Hearing on spending plan tonight; $269.9 million budget focuses on schools' class size, technology; Tax rate maintained; Commissioners spent 50 hours drafting their proposal

The Carroll County commissioners are proposing smaller class sizes and more computers in the $269.9 million spending plan they will promote at a public hearing this evening.

School spending would consume about half of the county budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The Board of Education had requested $9 million in new funding, more than the total of new revenue available to the county.


"To meet the school system's request, we would actually have to cut funding for everything else and raise taxes," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "The plan we've proposed is, I think, a good one. It maintains existing services without changing the tax rate."

Under the commissioners' proposal, Carroll would spend nearly $205 million to cover the day-to-day cost of county government, up from $193 million this year, and $64.9 million for construction, down from $72 million this year.


Their spending plan is based on the current property tax rate, $2.62 per $100 of assessed value, and a local "piggyback" income tax of 55 percent of the state income tax.

With help from the county budget director, Steven D. Powell, the commissioners spent more than 50 hours behind closed doors drafting their proposed budget. The commissioners made no major changes in the spending plan that was proposed by Powell in March.

The commissioners used his plan as a guide as they reviewed requests by agencies that asked for more money than Powell's plan allocated.

The school board, the firemen's association and the sheriff's department asked for more money, but the commissioners' spending plan does not include any significant increases beyond Powell's suggestions.

Bill Eyler, chairman of the budget committee for the firemen's association, told the commissioners that additional funding was needed for new protective equipment and a wellness program for emergency service workers that includes a stress test and physical exam. The association asked for $5.6 million; the commissioners have proposed $4.8 million.

Carroll has 1.3 sworn police officers per 1,000 residents, the lowest ratio in the state. To increase that and have deputies on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning told the commissioners, he would need to expand his department by 38 deputies over five years.

Rather than adopt that suggestion, which would cost $7.6 million, the commissioners propose hiring two deputies and increasing pay for sheriff's department employees by 5 percent.

Raises for county employees would vary. The county's human resources director is reviewing job classifications, which could result in a salary increase for some employees. It was not clear yesterday how many county employees would be affected.


The school system asked the The school system asked the county for $101.6 million to cover the day-to-day cost of running the county's schools and about $53 million for construction projects. The commissioners propose spending $98 million for operating costs and $44.3 million for construction projects.

Specific categories

In addition to the spending limits they have proposed, the commissioners are for the first time directing money in the school system's budget to specific categories, such as textbooks, administration and instructional staff.

"This year, we have developed categories to guide school spending, rather than simply giving the Board of Education a certain amount of money and letting them decide what to do with it," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier. "Our goal is to put more money in the classrooms."

Teacher pay raise

Last month, the commissioners approved raising teacher salaries by 4 percent after Gov. Parris N. Glendening promised to reward counties that give teachers a 4 percent raise with an additional 1 percent in state funds.


The state will provide the extra funds for each of the next two years.

The salary increase approved by the commissioners will cover one year. The commissioners will consider a second 4 percent increase next year.

Frazier said she hopes the raise will help retain and attract good teachers.

Carroll schools rank 21st out of 24 school systems in the state in student-teacher ratio.

The public hearing on the budget begins today at 7: 30 p.m. at Westminster High School. The commissioners are expected to adopt a budget May 23.