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Recreation-parks budget holds the line


Carroll needs more money for arts programs, a nature camp counselor and a new mower with which to maintain the grounds at Sykesville Park, county Recreation and Parks Department personnel said yesterday.

Recreation and Parks Director Richard J. Soisson and his staff presented their $5.5 million operating budget request for fiscal 1995 to the county commissioners. The amount is about the same as the current year's budget.

Mr. Soisson said he and his staff worked to keep the budget in line. Department programs generate enough revenues to cover 50 percent of the operating budget.

The commissioners are listening to operating budget requests from all Carroll departments. County revenues are expected to increase 7.1 percent in fiscal 1995, which begins July 1.

In all, department heads requested $149.2 million for programs and salaries. The requests are 14.6 percent higher than the current year's $130.2 million operating budget.

Over the next three months, the commissioners will study the requests and probably trim many of them. They must vote on a budget in late May.

Yesterday, Mr. Soisson and his staff detailed these requests:

* Arts Council. Director Hilary Pierce asked the commissioners to give the council $20,000 next year, $5,000 more than this year, to ensure that Carroll receives a matching state grant. The Maryland State Arts Council will match any county budget increases up to $5,000, she said.

The money would be used to sponsor more arts programs for children and more scholarships for high-school students, to begin student trips to the Arts Council gallery in Westminster and to start raising money for a permanent county arts center, Ms. Pierce said.

* Nature Centers. The county would like to hire a part-time employee to work with naturalists who run summer camps at Piney Run Park and Bear Branch Nature Center, Mr. Soisson said. The employee would help to develop camp programs and would be paid $3,690.

* Land Management and Maintenance. The county needs to buy a $40,000 rollback truck and a $53,000 16-foot mower to help maintain county property more efficiently, said G. Michael Whitson, chief of the Bureau of Land Management and Maintenance.

The bureau manages about 6,000 acres, including county parks, ball fields and rental properties. The county will have more land to maintain when the 90-acre Sykesville Park opens next year, Mr. Soisson said.

The commissioners also heard requests from two other departments yesterday:

* Department of Management and Budget. The department encompasses many offices, and the largest percentage increase requested -- 57.4 percent -- came from the Geographic Information System office, which maintains an up-to-date computerized mapping system for the county.

The office requested a $142,215 budget, which is $51,895 higher than the current budget. Officials said the money is needed to maintain printers, pay for software and technical support, and train nine employees who use the system.

Carroll could save about $100,000 in consulting and mapping fees in the current fiscal year and about $75,000 next fiscal year using the system, the budget office said.

The grants office budget shows a 36.3 percent increase, from $62,660 in the current year to $85,410 next year. The increase is needed to pay the salary for an additional employee. In fiscal year 1993, the office prepared 48 applications for $10.7 million in grants requests.

The Office of Risk Management budget request shows an 18.2 percent increase to $1.2 million in fiscal 1995. Most of the increase is needed for an increase in workers' compensation premiums.

The budget department also oversees the county's contingency fund. Mr. Powell requested $1.6 million for the fund, which is used for such emergencies as snow removal.

* County Attorney's Office. County Attorney Charles W. Thompson Jr. requested a $55,345 increase for fiscal 1995, to $548,255. The budget office suggested trimming that to $519,255, which would be a $26,345 increase over this year's spending.

The increase is needed to pay for salary scale adjustments made during the current fiscal year and for a contract collection agent to collect back taxes.

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