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County budget passes

May 21, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday approved by a narrow margin a $213.7 million budget that includes more than $70 million for the Board of Education.

The County Commissioners voted 3-2 on the fiscal year 2004 spending plan, which goes into effect on July 1.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioners James F. Kercheval and Doris J. Nipps voted for the budget. Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and Commissioner John C. Munson voted against the measure.

The budget is mostly made up of the $138.8 million general fund and the $43.7 million capital improvement fund.

The budget includes $74.7 million for the School Board. That amount is a $3 million, or 4.3 percent, increase over the current year's contribution from the county.

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The county gave the School Board $71.7 million for the current fiscal year.

The School Board had asked the commissioners for a $7.9 million increase, which is $4.9 million less than the commissioners listed for schools, according to county documents.

The budget also includes $13.1 million for the Washington County Sheriff's Department, an increase of $655,608 over the current year's contribution of $12.5 million.

Wivell voted against the budget after he made several suggestions that didn't gain much support from the other commissioners.

Some of those suggestions included not filling the vacant human resources position for a year, providing no budget increase for the Humane Society of Washington County and reducing money for seminars and training for county employees.

Munson said he opposed the budget because it includes 2 percent pay raises for county employees and money for additional raises in several months.

Employees were given the 2 percent raise to balance out an increase in what they'll pay for health insurance.

The second round of raises depend on whether the commissioners decide to adopt a recommendation from a consultant to increase the salaries of most of the county's 630 full-time employees by an additional 2 percent.

The consultant said the raises, which would cost $422,000, were necessary to keep the county competitive with surrounding areas.

Munson, however, said county employees shouldn't receive two separate raises.

"It just seems like we're rewarding them twice for raising their health benefits, and there's no benefit for the county for doing that," Munson said.

Nipps and Kercheval said they didn't have a problem with setting money aside for additional raises.

Other budget highlights include:

  • $75.2 million in revenues from property taxes, $3.5 million more than current property tax revenues of $71.7 million.

  • $50.2 million in income tax revenues, $1.9 million more than this fiscal year's income tax revenues of $48.3 million.

  • $4.9 million for Hagerstown Community College's operating budget, a $189,491 increase over the current year's contribution of $4.7 million.
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