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Carroll County commissioners approve proposed 2021 budget, call it a ‘work in progress’

Carroll County’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget is slightly smaller than last year’s, and though the county commissioners unanimously approved it Tuesday, they plan to revisit it when, they hope, there are fewer uncertainties surrounding the economy.

The Board of Commissioners approved a $417.6 million proposed operating budget for FY21, compared to 2020′s $418.8 million budget. There is no tax increase proposed.

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Ted Zaleski, director of management and budget, previously recommended that the commissioners approve a budget that is less than the current fiscal year’s because of projected revenue shortfalls due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The board did just that after weeks of budget talks that involved heavily debated decisions to make cuts to programs, such as agricultural land preservation, and not increasing funding to other areas.

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“This will remain a work in progress because of the fact that there are so many uncertainties in reference to state and federal aid and those other things which we are crossing our fingers on in anticipation of some help," said Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1.

Before the coronavirus shakeup, the county’s conditional 2021 budget included an increase to public school funding by about $6.1 million, according to budget documents. In the proposed budget, Carroll County Public Schools would see an increase of $1.2 million, for a total of $198.4 million.

Public Safety and Corrections would see a loss of about $388,000 in 2021, leaving that county agency with about $50.3 million.

Human resources would take a cut of about $341,000, leaving the department with $29.4 million.

Funding for Carroll Community College and Carroll County Public Library is nearly flat, proposed to be funded at about $19.9 million — $10.6 million for the college and $9.3 million for the library.

The Department of Citizen Services funding would increase by a little over $43,000 and Public Works is set to receive an additional $126,500.

“We’re stuck looking at the budget book. I think we’ve combed over it,” said Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2.

He suggested the commissioners come back to the budget in a few months, when more money may be available.

“Right now, we’re just guessing at everything we’re doing," Weaver said.

Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, said the commissioners have done about all they can do to get the budget to this point.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty out there about what revenue will be coming in," he said.

Before the proposed 2021 budget can be adopted by the commissioners, there will be a public hearing in which residents can offer their comments on the budget. A virtual hearing is planned for May 12, county administrator Roberta Windham said.

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The commissioners have budget meetings planned after the hearing to make potential adjustments. The budget must be adopted by the end of May.

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