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County trims 2004 budget

March 26, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County Commissioner John C. Munson held up the county's 200-page proposed fiscal year 2004 capital budget Tuesday and proclaimed that many of the projects listed were "a pure bunch of bull."

Commissioner James F. Kercheval made a presentation to his fellow elected board members about how borrowing $10 million to pay for school, road and public safety projects would pay off for the county in the long run.

All five commissioners had differing opinions on how much to spend, how much to borrow and what projects to fund for the next fiscal year.

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But after weeks of discussion, they tentatively agreed to move forward with a plan that includes $5.9 million in construction money for the Washington County Board of Education, but eliminates $2 million in other projects - at least for now.

Tentatively cut from the capital budget for the next fiscal year is $1.1 million for the Maugans Avenue widening project, $500,000 for road overlay projects and $400,000 in miscellaneous projects.

The commissioners did not decide on which year they would return the Maugans Avenue project to the capital budget.

The commissioners spent the last several weeks debating the proposed fiscal year 2004 capital plan, which totals more than $40 million.

One of their main hang-ups was how much money to borrow for the budget, and considered amounts that ranged from $8 million to $12 million.

As of now, they settled on borrowing $9 million and added $2 million that they anticipate receiving from transfer and excise tax revenues. That would give the county $11 million in new money to spend on construction projects.

Munson said he didn't want to include the revenue from transfer or excises taxes because there's a chance state lawmakers would reject the county's bid to impose them.

He said improving county roads should be a priority because potholes anger residents, and that many other capital projects could be cut from the budget.

In addition to the $5.9 million for the School Board, Hagerstown Community College would receive $650,000 in construction money. That amount is about $165,000 less than college officials requested.

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