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Carroll commissioners pass FY15 budget

Bonuses for teachers, pay increases for sheriff's employees, tax reductions and more money for nonprofits are some of the big-ticket items in the Carroll County Board of Commissioners' approved Fiscal Year 2015 budget.

The board voted 3-2 Tuesday to adopt the FY15 operating and capital improvement budgets, following countless hours of debate, analysis and discussions. Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier, R-District 1, and Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, voted against the budget because they did not want to use one-time surplus funds to cover ongoing operating expenses.

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The adopted budget includes $165.3 million for public schools, $1.5 million for pay raises for Carroll County Sheriff's Office employees, a one-time-only county property tax rebate, a lowered local income tax rate and increased funding for nonprofits.

Public education

Carroll County Public Schools will receive $165.3 million in FY15, which includes $3.3 million for one-time 3 percent bonuses for all of the school system's approximately 2,600 employees. The school system will use $2.6 million from its surplus funds to contribute to the $5.9 million pot of money for bonuses.

Superintendent of Schools Steve Guthrie said he appreciates the board's support, particularly Commissioners Doug Howard, Haven Shoemaker and Dave Roush, for additional funding for the school system.

"Hopefully, we'll get through this year with the high standards our parents expect from Carroll County Public Schools," Guthrie said.

The county's funding allows the school system to not have to reduce Outdoor School to a three-day-a-week program or reorganize high school counseling offices.

Although there were a few things that were saved from the chopping block this year, unfortunately, Guthrie said, there was not enough funding available to provide raises for school employees.

"Right now, we don't have any revenue in the future that can support an ongoing expenditure [of 3 percent increased salaries]," Guthrie said. "I don't have any indication from this panel of commissioners that they're going to increase our budget by $5.9 million next year that I can continue these bonuses as a raise."

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Sheriff's office

The board of commissioners decided to use a combination of one-time surplus funds from FY13 and ongoing money to cover $1.5 million worth of pay increases for the sheriff's office over the next three years. The sheriff's office has proposed implementing a career ladder plan that would give sheriff's employees ongoing incremental pay increases every three years.

After six years, pay increases would be dependent on meeting certain requirements, such as obtaining a specialty, instructing a class, taking a college course or serving in a specialized unit. The pay increases would be for all 240-plus employees of the sheriff's office, including those working at the Carroll County Detention Center.

Sheriff Kenneth Tregoning said he supported the commissioners' decision to provide ongoing raises for his employees. Increasing pay, he said, will help keep sheriff's employees from leaving Carroll for higher-paying jurisdictions.

"It provides a clear path for our people to progress, not only in salary but in professional development," Tregoning said. "It's also going to stabilize our workforce. We were certainly concerned about losing people to surrounding agencies because of higher wages, but this pay increase will diminish this greatly. "

Tax rebate and tax cut

With the passage of the FY15 budget, this five-member board of commissioners has lowered taxes every year it has been in office.

The budget includes giving a one-time-only county property tax rebate of 1 cent per $100 of assessed value to property owners and lowering the local income tax or "piggyback tax" from 3.04 percent to 3.03 percent. The cost to the county to offer the tax rebate and cut totals $2.2 million.

Nonprofit organizations

Nonprofits partially or completely funded by the county will receive a 1.5 percent increase in funding in FY15. The commissioners voted 3-2 to allocate $118,000 of additional money for the nine nonprofits.

The nine nonprofits that are receiving additional funding from the county are The Arc Carroll County, CHANGE Inc., Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland, Mosaic Community Services, Human Services Programs of Carroll County, Flying Colors of Success, Rape Crisis Intervention Services, Target Community and Educational Services and Carroll County Youth Services Bureau.

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