Ted Zaleski, director of Carroll County’s Department of Management and Budget, told the Board of Commissioners during his budget overview Thursday that his core messages going into the fiscal year 2020 budget are the same as they were going into the fiscal year 2019 budget.
One of those core points is that the county’s major revenue sources are growing slower than anticipated.
Funds could be less than expected
“We are going to have to back off the revenue projections in the current FY19 to [FY]24 plan,” Zaleski said Thursday.
Since last year projected revenues have gone down by $3.2 million for FY20, $5 million for FY21, $6.8 million for FY22, $8.6 million in FY23, and $10.1 million for FY24.
According to Zaleski, the budget needs to be determined by revenue, not by adding up needs and asking how to get them funded.
There will also be limited flexibility in funding, he said, which will heighten the importance of every decision the board makes — as well as put pressure on the county’s ability to maintain its levels of service.
“Nothing has happened this year to make us feel more comfortable,” he said.
‘We have gotten to where we are going’
Zaleski also told the commissioners that the mindset heading into budgets after the Great Recession involved waiting for a bounce-back to arrive.
“Some things that had been nagging at my mind for some years now have become clearer, if not clear,” he said at the meeting. “The world has changed. The idea that we are waiting for something more to happen, I think we need to push that behind us.
“There’s nothing more coming,” Zaleski said. “And that’s not to say that the world can’t change again — I'm not predicting there won’t be another real estate boom or we won’t see salaries and wages starting to rise more quickly than they are — but we have gotten to where we are going.”
According to the director, the department was using data from previous recessions to make predictions going forward, but the county’s recovery this time is different.
“But the real trick for us in saying we think it’s different now, is it still doesn’t give us an answer about now, and what do we think that means,” Zaleski told the Times after the meeting.
Education funding needs growing faster than county can support
As for specifics, Zaleski told the board that Carroll County Public Schools received $21.4 million in budget increases from the 60th Board of Commissioners from 2015 to 2019.
The total was about half of the $42.8 million budget increase in the county over that four-year period.
Zaleski said that the increase in funding for schools has been ahead of the county’s overall increases in revenue and that the same can be said for some other departments.
This is a concern, he said, especially with looming recommendations from the Kirwan Commission — the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education — which could lead to large-scale changes in how schools are funding across the state. State leaders have delayed decisions on the Kirwan plan until next year.
The recommendations will cost the county additional funds, no matter what they are, Zaleski said — and he couldn’t begin to guess whether it could be a number like $3 million or $57 million in additional costs for Carroll.
On top of CCPS’s proposed budget for 2019 requesting an $8.9 million increase for teacher salaries and new positions, funding for schools is at the top of Zaleski’s “Really Big Things On My Mind” list.
911 funds to get complicated
Other funding that will be of growing importance revolves around emergency responses and 911 personnel — a department that has seen a budget increase of $2 million over the past four years, according to Zaleski’s presentation.
“911 positions will continue to be a topic of conversation for you,” Zaleski told the commissioners. “If you spoke with them at 911, I don't believe they’d say, ‘We are comfortable, we have the staff we need.’ ”
And with a bill regarding the Next Generation 9-1-1, the costs could begin to get more complicated, the budget director said.
NextGen 9-1-1 is a digital or Internet Protocol (IP)-based 911 system, an upgrade from the older analog 911 technology.
Public safety answering points, or PSAPs, across the country are being upgraded to improve the reliability and efficacy of 911 systems, and systems using Next Gen 9-1-1 will have “a faster, more resilient system that allows voice, photos, videos and text messages to flow seamlessly from the public to the 911 network,” according to the program’s government website.
Budget meeting schedule
Throughout March, April and May, a series of budget meetings will be held in order to develop and adopt the final budget.
On March 26, the recommended budget will be presented to the commissioners, and then the board will meet with any agency requesting funding that wasn't included in that budget.
Agency meetings with commissioners will take place on Thursday, March 28 and Tuesday, April 2.
The proposed budget will be presented to the community at meetings held in each of the town and city libraries beginning in May.
The budget public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, May 13 at the Carroll Community College, in the Scott Center auditorium.
Additional budget work sessions may be held by the commissioners to make any modifications to the proposed budget based on the information received during the public hearing. These work sessions are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, May 21 and Thursday, May 23. The budget adoption is planned for Tuesday, May 28.
Zaleski’s presentation is available to view by clicking here.