Commissioners seek details on popular but spurned funding requests

County commissioners directed staff at two organizations and two government departments to gather more information about funding options before they reconvene Tuesday, May 19, for another adopted budget session.

Increasing funding for the Carroll County Youth Services Bureau and the Community Media Center, and possibly hiring more staff for Public Works And Parks departments were the topics of discussion at the Carroll County Board of Commissioners' first adopted budget session Tuesday, but no decisions were made as they wait for additional information.


The board also canceled Thursday's scheduled budget session to allow the organizations and county staff to gather more information, and plan to take up the concerns at the May 19 meeting. The commissioners are scheduled to adopt the budget May 26.

YSB health records system

The Youth Services Bureau had requested assistance from Carroll in its purchase of a state-required electronic health records monitoring system, which is expected to cost $305,000. The nonprofit has raised more than one-third of the projected cost.

Each year that YSB does not have this system in place, it will receive less funding from the state, said Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, who then entered a motion to fund YSB with $50,000 in fiscal year 2016, under the condition it would have to be matched by the nonprofit.

Frazier suggested the commissioners reallocate $25,000 that is normally appropriated for the county's membership dues in the Clean Chesapeake Coalition — an organization composed of Maryland counties whose intent is to identify, advocate for and develop cost-effective policies and programs to clean up the Chesapeake Bay — to pay for the funding increase to YSB.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, called Frazier's suggestion "the most short-sighted thing I've ever heard."

Since its inception in 2012, Rothschild said, the coalition has identified the Conowingo Dam as a major source of pollutants entering the bay, fought against the dam's relicensing and elevated the issue of the contamination of the Chesapeake to a regional level so that other states — such as New York and Pennsylvania — are aware of how they impact the bay.

Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, said his main concern is the coalition's required funding. The cost of membership is $25,000 annually, but the coalition has not identified for what specific purposes the funding is being used for.

"What [the coalition has] done so far is nice but doesn't justify a future investment," Howard said.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said that before he could vote on whether to increase funding for YSB, he would like to know a bit more about the records system and when the nonprofit is required to have the system in place. Frazier agreed to table the motion until May 19.

Media center tech upgrade

Several commissioners said they would like to at least consider providing additional funding to the Community Media Center for a technological upgrade from analog equipment to high definition but agreed the center needed to provide more information about the project.

Howard said he would like to know what efforts have been made by the CMC to coordinate with its partners, including Carroll Community College and the Career and Tech Center, on funding and planning for the upgrade. Howard also said he would like the CMC to perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine and provide some guarantee that HD technology will not become obsolete in the near future.

"They have to explore these things before saying this is a critical need," Howard said.


If the commissioners were to choose to fund some or all of the project, there are several funding sources they can choose from, said Ted Zaleski, director of the Department of Management and Budget.

They could appropriate it from the county's recurring revenue stream, a move that would affect the FY16 budget, or they could loan the CMC the money or perhaps bond the project, Zaleski said, thus not affecting the budget. He was unsure whether the county could legally bond the CMC's upgrade but Robert Burk, the county comptroller, is looking into that possibility, Zaleski said.

Rothschild said rather than these options, the commissioners could choose to reallocate a portion of one-time funds to Carroll County Public Schools to cover part of the technological upgrade and a maintenance specialist for Piney Run Park. Rothschild entered a motion to do so, but no one seconded the motion.

He also suggested the commissioners reallocate a portion of the unrestricted cable franchise fee for the upgrade. The commissioners recently voted to unrestrict three-fifths of the revenues from the franchise fee — about $2 million — that had previously been used to fund the CMC, the Carroll Cable Regulatory Commission, the county's video/audio production office and other allied organizations, Zaleski said.

The county was bringing in more money than it was spending and had accumulated about $2 million from that portion of the fees, he said.

The remaining two-fifths of revenue from the franchise agreement would continue to be appropriated for the CMC, Zaleski said.

The commissioners chose to hold off on a decision about the CMC until more information about the upgrade is provided.

Position funding

The board also began discussing Tuesday how it would allocate funds set aside for new positions in FY16.

During a previous budget session, the commissioners voted to appropriate $200,000 for this purpose. The county's agencies had requested 22 positions that would cost the county a total of about $2 million.

The annual elimination of the invasive weed hydrilla from the 300-acre lake, an ongoing issue at Piney Run Park, would require an additional maintenance specialist in FY16 to operate the county-owned equipment necessary to get rid of the weed each year.

In April, director Jeff Degitz said the department has the necessary equipment to mow the plant but not enough staff to do so and maintain consistent levels of service to the park's visitors. The department has two full-time employees at the park.

Howard mentioned the possibility of allocating a portion of the $200,000 for a project manager for the Bureau of Building Construction, part of the county's Department of Public Works. Zaleski said he is supportive of another project manager but there are still two cost aspects of hiring the position that he and his staff are researching.

The bureau has shrunk from five positions to two, meaning it might not have the manpower to take on these often time-consuming projects, rendering an additional manager unnecessary, he said. Secondly, during the past few years, the county has paid more for contracting the work than if they had a county employee operating in that capacity, he said.

However, it is not clear whether this will be the case going forward, Zaleski said, and he and his staff are looking into whether the county's capital savings would offset the operational expenses of hiring a project manager.