Carroll County Times

Unusually high revenue the last two years in Carroll, driven by strong housing market, leaves county in good financial shape

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Carroll County is on track to have a $13 million surplus at the end of the current fiscal year, said Ted Zaleski, county budget director, but admits “it’s only November. The revenue picture is still out there to unfold.”

Fiscal 2023 started July 1 and ends June 30.


“Right now we look at the year end for fiscal year [2023], and we’re projecting that we would have a surplus of about $13 million,” Zaleski told county commissioners Thursday during their weekly meeting.

“Don’t fall in love with this number,” he said. “It’s just what we’ve got right now. Of that $13 million, remember every year we plan to carry forward to another year 1% of the budget. That would be about $4.5 million. So we think that will leave us with about $8.5 million.”


The positive budget numbers are a combination of increased revenue — coming from a ”very, very hot housing market,” which the county benefits from due to recordation tax revenue — and savings from money not spent on things like winter cleanup and county staff positions remaining unfilled.

Zaleski said fiscal 2022 ended with the county receiving about $36 million more in revenue than expected, attributing much of that to high income tax and recordation tax revenues.

“The last couple of years we have had a very, very hot housing market ... when COVID hit, we fully expected that the housing market was going to slow dramatically and we budgeted that way. Of course that didn’t happen,” he said, adding that 2020, 2021 and this year all remained strong with recordation tax receipts.

The number of recordation tax transactions is starting to slow, he added, since a lot of people already bought houses and interest rates are rising. Zaleski does not expect the high recordation tax revenues to continue.

About $11 million was not spent by the county last fiscal year, Zaleski said, “largely driven by open positions.” The county has had some success filling those positions in the last several months, and so those excess funds are not likely to continue.

“There has definitely been progress in hiring,” he said.

In addition, the county has not spent money it had budgeted for the new Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services this year.

“What we budgeted for is not happening on the same time table,” Zaleski said. “There will be savings of about $1.5 million in fiscal 2023, but that cost will just be shifted into the next fiscal year.”


A mild winter also meant less money spent on salt and other items to treat county roads, leaving about $900,000 in the storm emergency budget, he said.

The county’s unassigned fund balance at the end of fiscal 2022 was about $34.5 million, Zaleski said. Adding the expected $8.5 million surplus from the current fiscal year would leave the county with about $43 million in the bank, he said.

“This is an unusual situation for us,” he said. “Fiscal 2021 and 2022 were not typical with how things work and are not a good indicator for how things will work into the future.”

Zaleski said he predicts going into fiscal 2024, which starts July 1, the county will be in good financial shape.

“When we go into the fiscal year [2024] budget, we will be going in again with a strong position on our reserves,” he said.

Zeleski warned there are still financial unknowns for the county, specifically costs associated with the new Department of Fire and EMS.


In October 2020, commissioners voted unanimously to create the county’s first combination fire and emergency medical services department. The new department is meant to bring together Carroll’s 14 community fire companies under a county-administered department with paid staff. County staff has been working to hire staff for the department and purchase equipment.

Commissioners’ President Ed Rothstein, who represents District 5, agreed the numbers looked good, but warned the county has a long road ahead, mostly because of the new fire and EMS department and its associated costs. Rothstein thanked Zaleski and his staff for their guidance through some difficult years.

“(With budgeting processes) there’s three Cs, consistency, confidence and clarity. I appreciate the consistent messaged that you provide,” Rothstein said to Zaleski. “You’re not the engineer of the train, that’s us. You’re facilitating the discussion that’s allowing us to steer and figure out the gas pedals going faster or slower ... you and your team have facilitated the consistency and that’s important.”