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Commissioners briefed on county financial situation

The county's financial situation, which suffered during the recession, is continuing to steadily improve, Comptroller Robert Burk told the Board of Commissioners in a briefing on the county's finances ahead of the budgeting process.

"If anything, we've been consistent," Burk told the commissioners on Tuesday. "We've been fairly stable over these past few years."

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In reviewing the county's 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Burk said the county finished FY15, which ended June 30, 2015, with a surplus of $7.4 million.

The report, Burk said, looks at the county's ability to meet the obligations it has already committed to in previous budgets and does not address possible demands that could come in future years.

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"That budget surplus is necessary to balance the budget," Burk said.

The county's net position — essentially its net worth — increased by $10,277,487, or 4 percent, between FY14 and FY15, according to the annual report, but remains lower than the county's position in 2006. Although the numbers are not what they were pre-recession, they have remained relatively stable over the past five years, Burk said, adding that is a good thing for the county economy.

Prior to the recession, Burk said, the county had committed to some large capital projects. Then the recession hit and revenues decreased, he said.

"It's been a volatile time period as we come out of the recession," he said.

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Despite challenges in the economy nationwide, Carroll County has showed consistency in its recovery, Burk said.

"The last number of years have been about sort of stabilizing our revenue, our debt," he said in an interview after the meeting.

The county's debt decreased by 3 percent in FY15, the report said, and the county has maintained its practice of repaying debts quickly, Burk said.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, asked about the county's debt burden, which Burk said was 1.91 percent in FY15. The national median average, according to Moody's Investor Services, Rothschild said, is 0.5 percent.

"Keep in mind that not all counties in the country operate the way Maryland's do," said Ted Zaleski, director of the county Department of Management and Budget. The size of a county and the role its local government plays can all affect the debt the county carries, he said.

"There's no right answer," Burk said in an interview, noting that the two other agencies that rate the county's financial position — Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's Ratings Services — described the county's debt burden as low in 2015.

"It's subjective," he said.

The economy continues to recover, Burk said, but officials must continue to be diligent about monitoring spending.

For the full report, go to ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/comp/15-cafr/.

410-857-3315

Twitter.com/heatherleighnor

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