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School budget may be pared

April 04, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners Tuesday tentatively sliced $1.9 million from the School Board's budget, found other areas to cut, and will discuss tax increases next week.

Even with the Washington County Board of Education cuts, the general fund budget would have a shortfall of about $3.4 million. Last week the shortfall was $6.2 million.

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At next Tuesday's meeting, Budget and Finance Director Debra Bastian will present a list of areas in which taxes might be increased - including property and income taxes - for the County Commissioners to consider, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

The commissioners need to balance the budget Tuesday in order to take it to a public hearing later this month, Shoop said.

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The public hearing is scheduled for April 25 at 7 p.m. at Hagerstown Community College.

Full funding for School Board operating expenses would be $66.2 million, up from $59.73 million this year, according to budget documents.

The consensus of the County Commissioners is to give the School Board a $4.5 million increase instead of the requested $6.4 million hike. That is about a 7.5 percent increase instead of the requested 10.8 percent hike.

Before Tuesday's meeting, budget projections included $117.7 million in revenue and $123.4 million in general fund expenses. Updated revenue and expense projections were not available Tuesday evening.

The present budget draft does not fund new requests for donations from the Hagerstown YMCA, Community Free Clinic, Maryland Symphony Orchestra and other nonprofit requests.

While he would like to help them, "looming right over the horizon is the School Board," Commissioner John L. Schnebly said.

The YMCA originally requested $750,000 in three annual donations of $250,000 to pay for a planned $8.8 million building. The money was originally in the proposed Capital Improvement Program budget but the commissioners decided to move the request to the general fund budget and the amount was dropped to $100,000.

The County Commissioners decided Tuesday to delay for one week a vote on whether to fund the YMCA request.

The county is mandated to fund nonprofits at $3.7 million and the proposed budget is about $1 million over that amount, even with the rejected requests, according to budget documents.

Last week the projected shortfall rose by about $400,000 after County Attorney Richard Douglas realized a proposed transfer tax couldn't be imposed because the county didn't have necessary state authority. He previously thought the county had that authority.

The tax would have brought in an estimated $1.2 million, $400,000 of which would have paid for general fund projects and $800,000 for capital projects, according to county budget documents.

Snook said the County Commissioners must cut $800,000 from the Capital Improvement Program budget to make up for not being able to impose a transfer tax.

The budget includes a 3 percent raise for all county employees, which would cost the county about $580,095, Human Resources Director Alan J. Davis said.

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