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County adopts operating budget for 2005

May 12, 2004

tarar@herald-mail.com

Humane Society Executive Director Paul Miller's response was short Tuesday afternoon when asked whether he was disappointed with how much money the Washington County Commissioners voted to give the nonprofit agency.

"Sure," Miller said.

The commissioners, saying they had questions about the county Humane Society's budget, gave the organization an increase of $14,600, or 3 percent, over the current fiscal year budget. The amount was well short of the $789,380 increase requested and even the $259,126 increase county staff recommended.

The Humane Society had requested approximately $1.3 million from the county.

The decision on money for the Humane Society came just before the commissioners unanimously adopted a $147.9 million operating budget for fiscal year 2005, which begins July 1.

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The commissioners also approved a fiscal year 2005 construction budget of $30.1 million by a 3-2 vote.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and Commissioner John C. Munson voted against the construction budget, known as the Capital Improvement Program.

Wivell said he opposed borrowing $10 million to pay for construction projects, which is included in the capital budget. He thought the county should borrow $9 million and use money from building fees and taxes to reduce debt.

Humane Society officials said last month they asked for the increase to offset the costs of handling more animals and other rising operating costs.

The organization will receive approximately $519,000 - about $501,000 for general operations and $18,000 for the spay/neuter program.

The Humane Society is paid by the county to provide animal control services.

It is possible that additional money will be available to the Humane Society if the commissioners determine a future increase is warranted once they evaluate the organization's expenses.

The commissioners decided to set aside about $245,000 for that purpose, Wivell said after Tuesday's commissioners meeting.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he thought the amount the county pays the Humane Society wasn't too far off the mark when compared with what other counties pay for animal control services. But he said he wasn't prepared to give the Humane Society its requested increase.

"I'm not either," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said. "There needs to be an evaluation done ..."

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said she disagreed with setting aside additional money for the Humane Society.

"I don't see why we should set aside any funds because it looks as if we're going to go to that eventually, and I'm uncomfortable with that," Nipps said.

Snook said last month animals at the shelter may have to be euthanized sooner to save money.

Humane Society officials said cost-saving measures also may mean a reduction in services offered by the shelter.

In addition to Humane Society funding, the county's operating budget includes:

  • $95.5 million in operating and capital dollars for the Board of Education.

  • $5.2 million for Hagerstown Community College.

  • $14.2 million for the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

  • $80.4 million in property tax revenue and $51.5 million in income tax revenue.
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