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Commissioners address school funding shortfall

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners have voted to take additional funds appropriated for the Carroll County Public Schools capital budget and reallocate it to the school system's operating budget for the next two years to address a shortfall in planned funding.

The commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday to reallocate 2 percent of the portion of the county's local income tax normally dedicated to the school's capital budget — rather than 1.5 percent as they had planned — to the school's operating budget. Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, was the dissenting vote.

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These additional funds will equal about $700,000 in fiscal 2016, and roughly $730,000 in FY17.

During the commissioners' budget work sessions over the past two weeks, they had considered several different percentages and finally settled on reallocating 1.5 percent, which would've equaled about $2.1 million in FY16 and $2.2 million in FY17. However, Ted Zaleski, director of the Department of Management and Budget, said he accidentally held on to a scenario that would have reallocated 2 percent of the local income tax and incorporated that into the county's FY16 budget.

The commissioners thought they were funding CCPS $169.5 million in FY16, but the 1.5 percent would bring the school's budget to only $168.8 million, Zaleski said. The additional $700,000 will get CCPS to a funding level in the coming year that most of the commissioners are comfortable with.

The portion of local income tax appropriated for the school's operating budget will remain at 2 percent through FY17, then decrease to 1.5 percent in FY18 and FY19, after which all of the 9.09 percent normally dedicated to the school's capital budget will be restored.

Rothschild said his concern was that this would further lessen the commissioners' ability to pay off Carroll County Public Schools' debt service and eliminate the possibility of scheduling maintenance projects at the schools.

To pay off the debt service, he said, the county will have to tap its cash reserves. Over the next two fiscal years, the county will be $4.3 million short of its school capital debt payments because of this reallocation.

Zaleski said the loss of these funds will not prevent the county from progressing on projects currently identified in the school's capital fund.

He also said the commissioners' decision to make the change Thursday will benefit members of the public by enabling them to comment on this decision at the county's public hearing May 7 at Carroll Community College.

410-857-3315

If You Go

What: Public hearing on fiscal 2016 budget

Where: Scott Center, Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road, Westminster

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

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