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County reports $4.5 million budget surplus

September 23, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Washington County government had a surplus of more than $4.5 million in budget year 1998, according to preliminary results reported Tuesday.

The surplus gives the Washington County Commissioners extra money to beef up the county's cash reserves, increase education spending and reduce borrowing.

"We had a real strong year with just about all the funds," Finance Director Debra S. Bastian said.

Bastian said the county's long-range plan to cut the water and sewer debt is on target.

"For the third year in a row, we will not have to borrow any money for water and sewer projects," she said.

The county subsidized the water and sewer budget with $2.7 million from the general fund. The budget ran a surplus in fiscal 1998 of nearly $1.6 million, Bastian said.

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Bastian said the county will put the savings back into debt-reduction efforts. She said the county budgeted for surpluses to offset annual debt payments in 2000 and 2001, when the amount will jump from $3 million to $5 million.

The commissioners pointed to the report as evidence that the county has turned the corner on its water and sewer problems.

"Clearly, 1998 has been a very positive year for the county," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Commissioner R. Lee Downey nodded approvingly at an upward trend in a bar graph showing the water and sewer operating budgets.

"You can see this hasn't been just a one-prong attack in raising rates," he said. "You see those graphs. We've turned things around."

Bastian estimated the general fund surplus for fiscal 1998 will be more than 4 percent of the budget.

Of the nearly $4.6 million surplus, the County Commissioners already have committed $935,159 to school funding, $907,000 for cash reserves and $135,000 for capital outlays, Bastian said.

The commissioners voted 5-0 on Tuesday to set aside the remaining $2.6 million surplus for capital improvement projects. This will reduce the amount of money the county must borrow this fiscal year, Bastian said.

The surplus could be used to beef up funding for the renovation of South Hagerstown High School and to ensure that the county's computer systems comply with the so-called year 2000 problem.

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