Budget surplus could benefit schools

May 15, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

After making one minor change, the Washington County Board of Commissioners adopted its $133.7 million annual general fund budget Tuesday but made plans to consider next week adding $448,000 to the Washington County Board of Education budget if a county budget surplus is projected.

At the May 21 meeting, Budget and Finance Director Debra Bastian will tell the commissioners if she expects an annual budget surplus and what size she thinks it might be, Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said.

If there is a surplus expected, Iseminger suggests giving the Board of Education $448,000 more. The county could then pay the $448,000 cost of buying eight school buses with cash reserves instead of the general fund, he said. The county has about $10 million in cash reserves, he said.


If that change happens, the Board of Education would then have $448,000 more in its operating budget, he said.

Board Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan and board member Paul W. Bailey, who attended Tuesday's meeting, said they liked Iseminger's suggestion.

"I appreciate the gesture," Bailey said.

Morgan said she will not include the additional $448,000 until the commissioners vote on that possibility.

Board members have suggested on past occasions that the commissioners should give the School Board some of the money they receive from annual budget surpluses.

The adopted budget is for fiscal 2003, which begins July 1.

The commissioners made one change to the general fund budget before adopting it.

At an April 2 meeting, the commissioners decided to cut by 3 percent the funding for 13 nonprofit agencies. The cuts save the county about $30,000.

The commissioners decided to cancel the 3 percent cut for Senior Living Alternatives, which would have saved $600. A representative of the group requested the change during a May 7 county public hearing.

At the May 7 hearing, 16 of 21 speakers asked the commissioners to increase funding to the Board of Education.

The adopted budget gives the Board of Education $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 also includes the money for the buses and a $876,584 state disparity grant to the School Board for being among the state's poorer counties.

The total county budget, including other funds, is $189.9 million.

Under the budget, county sewer rates will increase by 2 percent on July 1. The increase will raise the average residential sewer customer's bill by 46 cents a month, Water and Sewer Director Greg Murray said.

Because of a commissioners decision in 2000, the residential permit fee for residents who haul trash by car or truck to the county Forty West Landfill will increase again this year.

The fee will rise from $85 this year to $95 next year, effective July 1.

The discounted fees for those older than 62 will rise from $60 this year to $70 in July.

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