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Carroll commissioners seek $38M bond authorization for 2021 projects — largely Career and Tech Center

Looking ahead to fiscal year 2021 and the projects that are expected to come with it, the Carroll County commissioners on Thursday approved a bond authorization request of $38.25 million.

Carroll County, as a commission form of government, must seek approval from the Maryland General Assembly for its annual bond request. When the county sells a bond to a company, the company takes the bond and loans the county money, which must be paid back with interest. This is one way the county funds major projects such as the Carroll County Career and Technology Center expansion.

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The amount of the bond request is driven by the projects in the county’s budget, according to Ted Zaleski, director of management and budget for the county.

Once the General Assembly authorizes the county to execute bonds in that amount, the county can commence with the bond sale. Bond authorization enables, but does not require, the county to issue bonds or spend the bond money, according to Zaleski. It’s one step in the process.

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“The appropriation, the authorization, commits us to nothing. You don’t have to move ahead. It doesn’t make you pay anything, it just makes it possible for you to move,” Zaleski told the commissioners.

Whether the delegation approves the amount requested has yet to be determined, Zaleski said, though he does not anticipate any issues. Zaleski wrote in an email he did not know when the General Assembly would vote on Carroll’s request.

Zaleski presented to the commissioners the preliminary community investment plan, or CIP, for the next six years. The CIP is not yet final, but it paints a picture of what capital projects the county may fund in the years ahead. Zaleski said the CIP is largely dedicated to maintaining existing infrastructure rather than building new structures.

About $21 million in bond funding is planned for the Career and Technology Center expansion, according to the preliminary CIP. The next highest designation for 2021 bond dollars is about $13 million for county Department of Public Works, of which $12 million is planned for road paving, the CIP shows.

Zaleski noted these numbers could change as they move forward, but this is the plan for now.

“We’re at the very beginning of the process, the public process at least,” Zaleski said. “As the commissioners start to weigh in on this and make their decisions, we could end up somewhere different than what’s in here.”

Cost estimates for projects can change, Zaleski noted, or a fire company may unexpectedly ask the county to issue on bond on its behalf.

He noted the county has gone 15 years without increasing its total outstanding debt, but that may change as major projects come down the pipeline and more bond sales are made to pay for them. Zaleski mentioned the replacement of East Middle School, maintaining agricultural preservation efforts and improving the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office’s southern precinct office in Eldersburg as some of the major projects the county should be prepared to address.

The commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the $38.25 million bond authorization. Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, was absent due to a personal matter, according to Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1.

In March, Zaleski will return to the commissioners to present next year’s recommended budget.

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