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Spending plan shortfall is more than $5 million

Commissioner John C. Munson said Tuesday that funding for non-profits might have to be cut again.

Commissioner John C. Munson said Tuesday that funding for non-profits might have to be cut again.

March 12, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County's budget shortfall for fiscal year 2004 was placed at nearly $5.2 million this week, and Commissioner John C. Munson said Tuesday that funding for nonprofit groups might have to be cut for the second time in two years to help make up for that shortfall.

"It makes us look like the bad guy, but you got to do what you got to do," Munson said at a County Commissioners meeting.

The county's shortfall increased by $894,970 to $5.18 million, according to county documents. The shortfall was listed at $4.29 million last week.

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The county's proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2004 is $143.1 million.

Munson said after the meeting that he favors decreasing funding for all 17 nonprofit groups the county supports.

"I think we got to lower them all," Munson said.

County officials have proposed giving $5.58 million to nonprofit groups next year.

Munson said he thinks some residents will approve of reducing funding for nonprofit organizations. He said many people would rather not have their tax dollars go to such groups.

"A lot of people aren't happy with the commissioners giving to nonprofits," Munson said. "It's forcing people that don't believe in giving to charity to give to charity."

The county cut funding for nonprofit groups by 3 percent last year, officials said.

The increased county shortfall is due largely to the state decreasing the amount of money the county receives through the disparity grant.

Disparity money is distributed to the state's poorer counties.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Tuesday night that a change in the state's wealth formula resulted in decreased disparity money for Washington County.

The county received $1.98 million in disparity money for fiscal year 2003, but the state sliced that to just $250,563 for fiscal year 2004.

Of the $1.98 million received for the current fiscal year, $876,584 went to the Washington County Board of Education. The School Board has asked for a $7.9 million increase from the county for the next fiscal year, which includes $876,584 to make up for the lost disparity money, county officials said. The remaining $7.1 million would go to other areas of the School Board's budget.

William Blum, the School Board's chief operating officer, said the board used the disparity money for general operating expenses, such as salaries and instructional materials.

The School Board's total county contribution for the next fiscal year would be $78.1 million, if it received the $7.9 million proposed increase. The School Board's total operating budget would be nearly $150 million.

The School Board is scheduled to present its proposed budget to the commissioners April 1 at 7 p.m. at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater.

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