County Comment: Commissioners Hear Public input on Fiscal Year 2010 Budget

County Comment
Commissioners Hear Public input on Fiscal Year 2010 Budget
by Norman Bassett, Public Information Officer
Washington County, Maryland

On Thursday, May 14th 2009, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners took a balanced budget of $347.6 million for Fiscal Year 2010 to public hearing, at Kepler Theater on the campus of Hagerstown Community College.
County Administrator Greg Murray presented an overview of the proposed budget, which has a property tax rate of $.948 per $100 of assessed value, the same rate as FY 2009.
The County limited the General Fund Budget to a 1.1% increase Murray said, with the increase for all operations at .73%, for a total of $255,345,500. The Capital Improvement Fund showed a 6.1% Increase to $92,296,600.00.
In developing the 2010 budget a number of issues were addressed that centered on the state's budget deficit, education needs, completion of public safety projects begun in FY 2009, and maintenance of necessary services to the citizens of the County.
In breaking down those expenses. Murray said that the proposed Board of Education (BOE) Budget of $89,578,480 showed an increase of $1,918,830 or 2.19%.
The budget provides funding for school bus replacement, fully funds the BOE school operations request, and provides funding for phase-in of a post retirement benefit contribution.
Hagerstown Community College's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year totaled $9,045,010, an increase of $347,880, or 4%. The 2010 budget provides support for program expenses needed for higher education, helps address increases in tuition costs, and provides needed funding for state cuts.
Total Public Safety spending for FY 2010 would be $35,104,460, an increase of $2,365,950, or 7.23%. The public safety budget including the Sheriff's Department, and Fire and Emergency Services completes funding of 9-1-1 dispatch consolidation for the County and the City of Hagerstown, provides funding for a new emergency services incident response unit, completes funding for Central Booking operations, and improves overall fire and rescue operations. Murray said.
The Capital Improvement budget funds projects for road improvements, bridges, and major construction projects. In recent years, Murray said, the County's conservative fiscal policies recognized the possibility of an economic downturn, and set aside funds that might be needed for completion of long-term capital projects. Those "Pay-go" funds for 2010 will be $18,800,000, a reduction of $3,805,700 or 17%.
The County debt service budget for the coming fiscal year is $13,414,700, a net increase of $615,040 or 5%. The County has paid down debt by 66% over the last 10 years.
Major projects in the CIP for 2010 include Eastern Primary School at $8,515,000; Antietam Academy at 7,374,200; the HCC Arts and Science Complex at 22,517,700; Pavement Maintenance at 5,700,000; Southern Boulevard development at $1,669,600 and Eastern Boulevard improvements, phases I and II, at 1,882,500.
CIP projects mandated by state law include constructing the liner for landfill Cell #7 at $4,737,000; Capping Resh Landfill at $876,900; Enhanced Nutrient Removal for the Smithsburg wastewater treatment plant at $4,537,600, and for the Conococheague WWTP at $8,361,400.
Issues the Commissioners are looking at in the near future include a Senior Center facility, tax setoff for municipalities, and possible creation of business tax credits, Murray said.
A total of 14 citizens provided input, most in favor of the proposed budget.
The hearing was cablecast by Antietam Cable TV for the tenth straight year.