County labors over budget

Commissioners narrowly grant approval by a margin of 3-2

Commissioners narrowly grant approval by a margin of 3-2

May 24, 2006|by TARA REILLY


The Washington County Commissioners struggled to approve the county's operating and capital budgets Tuesday amid disagreements over the property tax rate, debt and money for the planned stadium at North Hagerstown High School.

The $85.7 million Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for fiscal year 2007 failed in two attempts at passage during Tuesday morning's meeting, but was approved by a 3-2 vote in the afternoon.

The commissioners approved the operating budget, which includes a $177.9 million general fund, by a 3-2 vote.

The county's total budget for fiscal year 2007, which begins July 1, is $305.4 million. The total budget includes the CIP, general fund and several other funds.


The dissenting votes came from Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and Commissioner John C. Munson. Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioners Doris J. Nipps and James F. Kercheval supported the budgets.

The debate began after Munson asked for a 2-cent property tax cut as part of the operating budget. His motion received a second from Wivell, but lost when Snook, Nipps and Kercheval voted against cutting the tax rate.

It was the fourth time this year that Munson proposed a tax cut. All attempts were shot down.

He said taxpayers deserve a break in the midst of rising property assessments.

"There's no reason this board can't go with a 2-cent property tax cut," Munson said.

A short time later, Kercheval made a motion to approve the CIP, but the motion died for lack of a second. The CIP includes various construction projects.

Wivell motioned to approve the CIP with the provision that the commissioners use $2.3 million in cuts he proposed to the operating budget to reduce borrowing in the CIP. Munson supported Wivell's motion, but Kercheval, Snook and Nipps opposed it.

The commissioners returned to the CIP in the afternoon, and Nipps made a motion to approve it. Kercheval seconded the motion and Snook cast the third vote to pass it.

Nipps said she supported the CIP this time around to settle the discussion. She said she hesitated to support the CIP because she didn't agree with allocating an additional $300,000 in state Program Open Space (POS) dollars toward the Mike Callas Stadium at North High.

Nipps decided to vote for the CIP in the afternoon because she didn't want her opposition to the additional stadium contribution to hold up roads and school construction projects, she said.

"So, I will swallow some pride on this issue," Nipps said.

Earlier this month, the commissioners voted 3-2 for the additional funding. It brought the county's total contribution toward the $3.83 million stadium project to $750,000, all of which is POS money. Wivell and Nipps voted against the additional allocation.

Wivell on Tuesday criticized the commissioners' decision to give the additional money to the stadium project and a proposal to install an artificial turf field. He said turf could cost as much as $500,000 and would have to be replaced about every 10 years. According to his estimates, the stadium committee would have to put aside $50,000 or more a year to cover replacement costs. He questioned where that money would come from.

"This project is getting totally out of hand," Wivell said.

How they voted

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the county's operating and capital budgets for fiscal year 2007. Both votes were 3-2.

Here's how the commissioners voted:

Yes- Gregory I. Snook, James F. Kercheval and Doris J. Nipps

No - William J. Wivell and John C. Munson

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