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County's budget shortfall discussed

March 29, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners, facing an almost $6 million shortfall in the proposed general fund budget for fiscal 2001, talked Tuesday about the School Board budget and pay raises for county employees.

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They made no changes to the education portion of the proposed $124.7 million general fund budget, which would give the Washington County Board of Education full funding of $66.2 million for operating expenses.

That would be a 10.7 percent increase over the county's contribution in the current fiscal year.

Since School Board operating expenses account for more than 50 percent of the budget, that area warrants discussion, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

The County Commissioners discussed giving all county employees except those with the School Board raises of about 3 percent but postponed a decision.

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The commissioners may have to raise taxes to balance the budget but they have not begun discussing that yet.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz has said that if the county has to raise taxes his preference would be to increase the piggyback tax rate, which is currently at 50 percent.

The budget includes a new tax, a transfer tax, that it is estimated will bring in $1.2 million. That money will go to county projects.

About $600,000 of the transfer tax proceeds would go to the School Board, $250,000 would be used for urban revitalization and the rest would go to other projects.

The tax, which has to be approved by the County Commissioners, requires people to pay 1 percent of the total value of real property transactions. This is in addition to a .5 percent transfer tax imposed by the state government.

The county has state authority to impose the tax but has not imposed it before, County Attorney Richard Douglas said.

The present draft of the general fund projects the county will have $118.8 million in revenue, which is a 4 percent increase over the $114.2 million this fiscal year that began July 1.

The budget estimates $124.7 million in general fund expenses, leaving a shortfall of $5.86 million. The expenses have been pared down from $126.6 million in general fund budget requests.

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