Carroll approves bare-bones budget only schools gain


WESTMINSTER -- Scrambling into the final week to make ends meet without raising the tax rate, the Carroll County commissioners approved a deeply cut budget yesterday that gives only the school system a significant increase in spending.

The $115 million operating budget is $2.6 million -- or about 2 percent -- less than this year's, while the capital budget has been hacked almost 40 percent to $30.5 million, said Steven D. Powell, the county's director of management and budget.

The property tax rate will remain at $2.35 per $100 of assessed value under the new budget, which takes effect July 1.

The Board of Education received an increase of about 4.5 percent, which includes money for about 25 new teachers and staff members to cope with the still-growing school population and to open new elementary schools built in Eldersburg and Hampstead, Mr. Powell said.

The public hearing on this year's plan was a quiet affair, with relatively few speaking for the schools.

But several eloquent speakers at the hearing did have an impact. They persuaded the commissioners to move $7,500 within the recreation and parks budget to restore money cut from senior citizens programs and the therapeutic recreation council, which provides wheelchair basketball and other programs for the physically impaired.

Department heads had been somewhat prepared for a rough budget year by a projected revenue shortage of $2.2 million last fall, Mr. Powell said. But by March, the shortage had grown to almost $6.4 million.

And on May 15, the day before the public hearing, the county learned that its share of the state income tax would be half the expected amount -- creating another gap, this time amounting to $1.9 million.

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