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County Comment: Fiscal Y ear 2006 Budget Public Hearing This Week

County Comment
Fiscal Y ear 2006 Budget Public Hearing This Week
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

In its regular meeting on April 26, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners voted to take an operating budget of $160,869,866 and a Capital Improvement Projects budget of over $52 million to public hearing at 7PM on May 10 at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater.
The budget fully funds educational operating expenses, and also fully funds the Board of Education's original request for capital funding for new schools, improvements and enhancements.
The property tax rate will remain at just under 95 cents per $100 of assessed value. That rate has been in effect for the previous two years.
At that meeting Budget and Finance Director Debra Murray brought a line by line review of the General Fund Operations and Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) budgets from Fiscal Years 2006 through 2011 before the Board. The total proposed CIP budget for FY '06 is $52.07 million, and includes $12.7 million in capital project funds for the Board of Education.
CIP projects are schools, buildings, parks, landfill, airport, transportation needs, and infrastructure items such as roads, bridges, and water and sewer lines. Murray took the Commissioners through the proposed CIP line by line, and highlighted changes made since the first review, based on several factors, including approval of the excise tax, the amount of state funds the schools will receive, and additional Program Open Space (POS) funds from the state. Allocations from the Excise Tax earmarked for libraries would add an additional $230,000 to both the Boonsboro and Smithsburg Library branch budgets in FY '06 and again in FY '07.
Public Works Director Gary Rohrer detailed reasons for a $750,000 increase for Courthouse renovations. $300,000 would be used to pay for a secure elevator for prisoner transfer. Security measures, expenses for Master's Court, movement of offices while renovations take place, partial roof replacement on the Annex, and mechanical equipment issues were included in the figure, Rohrer said.
Also under discussion in the CIP were relocation of the 9-1-1 Communications Center, reduction of bond borrowing to $10.5 million from the projected ceiling of $14 million, additional Program Open Space (POS) money from the state for greater development of parks by the County and the Municipalities, with near full funding of the municipal requests, and an additional $254,000.00 for projects as yet undecided.
The Board of Education's original CIP request of $12,656,041 for new schools and improvements was fully funded, Finance Director Murray said. The current budget fully funds the new Maugansville Elementary, Pangborn Elementary's renovation and additions, and adds an Eastern City High School and an Eastern City Elementary School in the out years prior to 2011.
The total General Fund Budget for operation of all County programs for Fiscal Year 2006 is projected to be $160,869,866. The budget is balanced, Murray said, and features almost $93 million in operating revenues for education, representing an increase of 5.69% or about $5 million over last year's allocation.
Circuit Court expenses increased by 11% due to support for the fifth Courtroom and Judge. The Commission on Aging's request for an additional $77,000 per year in operating costs was supported. The Health Department was funded at expected levels with the exception of one new Mental Health Counselor position. The Board agreed to a request from the Department of Social Services for retaining a grant-funded position at the Family Support Center after that grant expires.
A motion, to take the budget as amended to Public Hearing on May 10th, at the current property tax rate of $0.948 per hundred dollars of assessed value, was approved by a 4-1 vote.
That hearing will be held at Kepler Theater on the Hagerstown Community College campus from 7-9PM and will be cablecast by Antietam Cable TV on channel 19. The public is invited to attend. Speakers will be required to sign up at the door, and will be limited to three minutes each. Persons who have disabilities and require special accommodations should contact the Office on Disability Issues at 240-313-2077.

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