Budget approved with added school money

May 30, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners narrowly approved a balanced budget Tuesday after adding $379,000 to the Washington County Board of Education budget.

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School Board President Paul Bailey said he was pleased that additional funds had been earmarked for education.

"We are grateful for what they have done in the name of education," he said.

The sizes of the proposed tax hikes were not changed. Both the property and income tax rates will be increased, with the effect on the average taxpayer expected to be about $102 a year.

Commissioner William J. Wivell and Snook voted against adopting the budget because of the tax hikes.

The $169.3 million annual budget approved Tuesday, a week after a public hearing on the spending plan, includes an additional $379,000 for public education.


The additional money is intended to be used to fully fund a 4 percent pay raise for teachers. That would enable teachers to receive an additional 1 percent raise Gov. Parris Glendening has pledged.

The School Board will have to consider not funding an increase in the number of school counselors in order to ensure there is enough money to take advantage of the governor's offer and yet not renege on promised salary increases for other employees, Bailey said.

The School Board will receive $63.8 million for operating expenses, a $4.1 million increase over this year, according to county spokesman Norman Bassett. When School Board-related capital improvements are included the total is $71 million, he said.

Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said at last week's public hearing the message from residents to the commissioners was clear: If you are going to raise taxes then make sure more money goes to education.

At the urging of some of the County Commissioners, Budget and Finance Director Debra Bastian showed the elected body how it could add $624,000 to the education budget by making changes to the budgets of other departments.

According to budget documents, the roughly $379,000 will come from:

-- $100,000 in additional revenue from the recordation tax, which is collected when property sales are recorded.

-- $140,000 saved from next year's budget by replacing the Sheriff's Department computer system during the current budget year.

-- $60,000 in revenue from Social Security payments to inmates at the Washington County Detention Center. The county has been eligible to receive the reimbursement money previously but had not done the necessary paperwork.

-- $51,000 in additional revenue from 911 fees.

-- Smaller items, such as a $10,000 increase in payments for housing federal inmates and deferring the purchase of a new vehicle.

The adopted budget increases the property tax rate to $2.37 per $100 of assessed value, up from $2.31. That would bring in about $1.65 million more annually, according to budget documents. The increase would cost the average taxpayer $29 a year, according to the county.

It also increases the income tax rate to 2.8 percent, up from 2.51 percent, which would raise an additional $1.6 million. That would cost the average taxpayer about $73 a year, the county said.

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