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Carroll residents lobby for education, nonprofit funding

By Blair Ames, bames@tribune.com

10:07 AM EDT, May 7, 2013

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Carroll County residents lobbied the Board of County Commissioners Monday that additional funding in the fiscal year 2014 budget should be directed to Carroll County Public Schools and nonprofit organizations.

"It is not acceptable for CCPS to just get by," Sykesville resident Devon Rothschild said. "Every member of our community deserves to have a school system that can have the teaching staff and resources required to meet and exceed the needs of every child in our care."

Rothschild was one of 35 residents to speak at a public hearing on the commissioners' proposed $367 million operating budget for fiscal 2014. Most spoke in favor of additional funding for Carroll County Public Schools and nonprofit organizations. A handful spoke in favor of the commissioners' budget proposal.

More than 100 people attended the hearing in the Scott Center at Carroll Community College.

The Carroll County Commissioners have proposed a $367 million operating budget for fiscal year 2014, up 1.45 percent from last year's $361.7 million budget.

They have proposed $163.5 million for Carroll County Public Schools in the fiscal 2014 budget, but the school system had requested $166.6 million.

School system advocates argued that the proposed funding for Carroll County Public Schools would deplete its reserve funding, force teachers to leave for neighboring counties and a higher salary, and cost the school system staffing positions.

"Requiring Carroll County Public Schools to deplete most of its reserve funds to make up for the county's shortfall is fiscally unsound," said Bob Lord, founder of Carroll Values Education, a parent advocacy group promoting quality education in the school system.

Included in the budget is a three percent cut for five of the county's 11 nonprofit organizations that receive funding from the county, according to Bob Miller, chairman of the board for Human Services Programs of Carroll County, Inc.

Nonprofits saw a three percent cut in funding last year and advocates asked that nonprofits receive as much as they did last year instead of withstanding additional cuts

"I'm not asking for new money to be added to the budget, the tax burden is already great enough on all of us that are citizens of this county," Miller said.

The budget also includes funding for a potential satellite Sheriff's Office in Eldersburg and a raise for county employees.

It includes a pair of tax reductions for residents. Business personal property taxes would drop 3 cents per $100 of assessed value and the income-tax rate would drop from 3.05 to 3.04 percent in 2014 with another reduction to 3.03 in 2015 if the budget proposal is approved.

The commissioners voted 4-1 April 25 to allow the budget to enter the public review stage with commissioner Robin Frazier opposing.

Other features of the budget include:

•$55,000 to add Sunday hours at the Eldersburg Library from October to April

•$30,000 to create a part-time Veterans Service Officer position

•$100,000 for additional staffing in the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, and $60,000 to potentially rent space for the Sheriff's Department in Eldersburg

•$100,000 for maintenance and preservation of some buildings at Union Mills Homestead

•$5 million in FY 2014 to cover a shift in teacher pension costs from the state to the county

After a series of work sessions, the commissioners are scheduled to vote on the budget May 28 at the County Office Building. For details, visit ccgovernment.carr.org or call 410-386-2400.