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Public hearing scheduled on Washington County budget

May 03, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Groups wanting more money from Washington County's $133.7 million annual general fund budget will get a chance to make their requests at a public hearing Tuesday.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners on April 23 tentatively balanced the budget and agreed to take it to the public hearing for discussion.

The county is required to hold a public hearing prior to adoption of the budget. The commissioners are to discuss any possible budget changes at a May 14 meeting, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said Thursday.

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The commissioners can change the budget after Tuesday's hearing but they can't decide afterward to raise tax rates. The budget does not call for increases in the property and income tax rates.

The proposed budget calls for the Washington County Board of Education to get $70.1 million for operating expenses. That's an increase over the $68.3 million the School Board received for the current fiscal year, but less than the $74.1 million the School Board requested for next fiscal year.

The budget includes $448,000 to pay for eight school buses.

The budget also includes an $876,584 state disparity grant to the School Board for being among the state's poorer counties.

While School Board members have expressed hope the board will get more county money, Commissioners Bert L. Iseminger, John L. Schnebly and Paul L. Swartz have said that hope is unrealistic.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Thursday it would be premature for him to make such a statement.

Snook and Shoop said they expect School Board members and representatives of local nonprofit agencies to ask for additional funding during the hearing.

At an April 2 meeting, the commissioners tentatively decided to cut by 3 percent the funding for 13 nonprofit agencies.

At the April 23 meeting, Iseminger suggested restoring the money. Swartz agreed, but none of the other commissioners did.

Snook said the budget is tight, with only about $4 million in new revenue to distribute among all county agencies.

"I'm not sure how much flexibility we have, but we will listen to all the requests," Snook said.

The proposed county budget includes $13.5 million for county operations, $12.5 million for public safety and $5.4 million for state and federal programs, such as the health department and the state's attorney's office.

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