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Schools lead in county budget

April 04, 2007|by TAMELA BAKER

HAGERSTOWN - The first draft of Washington County's fiscal 2008 general fund budget is out, and preliminary figures show a proposed $17.6 million increase in spending over this year's budget. The total budget proposal comes to $195.6 million.

That matches the growth in revenue that Budget and Finance Director Debra Murray said last week that the county expects to receive in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Murray presented budget recommendations Tuesday for two of the county's big ticket items, education and the Washington County Sheriff's Office, during the County Commissioners meeting.

The Washington County Board of Education requested a base of $84.2 million, which is the county's maintenance of effort requirement, based on per-student funding. That figure represents an increase of $2.3 million from last year. The new budget proposal includes nearly $1.1 million for nonrecurring costs, the same amount as budgeted this year; $271,310 for crossing guards; and $68,840 for the Judy Center, which provides family-based services and instruction at Bester Elementary School. The total for proposed direct primary funding to Washington County Public Schools is $85.6 million, a 2.8 percent increase from this year.

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A little more than $3 million more is proposed for school health nurses, representing $47,802 more than this year.

Murray recommended funding a little less than half of the new money requested by Hagerstown Community College.

HCC sought $7.94 million from the county's general fund, compared with $6.9 million in this year's budget. She recommended cutting the request by $535,983, for a total of $7.4 million and a 7.2 percent total increase from this year's budget.

She also initially recommended cutting the Washington County Free Library's nearly $2.5 million request by $129,848, giving the library $71,776 in new money. But because maintenance agreements with the library's satellite branches still are being reviewed, the commissioners discussed giving the library more if maintenance agreements with Smithsburg, Boonsboro and Clear Spring for their library branches could be worked out.

"I'd be willing to go to $100,000 (in new money), no questions asked, and further if the towns will participate," Commissioner Kristin Aleshire said.

County Administrator Gregory Murray agreed to revisit the maintenance issue to see whether the towns would help out.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office is seeking a total of $20.3 million in its five 2008 fiscal budgets, a total increase of $2.26 million from this year's budget. Nearly half of the new money is in its patrol division, for salary increases and new positions, including six new deputies. Sheriff Doug Mullendore included a note reporting that calls were up 12 percent from last year, and that the Maryland State Police have reduced personnel in the county.

The commissioners will continue reviewing departmental requests through April, with a public hearing on the new budget planned for May.




Budget highlights



· Board of Education: $85.6 million

· Washington County Sheriff's Office: $20.3 million

· Operating/Capital Transfer: $39.6 million

· Total, all county expenditures: $195.6 million

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