Carroll County's proposed budget is made public, setting stage for series of public meetings

The Carroll County commissioners and county staff made the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget public Tuesday morning, beginning a period of public input — and possible changes — ahead of a scheduled May 28 adoption.

“This is the point in the process where this has become the commissioners’ budget,” Ted Zaleski, county budget director, said at the 10 a.m. budget meeting. “This is what the board is releasing to the public, ‘here is where we think we’re going, tell us what you think.’”


The first of five community meetings on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Eldersburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library. A public hearing will be held Mary 13 at Carroll Community College.

The proposed budget is now available to view online at

The total of the proposed budget for FY20, which begins July 1, is $417.5 million — larger than the current FY19 county budget, which was just more than $411 million.

But because revenues fell short of expectations, FY20 revenues did not grow as much as had been expected — so the budget process started out in the negative, with a deficit. And although Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, had brought up the prospect of raising taxes, the board ultimately opted for making cuts to balance the budget.

Those were difficult choices, Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, noted at the Tuesday meeting, thanking his colleagues and county staff for working through those choices together. He also noted the difficulty the commissioners faced in working to balance the next fiscal year’s budget as well as planning an additional four years into the future.

“This is one of the hardest ones we have had to do,” he said of the FY20 budget.

‘It would be very, very easy, as I’ve said before, to balance a one-year budget, but to do it the way we do it — I want to applaud everybody that was involved in this.”

Much of the meeting was spent with Zaleski reviewing the major changes — cuts, in many cases — although some programs and agencies saw increases over the FY19 budget.

“Of course when you are cutting things, there will always be different opinions about what’s a good cut and what’s a bad cut,” Zaleski added. “The commissioners wrestled with many and landed on the choices that we’re going through here.”

Some of the bigger cuts were to the facilities capital budget — monies for fixing roofs and heating and cooling system repair — which saw a 5% decrease in total funding over the next six years, and the pavement maintenance program, according to Zaleski.

“They reduced the capital funding to the paving management system, that’s taking care of our roads, by a little under $5 million over three years,” he said. “We had $2.9 million in the budget for the possible demolition of the old [North Carroll High School], or, if it turned out that we intend to keep that school, to replace the roof. That project was eliminated.”

A $50,000 program for developing trails in county parks was eliminated, Zaleski said.

The school resource officer program within the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office saw a $400,000 one-time decrease in the FY20 budget and an ongoing $400,000 decrease, according to Zaleski, which means the number of new school resource officers added to the existing 10 in the new fiscal year will be five, rather than 10.

“The 20 that was originally planned was not based on any law or specific requirements, it was a first shot to say, ‘we want to do something here,’ ” Zaleski said. “As the sheriff and the school system have had time to work through what they believe is necessary to make this work, we’ve gotten to the point where we think 15 positions should be adequate.”


Carroll County installed armed school resource officers in county high schools after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, claimed the lives of 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018.

But there were some budget increases, including $25,000 for the veterans shuttle program in FY20, $61,150 in one-time funding for project management software for county construction projects and $1.9 million — about a $135,000 increase — for the Carroll County Health Department, according to Zaleski.

“This is better than they have seen in many years,” he said. “The health departments across the state were hurt badly by state changes following the recession, and while this is good news, this still leaves them well below what they were once funded by the state.”

Carroll County, too, has been dealing with the long echos of the Great Recession of 2008, Zaleski said — a difficult decade when many sources of revenue deflated by the financial crisis failed to return to previous highs even as the economy has recovered.

“Property tax, our largest revenue, it was only in this budget year, FY19, that we recovered our previous high for property tax,” he said. “Recordation, our investment income, building permits are all far below the highs that they once hit, and we don’t expect them to recover anytime that we’re planning for.”

State and federal government decisions have also impacted Carroll’s bottom line in recent years, Zaleski said. Maryland has backed off providing the county as much state money in terms of agricultural land preservation and highway user revenues, while also passing most costs on to the county, such as some of the cost of teachers pensions and the department of taxation and reassessments, he said, to the tune of about $8 million a year.

Clean Water Act permits, mandated by the federal government, have also led to the county spending millions, Zaleski said.

“Not questioning whether this is a good thing or not, just saying it’s not necessarily a choice that we made,” he said. “We pay that bill, it’s not a choice we get to make.”

Zaleski also noted that the public is invited to give feedback on the choices the commissioners did make, both in developing the currently proposed budget and through the public comment period beginning Wednesday.

“We have an open budget process, the commissions are not required to require their budget deliberations in public until actually this point, once the proposed budget is out,” he said. “We start our open discussion much, much earlier than that. All sessions are open to the public.”

The other community meetings will be held May 2 at the Mount Airy branch library, May 6 at the Westminster branch, May 7 at the Taneytown branch and May 8 at the North Carroll branch, all at 7 p.m.

Archived commissioner meetings can be found on the county website or YouTube channel at


“The information is out there,” Zaleski said. “It’s on you, though, to make some effort to receive the information that’s out there.”