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Schools' requests not met in budget

March 06, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Washington County's tentative budget for the coming fiscal year allocates $69.7 million for the Washington County Board of Education, more than $4 million less than the School Board requested.

The School Board on Feb. 19 adopted a tentative operating budget of $133.2 million for fiscal 2003. Of that amount, the School Board asked the county for $74 million.

The budget proposal would give the School Board about $1.4 million more than the $68.3 million the county provided in the current fiscal year.

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The County Commissioners took no action regarding the general fund budget, which they discussed publicly for the first time Tuesday.

The commissioners can't fully fund the Board of Education because the county's can't afford to do so, Commission Vice President Paul L. Swartz said.

"When you don't have it, you can't give it," Swartz said.

Board of Education member Paul W. Bailey, who did not attend Tuesday's meeting, said getting less money than expected will cause problems.

"If that is the bottom line, it would appear the Board of Education is going to have to make some serious cuts," Bailey said. He said about 80 percent of the School Board's budget is spent on salaries.

The Board of Education officially will present its budget to the commissioners at a 7 p.m. April 2 public hearing at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater.

The county's general fund revenues for the next fiscal year are estimated at about $132.8 million, a 2.6 percent increase over the $129.4 million for the current fiscal year.

The proposed budget estimates a $2.2 million increase in revenue from real estate taxes, and about $1.27 million more in income tax revenues, Budget and Finance Director Debra Bastian said.

The anticipated general fund revenue increase probably would have been higher if not for the recession and the rate of regional economic growth, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

The proposed budget is balanced. The commissioners will go over the budget in more detail in the coming months.

The proposed budget includes 3 percent raises for all county employees, Bastian said.

The commissioners have not voted on a request by Washington County Human Resources Director Alan Davis to give raises of at least 3 percent to all county employees.

Any raises would be effective when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook missed part of the budget discussion because of work he was doing on a search committee that is helping choose the next president of Hagerstown Community College.

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