The County Commissioners rejected requests yesterday to use budget surplus money to pave five high school tracks and to hire a counselor for a rape counseling service.
Instead, the commissioners voted to use the bulk of a $418,000 budget surplus to reduce the amount it will need to borrow for roads, schools and other capital projects.
The commissioners will take a final vote on the proposed budget May 28. If approved, the $181 million operating and $43.8 million capital budget would become effective July 1, the start of the 1999 fiscal year.
Under the spending proposal, the property tax will remain at $2.62 per $100 of assessed value, as it has been since 1996. The local piggyback tax will remain at 55 percent of the state income tax.
"I think there are a lot more people who would be upset with us for spending the money than there would be for not spending it," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell, arguing against spending $225,000 to pave high school tracks.
During a May 7 hearing on the proposed budget, a parent of a track athlete urged the commissioners to repave the asphalt tracks. Letters from parents and track coaches followed, complaining that the tracks were old and unsuitable for training.
Dell, however, said high school track coaches, athletes and parents should seek funds from the school board -- not the county -- for the repaving.
Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown agreed, reasoning that the county's surplus has given the county an opportunity to reduce the amount of money it will borrow through bonds.
Commissioner Richard T. Yates disagreed with his colleagues and said he had received many letters from track supporters. Their request should be given more consideration, he said.
The commissioners also rejected a request for $16,000 by the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County Inc., a nonprofit organization in Westminster.
During the budget hearing, six supporters of the service told the commissioners the money would help pay the salary of a community counselor, who would visit schools and community groups to discuss sexual violence.
The position is primarily funded through grants. Because the grants are not guaranteed from year to year, it is often difficult to retain qualified employees, supporters said. The county funds would be used to make the position permanent.
The commissioners set aside $25,000 to repair water damage to the carpet, ceiling and walls at the county library in Westminster. They also allocated $13,500 for a computerized record management system to be used by all county departments.
The remaining $379,000 will be used to reduce the $22.4 million in bonds the county needs to pay for roads, schools and other major spending, said Steven D. Powell, the county's director of management and budget.
The commissioners have promoted the proposed budget as a turning point for the county, which struggled to make ends meet early in the decade. At that time, the state, facing dwindling revenues, reduced funding for the county. The county also suffered from a decline in property tax and income tax revenue.
Today, with a robust economy pouring more money into government coffers, the county is on the rebound, officials said.
Pub Date: 5/22/98