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Washington County's Open Space funding to fall by 80 percent

The county will receive $1.6 million less from the state than this fiscal year

The county will receive $1.6 million less from the state than this fiscal year

May 07, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County's Program Open Space funding, which pays for improvements to local parks and conservation areas, will drop by more than 80 percent in the coming fiscal year.

The county will receive $386,558 in grants from the state program in fiscal year 2009, which starts July 1. That is about $1.6 million less than the county received this fiscal year.

The reduction is a result of state budget cuts and a drop in expected state transfer tax revenue, which funds local POS grants, said James W. "Chip" Price, director of grants for Program Open Space.

The state administers Program Open Space by granting money annually to local governments to use for planning, purchase and development of recreational land, parks and conservation areas.

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The state also buys land directly through the program.

Price said the state will reduce POS grants to communities across the state by $77 million, from $95.5 million in fiscal 2008 to $18.5 million fiscal 2009.

In Washington County, the funding cut has forced local officials to reduce both the number of POS projects and the amount of money those projects get.

Fourteen projects in Washington County will be funded in fiscal 2009 compared to 24 this year.

While several of this year's projects received more than $100,000 in POS money, most will receive less than $50,000 in fiscal 2009.

"We're doing everything we can with what we're getting," Washington County Parks, Recreation and Facilities Director Jim Sterling said.

Sterling said the county asked municipalities, Hagerstown Community College and the school system to prioritize their requests for fiscal 2009 knowing that less money would be granted.

The Recreation and Parks Advisory Board reviewed requests and presented them Tuesday to the Washington County Commissioners, who unanimously approved the list of requests.

Sterling said the funding cuts could affect how much open space land the county can preserve in the future.

The state requires local governments to set aside 15 acres of open space for every 1,000 residents to use all of the grant money for development, Sterling said.

The county has some extra open space now but will need to purchase more in the next two to four years as the county's population increases, Sterling said.

"If funding levels stay this low, we will have to pick up the slack somewhere. With this kind of money, we can't add parkland," Sterling said.

Price said Tuesday that funding levels likely will stay low for a few years because transfer taxes are linked to house sales.

"Unless housing sales pick back up, and I don't think that's going to happen soon," Price said.




Funding approved for fiscal 2009



Fiscal Year 2009 Program Open Space funding approved by the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday:

Boonsboro, Shafer Park Road and parking lot, $50,000

Funkstown, Community Park walkway, $7,650; Tennis court rehab, $6,120

Hagerstown, Fairgrounds irrigation, $49,500; Pangborn restrooms, $36,000

Hancock, Kirkwood bridge, $50,000

Keedysville, Basketball court, $10,800

Smithsburg, Veterans Park service road, $18,000

Williamsport, Beard Pool stabilization, $32,000

HCC, Track rehab, $27,000

WCPS, Clear Spring tennis courts, $29,700

Washington County, Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park walking trail, $38,700; Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park rubber mulch, $22,500; Doubs Woods art pavilion roof, $8,588

Total, $386,558

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