Education tops budget proposal

April 16, 2004|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Education tops the expense list in Washington County's proposed $147.5 million budget for the coming fiscal year, with the public school system tentatively scheduled to receive $78.8 million of that amount.

The contribution, if approved, would almost fully fund the Board of Education's request of $78.9 million and is about $4 million more than the $74.8 million the school system received for the current fiscal year.

The county's tentative budget is $8.8 million more than the current year's $138.7 million budget. It does not propose raising property tax rates.


The county's contribution to the school board would consist of $77.8 million for its general fund, $660,000 for one-time costs, $218,794 for crossing guards and $51,348 for the Judith Center, according to the proposed budget.

With money also earmarked for Hagerstown Community College, the Maryland School for the Blind and the Washington County Free Library, education funding takes up $87.8 million, or 64 percent, of the proposed county budget.

HCC would receive the entire amount it requested - $5.2 million - for the coming fiscal year, an increase of $295,606 over the current year.

Beth Stull, spokeswoman for HCC, said the $5.2 million proposal matched what college officials had requested from the county.

"We're certainly very grateful for this. It's a 6 percent increase over last year," Stull said. "It's evident that the commissioners are doing what they can ... at this time to help us deal with the 14 percent increase in enrollment" over this time last year, she said.

Stull said the proposed allocation is important because the state gave less this year to higher education. The county allotment would help offset tuition increases.

"We hope that that will be approved in the end," Stull said.

The county's second biggest expense, public safety, would receive $18.5 million, an increase of approximately $1.2 million over the current fiscal year.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department would receive about $14.1 million, an increase of approximately $913,628 over the $13.2 million it received this year.

The proposed budget also includes:

  • $80.2 million in property tax revenue, an increase of approximately $5 million over the $75.2 million budgeted for the current year.

  • $59.3 million in local tax revenue, an increase of $2.3 million. Of that amount, $51.5 million is income tax revenue, $6.5 million is recordation tax revenue, $310,000 is admissions and amusement tax revenue, $368,000 is trailer tax revenue and $630,000 is hotel-motel tax revenue, according to the budget.

  • $1.6 million to be distributed to 13 nonprofit groups. Of that amount, $769,746 would be for the Humane Society of Washington County and $396,600 would be for the Commission on Aging.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget May 4 at 7 p.m. in HCC's Kepler Theater.

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