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State aid to county up 2.9 percent

April 22, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

State spending in Washington County next year will equal about $600 for every man, woman and child in the county, according to figures released last week by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.

Total direct state aid to the county - which includes everything from transportation grants to school spending to health expenditures - is $76.9 million for fiscal year 2001. That is a 2.9 percent increase over the current budget year.

Education spending accounts for a vast majority of the total. The state will spend $57.6 million next year on Washington County public schools. Hagerstown Community College will get almost $4.8 million.

HCC's state funding will increase by 13 percent. Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, said that is due to a change in the funding formula that was made to benefit the state's small community colleges.

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Another agency facing a large increase is the Washington County Health Department, which will receive an 8.1 percent increase in health grants from the state.

William Miller, director of the office of management services for the Community and Public Health Administration, said the increase will mostly fund pay raises for health workers.

Most of the aid, including education spending, is determined by formulas that consider the population, wealth and other attributes of counties.

"The delegation can't do anything about most of those," said McKee, chairman of the county's legislative delegation.

Because the state aid is formula-driven, local school officials have known for some time how much funding they could expect. State spending will increase by about 2 percent.

The amount of the school system's budget has not been determined. School officials have presented a budget request of about $119.7 million, seeking a county contribution of more than $66 million.

The state budget includes $711,000 to increase teacher salaries in Washington County, but the money comes with a catch. The county must fund a 4 percent pay increase in order to get 1 percent from the state.

The Washington County Commissioners have not determined whether the county can afford that match or how much of the school board's proposal to fund. A budget hearing is set for May 9.

"We've had no definite word from the County Commissioners on what the bottom line will be," said Paul W. Bailey, president of the Washington County Board of Education.

The state budget also includes more than $18 million in capital projects.

This includes $697,000 on a University of Maryland campus planned for downtown Hagerstown, almost $7 million to build a juvenile detention center next to Maryland Correctional Institution, $250,000 to help build a new YMCA facility on Eastern Boulevard and $75,000 each for the Hagerstown Fairgrounds, Children's Village and the Agricultural Education Center.

Four school projects also will be funded out of the capital budget. The largest allocation is $4 million to pay for the second phase of renovations at South Hagerstown High School.

A number of state agencies in Washington County will get grants for capital projects.

The state prisons south of Hagerstown will get $850,000 to expand kitchen facilities, and the state will spend $1.8 million on perimeter security. The state also has budgeted $730,000 to acquire land to make the battlefield at South Mountain a state park.

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