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Unexpected expenses

August 09, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

The Hagerstown City Council has spent more than $100,000 in unexpected outlays in the past two weeks.

Between the financially troubled Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex and a study to examine the feasibility of a Civil War museum in downtown Hagerstown, the council has approved $108,764 in previously unexpected spending.

In addition, council members agreed Tuesday to give the Community Free Clinic $15,000, which also had not been budgeted. A vote on the contribution is expected Aug. 24.

These new expenses are being covered by unspent money from last year's budget and money set aside in the current budget for unexpected projects, city officials say.

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When the mayor and City Council members were formulating the current budget earlier this year they spent hours discussing how to limit expenses and increase revenues in what was generally considered a tight budget year.

The $65 million budget for fiscal 1999-2000 eventually included increasing the trash collection fee by $32 a year, which boosted revenue, and eliminating eight city positions, which cut costs.

But city officials also set aside money for unanticipated projects by establishing a contingency fund.

"Unexpected things always come up," City Finance Director Al Martin said.

"As we tighten up our budget estimates we need to ensure that we have some reserves to deal with the unexpected," Martin said.

He said that budget cuts affect the budget because they take care of long-term and recurring expenses. Unexpected expenses paid for with a contingency fund are usually one-time expenses.

Martin said the annual contingency fund is about $75,000. The contingency fund is used to pay off higher-than-expected snow removal costs or other unexpected expenses.

For example, in the last fiscal year the city spent $68,000 more than the $173,000 budgeted for snow removal.

For the current fiscal year, which began July 1, the contingency fund started at $185,000 - higher than usual because of concerns over possible Y2K computer problems and some still uncollected taxes, which could come in lower than expected, Martin said.

For the current fiscal year, the city still has roughly $145,000 left in its contingency fund.

If the $15,000 contribution to the Community Free Clinic is approved, the city will have approximately $130,000 left in its contingency fund.

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