Washington County budget proposal calls for $11.2 million increase

April 10, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The first draft of Washington County's fiscal 2009 general fund budget calls for an $11.2 million spending increase over the current year's budget.

The preliminary spending plan lists $206.9 million in expenditures, 5.7 percent more than the current fiscal year's budget of $196 million.

"Overall, I'm real pleased," Commissioners President John F. Barr said Wednesday evening in a phone interview. "Everybody's pretty well held the line on their budgets as requested."

All county departments have presented their budgetary requests for fiscal 2009, which begins July 1. The Washington County Commissioners will continue to review those requests through the end of this month.


A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 13 at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater.

The draft budget includes $87.3 million for the Washington County Board of Education, $22.2 million for the Washington County Sheriff's Department and $22.3 million for capital projects.

It also lists $9.3 million for the Washington County Emergency Services Department and $8.7 million for Hagerstown Community College.

Also included in the tentative budget is money for 63.5 new full-time equivalent positions, most of which would be allocated to the Sheriff's Department and Emergency Services.

The cost of those new positions would be $2.7 million, according to budget documents. However, Washington County Budget and Finance Director Debra S. Murray said that number is being adjusted.

The Sheriff's Department's funding would increase by $2.1 million under the draft budget.

Of that amount, more than $900,000 would go toward an emergency housing unit at the detention center, which would be staffed with 11 new patrol officers.

Other new money for the sheriff's department includes about $303,000 for a central booking facility and more than $109,000 for the Narcotics Task Force.

The Emergency Services Department also would receive about $2 million in new funding in the proposed budget.

More than half of that amount would be used to start funding for Phase 2 of the EMS strategic plan, which would add 18 life-support technicians to the Emergency Services Department.

An increase of $564,030 would pay to consolidate the call centers of the Hagerstown Police and Sheriff's departments under the 911 consolidation project.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said Wednesday that previous years of good fiscal management are allowing the county to "correct shortfalls in public safety" this year.

"We're able to do this and keep operating costs close to level because we have been fiscally sound during both upturns and downturns," Kercheval said.

But Commissioners William J. Wivell and Kristin B. Aleshire said by phone Wednesday that they do not agree with all the new hires, particularly for the emergency services department.

"Setting aside such a significant amount of money for Phase 2 when we haven't completely implemented Phase 1 yet is my biggest disappointment. If I were to vote against the budget it would be because we have that funding in," Aleshire said.

The Washington County Free Library would receive $2.6 million under the proposed budget, including more than $100,000 in new money for the Smithsburg and Boonsboro branches, a new heating and air conditioning system at the Williamsport branch, salary increases, and fuel and electric increases.

The budget anticipates $119.7 million in property tax revenue next fiscal year, a $10.7 million increase over this year.

That includes $106.4 million in real estate taxes.

County budget highlights:

  • $206.9 million total budget

  • Board of Education: $87.3 million

  • Sheriff's Department: $22.2 million

  • Capital projects: $22.3 million

  • Fire and Rescue: $9.3 million

  • Hagerstown Community College: $8.7 million

  • 63.5 new full-time equivalent positions

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