xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Commissioners pass proposed budget

The Board of Commissioners narrowly approved a budget proposal Monday night that falls short of the school system’s funding request but avoids raising taxes.

The Board of Commissioners narrowly approved a budget proposal Monday night that falls short of the school system's funding request but avoids raising taxes.

Included in the $388 million proposal is $181,851,785 in funding for schools, as well as money for expanding the county's drug treatment programs, for the Sheriff's Office and for other county initiatives.

Advertisement

The proposal passed 3-2, with Commissioners Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, and Richard Weaver, R-District 2, voting against it.

The commissioners devoted several hours Monday to discussing school funding, an area of contention since the Board of Education approved a request in February that called for a $9 million increase in the county's allocation over the current fiscal year.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Earlier this month, the commissioners tentatively approved a plan to include $181.3 million in the budget for schools, a number that fell short of the school system's request of $185.2 million.

On Monday, the Board of Commissioners voted to approve an additional $500,000 for schools in fiscal year 2017 that would come from county surplus revenues.

Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, who proposed the additional funding, said it's the closest the county can get to responsibly fulfilling the Board of Education's request.

Howard said he would have been willing to consider supporting an increase to taxes if the school system had indicated that they would have been willing to develop, with the commissioners, a long-term solution to the funding problem Carroll County Public Schools faces.

Advertisement

But the Board of Education's rejection of a plan Howard proposed at the start of budget deliberations, which included CCPS doling out raises on a 4-3-2-1 basis determined by an employee group's priority, was indicative of the school system's unwillingness to work with the commissioners to fix the problem.

"What it comes down to is, is there a significant interest in solving this problem?" Howard said, noting that he believed that, with the school board downsizing the school system and the state committing to send the county stop-gap funds in the coming year, the county was the closest its been to finding a long-term solution.

"What was the feedback?" Howard asked. " 'Stay out of our business.' "

Rothschild also expressed frustration with the Board of Education.

"They refuse to deal with financial reality," Rothschild said.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said he appreciated the work the school board did in moving to close schools to deal with declining enrollment and state funding, but questioned where the $185 million is needed. The school system has approved contracts with some bargaining units, but not the one that includes teachers, he noted.

"I'm all about the teachers," Wantz said, adding that his daughter is a teacher. "The problem I have is, if they're so important to them, why didn't they get the deal?"

Some commissioners said they wanted to do more to try to reach the school board's request.

Weaver said he was unhappy with the amount of funding included in the budget for schools.

He proposed filling the system's full request in 2017 and then working together with the Board of Education beginning in the fall to develop a long-term spending plan that the county is capable of funding.

"I'd like to see them get settled and then we move on," Weaver said.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said he voted to approve the budget proposal even though he was unhappy with the school funding allocation because he wanted the public to have something to begin to provide feedback on.

Many county residents would be willing to see an increase in their taxes if it meant helping fund the schools, Frazier said, adding that he believed people will make that point to the commissioners when the budget moves to the community meetings stage and to the public hearing on May 12. For those who would not support the move to raise taxes, Frazier said, the next few weeks will give them the chance to make their voices heard.

"If this doesn't get you out to a public hearing that affects your pocketbook, I don't know what will," he said.

Other items

Along with the additional school funding, the commissioners also approved on Monday a number of other final inclusions to the proposed budget.

The commissioners voted to set aside some extra county money for transportation projects in an effort to encourage state participation in area roads projects.

While a law passed by the General Assembly this year may prove to make getting state funding for projects in rural places like Carroll County more difficult, some commissioners said they would like to have money available to use that could be leveraged to get state funding.

The commissioners approved 4-1 the setting aside of $100,000 in the 2017 budget as well as $200,000 in 2021 and 2022. Rothschild voted against the measure.

Money was also approved to be set aside for research into whether an indoor track could be built in the Shipley Arena at the county's Agriculture Center.

Currently, Frazier said, indoor track teams must travel to Baltimore City or Hagerstown to find a facility. If the Agriculture Center were to build a track, Frazier said, it could turn into a revenue generator for the center and the county.

"Indoor track facilities are so scarce," Frazier told the board. "There's no one competing with us. If we did this, we'd be the only facility anywhere."

The board unanimously approved $50,000 in place holder money to look into the feasibility of building the track.

"I think it's a good idea," said Rothschild. "We've just got to make sure the numbers work."

A number of new positions were also approved for inclusion in the budget, including a part-time land acquisition specialist, a network analyst and funding to cover part of a request by the Department of Human Resources for a personnel analyst.

The commissioners also voted to send $20,000 in one-time money to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, noting the work it has done for Carroll County residents in the past year, including Sykesville Firefighter Kevin Swain, who returned home from Shock Trauma over the weekend after being shot on a response while serving with his Prince George's County fire station. Last year, Wantz was named to the Shock Trauma Center's board of visitors.

A motion by Frazier to discontinue the county's involvement in the Clean Chesapeake Coalition — a group that advocates cost-effective policies for the bay that the county pays about $25,000 a year — died after no second was offered. After Frederick County left the group in 2015, Carroll County is the only county currently involved that does not border the bay.

The commissioners will hold a news conference at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the County Office Building in Westminster to announce the proposed budget.

Advertisement

410-857-3315

Advertisement

Twitter.com/heatherleighnor

This article has been edited to reflect an updated total budget figure.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement