County Comment: Commissioners Hear Plan for Tight Budgets

County Comment
Commissioners Hear Plan for Tight Budgets
by Norman Bassett, Public Information Officer
Washington County, Maryland

In its regular meeting on September 15th, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners heard a staff plan that would "hold the line" on spending and future budgets, to offset cuts in state funding without raising taxes. Director of Budget and Finance Debra Murray told the Commissioners that the recent cuts in state aid to counties, which have a total impact of $7 million on Washington County government, municipal and allied agency budgets, will mean tighter spending in this fiscal year and in FY 2011, with some state aid programs eliminated completely.
In the current fiscal year, Murray said that: Each vacant position will be reviewed carefully by the Commissioners as to need, which is the current policy. All public safety positions, including fire & rescue and those funded under the Sheriff will now receive the same scrutiny by the Board. Division and Department Managers will exercise extreme caution in the granting overtime hours to employees.
County reserves will be used to help deal with the recent State of Maryland cut to Highway User Revenues. $2 million in current reserves within the Highway fund will help offset the cut this fiscal year (2010) of $3.2 million, with differences made up from Capital Project reserves. Murray also told the Board to anticipate total elimination of Highway User Revenue Sharing in fiscal year 2011 without reinstatement and accounting for those funds in base line costs.
The State also made cuts to Police Aid for local governments including the 9 municipalities. The County portion, $211,669, would be offset from debt service reserve in fiscal year 2010, and to anticipate total elimination of Police Aid in fiscal year 2011.
In addition, current costs would be cut by elimination of expense for employee education seminars and overnight travel unless related to required or maintenance of certification/license or were prearranged.
In preparing budgets for next fiscal year, $3.6 million in anticipated Highway User Revenue will need to be accounted for within the general fund, with elimination of Highway Fund reserves. $583,520 in the Police Protection Grant from the State would be eliminated and implementation of the County Homeowners Tax Credit Program for the Elderly at a cost of $750,000 will be reviewed.
Budgetary changes to account for State cuts and County initiatives in FY 2011 were reviewed. Murray told the Board to expect elimination of $ 1.35 million in one - time costs for the Board of Education, elimination of $1.22 million Capital and Controllable Assets, and a $1.65 million reduction in Capital Projects.
Recommendations included no salary increases for at least FY 2011, no employee position reclassifications, and no new positions for 2010 or 2011. In the next fiscal year there will be no operating increases, except Maintenance of Effort as mandated by law.
County Administrator Greg Murray cited conservative fiscal policies over the past several years that have allowed the County to weather the most recent budget difficulties.