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Officials forecast a shrinking county debt

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said he doesn't have a lot of faith in the long-term projection because the estim

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said he doesn't have a lot of faith in the long-term projection because the estim

January 10, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County staff members project the county's more than $150 million total debt will shrink by $26 million by 2020.

That would take the debt to $125.5 million by that year, they say.

The estimates also indicate the county's water and sewer debt will decrease from $46.7 million to $838,934 by 2020.

While some county commissioners said they were pleased with the projections, at least two commissioners said Wednesday they weren't taking the long-term estimates to heart.

"I wouldn't put any weight to them," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said of the total debt projection through 2020.

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Wivell said he doesn't have a lot of faith in the long-term projection because the estimate doesn't include future major county projects, such as a new emergency communications system. Early estimates have put that project at more than $10 million.

He said, however, he thinks the water and sewer debt estimate is accurate because of a scheduled plan to pay that off.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop could not be reached for comment.

Commissioner John C. Munson said he's unhappy with the projections and thinks the county isn't being aggressive enough about paying off any of its debt.

He thinks the county should stop borrowing in order to pay off the debt more quickly, he said.

"I'm going to fight that borrowing stuff," Munson said.

He also said the county should curb spending.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the debt estimates give the county an idea of where it's heading, even if the total projections end up being off the mark.

"Our overall plan is to continue to reduce the debt whenever feasible," Snook said. "We've made a lot of headway."

Snook and Wivell said they were pleased with the debt reduction efforts made over the last and current fiscal years.

According to county documents, the county began fiscal 2002 with a $154 million debt. It is projected that will drop to $151.5 by the end of fiscal year 2003, which ends on June 30.

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said she's happy with the projections and the effort the county has been making to pay off the debt. She said she hopes payments toward the debt can continue despite talk of the state cutting back on funding for local governments.

"I hope we can stick to it in light of the things that are happening at the state," Nipps said.

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