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County expects $10.3 million in new revenue

February 04, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County may bring in about $10.3 million in revenue from new taxes for fiscal year 2005, money that would go toward school and county construction projects, according to county documents.

Budget and Finance Director Debra Bastian presented the projected revenue to the County Commissioners at Tuesday's meeting.

Even with the new taxes, some commissioners said they weren't sure the county could afford to give the Washington County Board of Education the amount it has requested for school construction projects in fiscal year 2005, which begins on July 1.

The School Board had asked that the commissioners increase the county's annual contribution toward school construction projects from $5.9 million to $10 million.

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The increase would help pay for an $80 million backlog in school construction projects, the School Board has said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said by phone Tuesday that the School Board probably would receive more than $5.9 million, but the commissioners did not know how much more.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell estimated the School Board might receive about $8 million from the county toward school construction projects for fiscal year 2005, but that amount could change as the commissioners continue to go over the capital budget.

In addition to the School Board, Wivell said Hagerstown Community College will ask the county for an annual increase in construction money.

He said that request will be about $2 million a year. The county had anticipated giving HCC about $600,000 to $700,000 a year, Wivell said.

Some commissioners were uncertain about whether the new tax revenues would mean they would be able to lower the amount of money they borrow annually to fund the county's construction program.

"It's a little too early to say whether we're going to reduce borrowing," Snook said.

Snook said the commissioners plan to discuss the construction budget for fiscal years 2005 to 2010, known as the Capital Improvement Program, over the next three weeks.

"I think in the long run it will keep us from borrowing as much," Commissioner John C. Munson said of the anticipated increased revenue.

The county has tentatively estimated it may need to borrow $12 million annually to fund its CIP.

Wivell, however, said he didn't think the county would have to borrow that much. He said he hoped the new taxes would reduce borrowing and the county's debt.

"In my mind, it's somewhat foolish to increase taxes and increase borrowing at the same time," Wivell said.

The county anticipates receiving $1.8 million in revenue from the excise tax, $2.5 million from the transfer tax and $6 million from new fees charged to developers to help ensure roads and schools are adequate to handle growth, according to information provided by Bastian.

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