percent, or $4 to $5 per quarter, for sewer service.
The increases are expected to raise about $400,000. The county last raised the water and sewer rates two years ago.