After rejecting an eleventh-hour plea from track coaches and parents for money to pave the school system's running tracks, the Carroll County Commissioners yesterday adopted the county's 1998-1999 budget.
Under the spending plan, 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.
The $182 million operating and $46 million capital budgets go into effect July 1, the start of the 1999 fiscal year.
Commissioners have promoted the 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 and income tax revenue.
Today, with a robust economy pouring more money into its treasury, the county is on the rebound, officials said.
Yet, even with a $418,000 budget surplus, the county did not have $225,000 to spare to pave the tracks, commissioners said yesterday.
The request, denied last week by commissioners, was brought to the table again by Edmund Adami, a volunteer track coach at South Carroll High School.
Adami said that dozens of parents, athletes and track coaches supported paving the five tracks, which had grown old and unsuitable for training. Paying $45,000 apiece to resurface them would benefit student athletes and residents, they say.
Adami urged the commissioners to reconsider their decision.
"I think there is money that is available that can be used to repair the tracks," Adami said, suggesting that parks and recreation money could be used.
But the commissioners stood by last week's decision.
"I feel like we've been through this, and to make a decision at such a late date would not be a good thing to do," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who later said that the county has not ignored the needs of track athletes.
"We have tracks, though they're not Cadillac tracks," he said.
Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said track supporters should ask the Board of Education for money. He also asked supporters to consider other means to secure the $225,000 for the resurfacing, such as fund-raising, booster clubs or parking permit fees for students.
If the high schools charged students $100 a year to park their cars at the schools, the money could be raised in two years, Brown said.
Instead of resurfacing tracks, the bulk of the county's budget surplus will be used to reduce the $22.4 million the county will need to borrow through bonds for roads, schools and other capital projects.
The commissioners set aside $25,000 of the surplus 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.
In the approved budget, local income tax revenue is expected to increase by nearly 12 percent over the current fiscal year. Property tax revenue is projected to grow by about 3 percent.
Overall, spending will increase 8 percent. An extra $360,000 will pay for 12 new employees in the county's 100-bed jail addition, scheduled to open next year, and for food and medical costs.
Funding for the resident trooper program will increase $353,663. The figure includes money for an additional trooper who will be assigned to the state police drug task force in Westminster.
The county will spend an additional $6 million to accommodate growing student enrollment and for the staffing of two new elementary schools.
After two years without new funding, citizen service agencies will receive an increase of $48,000, or about 3 percent for each agency.
Pub Date: 5/29/98