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Potential revenue sources for county discussed

October 19, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Two top Washington County officials asked the County Commissioners Tuesday to consider new ways to generate revenue, possibly including new taxes, for the next fiscal year.

The commissioners took no action after the presentation by Planning Director Robert Arch and Budget and Finance Director Debra Bastian.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said that part of his job is to get the County Commissioners to start thinking early in the fiscal year about what big changes they want to make, including new expenses and new taxes.

"This is an evolving process. This is an open discussion," Shoop said.

The fiscal year began July 1, but Bastian and Arch are starting to develop the next budget, including the next Capital Improvement Program.

If the commissioners want to spend more money on the proposed University System of Maryland, Hagerstown center, help build new county libraries or fund other large projects, the commissioners need to identify funding sources.

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Bastian reminded the County Commissioners that the School Board has said it wants the county to increase its funding from about $60 million this year to $66 million next fiscal year and $72 million the following fiscal year.

Earlier this month, she said the commissioners could face a $4.6 million shortfall in the next fiscal year and $1.6 million the following fiscal year if they fully fund the local portion of the Washington County Board of Education's budget.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook suggested the County Commissioners examine the present proposed Capital Improvement Program before adding new projects.

There are several ways the County Commissioners can get more revenue, Arch said, including:

- Implementing for the first time a countywide fire tax. A new consultants' report suggests the tax.

- Imposing school impact fees. A $115,000 study by consultants Tischler and Associates Inc. of Bethesda, Md., recommends imposing school impact fees on new developments in every Washington County high school district except Hancock.

- Issuing general obligation bonds.

No specific amounts for the tax or impact fee were discussed or suggested.

Commissioners told Shoop they fear that the county is missing out on grant money.

County department heads have been discussing whether the county should have one employee assigned to write applications for state and federal grants, rather than having several employees doing it on a more temporary basis, as is the current practice, Shoop said.

Human Resources Director Alan Davis will present a recommendation to the County Commissioners after researching the issue and seeing how other counties are handling such matters, Shoop said.

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