As the county budget process gets underway, three Carroll County commissioners have put two plans on the table to spend $12.9 million FY2014 in budget surplus.
In a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, Carroll County commissioners Doug Howard and Haven Shoemaker proposed a plan to spend the surplus on education, nonprofits and IT upgrades, among other things.
"I think [this plan] will actually allow us to move forward in strengthening some of the areas that have been struggling for the past couple years," Howard said. "It will be one of those years where a lot of pieces of county business get shored up."
The proposed plan suggests spending the largest chunk of the surplus — $3.3 million — on education.
The Carroll County Board of Education recently approved a budget that calls for $166.8 million in county funding for FY2015.
The commissioner's budget calls for funding education at $162 million.
The $3.3 million in surplus funds, coupled with the budgeted $162 million, leaves the Board of Education $1.5 million shy of satisfying its budget.
Howard and Shoemaker propose that the additional $1.5 million be taken from the Board of Education's reserve funds.
Nonprofits will also get a boost in the Howard/Shoemaker plan with a 3 percent funding increase as opposed to the 3 percent decrease that was budgeted for FY2015. The county funds 11 nonprofits and the proposed plan allots $300,000 for the funding bump.
Human Service Program (HSP) Executive Director Cindy Parr said that she, along with other nonprofits, requested a 3 percent increase from the commissioners for FY2015.
"Obviously, I'm very supportive of Commissioner Howard and Shoemaker's plan to give nonprofits a funding increase," Parr said.
Parr said that the increase will return the organization to its FY2011 funding level.
"I'm happy that they see the need for strong support of social and human services in the community," Parr said.
Carroll County's Ag Preservation program will see $1 million from the surplus funds in the proposed plan and another $1 million will go toward IT upgrades in the county office building and related agencies.
One-time funds will also be used to buy new breathing apparatus equipment for local firefighters as requested by the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association (CCVESA) and $68,000 will fund Sunday hours at all five county libraries.
The plan offers some relief to taxpayers as well with a 1-cent property tax rebate that will total $1.8 million. Commissioners Howard and Shoemaker said that they would also like to see an income-tax reduction of $.01, costing the county $400,000, but will only push for that if it can be sustained in future years.
Although he said he thinks the plan sufficiently addresses the needs of Carroll County, Howard said there is always more to do.
"None of this addresses the long-term issue of compensation," Howard said. "That will have to be dealt with improved revenue. It can't be accommodated by this type of strategy."What this does is puts resources into organizations to get them in better shape."
Commissioner Richard Rothschild said he was unaware that Howard and Shoemaker had created a plan and that they were presenting it to the public on April 15.
He offered his own suggestions for spending the surplus funds at a budget hearing April 16.
Rothschild's plan allots $1.5 million for education and $1 million each for debt reduction and road resurfacing projects.
He also suggests $400,000 for the Education Opportunity Fund and a $2 million one-time credit to taxpayers.
The proposed FY2015 county budget is scheduled to be presented on April 29 with a public hearing to follow on May 12.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun