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$23 million surplus in Carroll County budget expected

Carroll County is expected to have a $23 million surplus in its budget this fiscal year according the county’s director of management and budget, Ted Zaleski.

Much of the surplus is the result of short-term changes, said Zaleski, who cautioned that the expected surplus is not a guarantee.

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“As COVID continues we still have uncertainty,” Zalesky said during Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Carroll County Commissioners. “Particularly the uncertainty of what will happen to businesses and jobs before we get through all this.”

The county already has $30 million in the unassigned funds balance as a result of previous decisions by the commissioners to reserve money for emergency situations in the pandemic. Of the projected surplus, $4 million will automatically be reserved for FY23, leaving the unassigned funds balance with a projected total of $49 million.

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Clockwise from bottom left, county commissioners Eric Bouchat, Stephen Wantz, Richard Weaver and Ed Rothstein discuss COVID-19 vaccine distribution with Health Officer Ed Singer, bottom center, during the Thursday, Feb. 4 virtual meeting of the Board of Carroll County Commissioners.
Clockwise from bottom left, county commissioners Eric Bouchat, Stephen Wantz, Richard Weaver and Ed Rothstein discuss COVID-19 vaccine distribution with Health Officer Ed Singer, bottom center, during the Thursday, Feb. 4 virtual meeting of the Board of Carroll County Commissioners. (Screengrab)

The surplus came as somewhat of a surprise given the past expectations of the commissioners. Zaleski said the county had saved money due to federal stimulus and state funding.

“As far as the pandemic goes, we’ve spent a lot of money that we didn’t expect, but we got funding from the federal government that we didn’t expect. So expenditures have been offset by revenue,” Zaleski said.

The office of the budget had previously anticipated a loss in revenue from income tax, which is the county’s second biggest source of revenue. But with the aid of the federal stimulus, unemployment insurance, and the paycheck protection pieces of the stimulus the county was shielded from losses they expected to incur from unemployment and businesses closing down.

Another surprising factor for the surplus was an increase in house sales.

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“We assumed people won’t be shopping for homes. That turned out to not be right. This has been an amazing increase in activity,” said Zaleski.

Zaleski advised the board of two options for the surplus — to replace planned debt with cash or to look at infrastructure concerns and place money in the capital budget to make progress on that front.

Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, suggested using a portion to address waste management infrastructure issues.

Still, Zaleski expressed concern for the revenue from property taxes related to businesses as it still is not clear what the impact on revenue would be from those business that have closed.

So far, the county has distributed a total of $6.5 million in grants to businesses. According Jack Lyburn, director of Carroll County Economic Development, there are some 4,500 business in the county. Of those, 720 small businesses received a grant from the county totaling $887,000 between the months of April and June last year. Other federal and state grants were distributed to 826 businesses and 299 restaurants with another distribution of $250,000 currently underway for hotels and motels.

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