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Capital plan budget may be cut

March 14, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners are considering a fiscal year 2004 capital improvement budget that includes $5 million for the Board of Education and $500,000 for Hagerstown Community College - both less than what the groups have asked.

The tentative plan, discussed Thursday by the County Commissioners and staff members, would put off by a year a $100,000 contribution toward a new Smithsburg library and work on the Maugans Avenue widening project.

The proposed plan is aimed at reducing the amount of borrowing by the county for fiscal year 2004. The county borrows money annually for construction projects.

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Under a staff-recommended capital plan, the commissioners were to borrow $12 million toward fiscal year 2004 construction projects.

But under the tentative plan discussed Thursday, the commissioners would borrow $9.3 million for the next fiscal year. That money would be included in the more than $45 million capital plan.

Not all of the commissioners agreed with all of the options in the tentative plan.

Commissioner John C. Munson argued that the county should cut additional funding for proposed construction projects and not borrow any money.

"The people in the county don't want us going in debt, and they don't want their taxes raised," Munson said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said it wasn't possible to eliminate borrowing all together.

"Unless you eliminate every single project at the Board of Education, you're not going to find it," Snook said.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said they opposed putting off the $100,000 contribution toward a new Smithsburg library for a year.

Wivell said that move would result in the library project being postponed a year.

"I can't do that to the Smithsburg community after they worked so hard for that project," Nipps said.

"Is that more important than the college?" Snook asked.

Snook said he favored increasing money for the School Board and HCC but at the same time lowering borrowing.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he would not have a problem with borrowing more money in order to pay for more School Board construction projects.

The School Board has requested $5.9 million for construction projects from the county for the next fiscal year. Under the tentative plan, the board would receive $5 million. The board would receive, if necessary, $600,000 from the county's cash reserves to go toward the purchase of land for a new Maugansville Elementary School.

HCC would receive $500,000 for capital projects for fiscal year 2004 under the capital plan. HCC has asked for $815,000, an HCC official has said.

Wivell said the tentative plan lays the groundwork for future capital plan discussions.

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