County Comment/County Praised For 2005 Budget
by Norman Bassett
Educator Denise Fry summed up feelings educators and others had for the Washington County budget for the coming fiscal year at the annual budget presentation on May 4th at Hagerstown Community College.
“I’m here this evening, primarily for two reasons, first to give you a grade. I wish I’d brought a box of gold stars because this year’s budget is truly refrigerator mounting quality,” Fry said. “Your moms would be proud of you. Your grade, as a public educator, is 99 percent. The second reason I’m here this evening is to offer a very heartfelt thank you.”
The Board of County Commissioners took Washington County’s $212 million balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2005 to Public Hearing, and what they heard were 13 speakers saying thanks for support of education and other community programs.
County Administrator Rod Shoop told the crowd of about 100 that the FY ’05 budget provides $88 million in operating costs for public education, up $4.6 million over previous funding levels, and full funding for Board of Education capital improvement projects (CIP). The CIP funds will be used to begin work on one new elementary school, and complete improvements to another. The $10 million capital improvement project budget for education is $4.1 million over last year’s expenditures.
In addition, the Community College will receive operating and capital increases of $1.3 million, which will enable renovation of the Career Programs Building.
Total funding for education, including Washington County Free Library and Maryland School for the Blind programs, will reach $105 million of the total budget.
Public Safety operating funds will reach about $19 million in FY ’05, including a $1.1 million increase to the Sheriff’s Department and $368,000 for Fire and Rescue services. The Sheriff’s department will increase personnel and purchase new vehicles. The Emergency Services increase will bring that budget to $4.5 million and will fully fund utility reimbursements for Fire and Rescue companies.
The construction and renovation projects for education will make up 39% of the CIP in the coming fiscal year. $3.3 million is included to begin replacement of the 40-year-old emergency communications radio system, which serves County and State law enforcement agencies, fire and rescue companies and general government communications. The Roads System will be funded at $6.9 million, for the major realignment project of Maugans Avenue and the Pavement Management Program that will prioritize repair and reconstruction of highways and bridges in the County.
Shoop said that major new sources of capital funding will include the Adequate Facilities Ordinance for Schools and Roads, paid by developers. The fees enable “Pay-Go” funds to account for 48% of the CIP budget, in concert with excise and transfer taxes on construction. Estimates presented show that the development industry will contribute $1.8 million for new schools and $2.9 million for roads in Fiscal Year 2005.
Board of education members Roxanne Ober and Russell Williams also had high marks for the Commissioners. Williams called the school system “World Class” and tied the education budget to attracting high-paying industrial jobs to Washington County.
“By providing a World Class education to the children of today’s adults, a World Class school system improves the children’s chances of having high paying jobs in the future. And the people of this community need to know that what you are doing will help achieve the goals of high paying jobs for the adults of today, and for their children.”
Public comments received will be reviewed, and the Commissioners could adopt the new fiscal year budget at its meeting on May 11.
Written comments will be taken for five working days at the Commissioners’ office address at 100 West Washington Street, Hagerstown Maryland 21740, or on the Internet by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.