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County budget belt tightened

April 11, 2001

County budget belt tightened



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Four of the five Washington County Commissioners said Tuesday they expect to vote April 17 on a $129.5 million balanced budget.

The spending proposal prepared by staff members earmarks $1.6 million less for the Washington County Board of Education than the amount requested by the board.

The County Commissioners were told last week that figures indicated a $1.7 million budget shortfall but that a proposed balanced budget would be developed.

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After seeing the budget proposal Tuesday, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioner William J. Wivell said they thought the commissioners would tentatively adopt the budget and take it to a public hearing.

"I think we are really close," Commissioner John L. Schnebly said.

"We'll get it done," Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger agreed.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

If the commissioners do not tentatively adopt a balanced budget at the April 17 meeting, a planned May 8 public hearing would be delayed for at least one week, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said. The county must allow time to advertise the public hearing.

After the hearing, the commissioners will make any last-minute changes to the budget before its scheduled adoption later that month.

The budget proposal allocates about $69.2 million to the School Board, about $1.6 million less than the board requested.

The budget draft contains suggestions about which school programs should be funded and which should not. The School Board will make the final decision on cuts.

The document suggests cutting the School Board's $679,720 request for private placement. Special needs students who require specialized facilities and activities sometimes are placed in centers outside Washington County if the School Board cannot meet their needs.

Finding other money in the School Board's budget to pay for that and other nonfunded items would be difficult, School Board President Herbert Hardin said.

"It will be a tremendous challenge," Hardin said.

The School Board may need to make cuts elsewhere, including in the area of personnel costs, he said.

Board Member Paul Bailey said he would withhold comment until the School Board had a chance to analyze the effects of the cuts.

Other changes in the new budget draft include $409,625 less than the amount requested by the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.

The funding request had included $100,000 for defibrillators and $112,500 for fuel and apparatus costs.

But there was some money previously in the budget for those expenses, said Budget and Finance Director Debra Bastian.

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