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Public offers comments on Washington County budget plan

About 120 people turn out for hearing at HCC

About 120 people turn out for hearing at HCC

May 14, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

Public feedback on Washington County's proposed budget was short and mostly sweet Tuesday.

Of the 14 people who spoke at the county's public budget hearing, nine praised the County Commissioners for their work on the fiscal 2009 budget.

Jeff Morgan, a professor in administration of justice at Hagerstown Community College, thanked the commissioners for "continuing to support the college."

Scoti Dotson, the newly elected student representative to the Washington County Board of Education, said the cost of Advanced Placement testing has gone down for students because of the money the county has given the Board of Education.

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Several students and faculty from HCC and the public school system thanked the commissioners at the hearing.

The commissioners' general fund budget for fiscal 2009, which starts July 1, includes $102.3 million for education, a 3.31 percent increase over this fiscal year.

Tuesday's public hearing was a legally required hearing that the commissioners hold every year before approving their annual budget.

More than 120 people turned out for the hearing, which was at HCC's Kepler Theater.

Total spending is proposed at $338.4 million for next fiscal year, a 10.51 percent increase over this year.

Most of the $32.2 million increase would pay for one-time capital expenses and will not be used for recurring, baseline budget costs, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said.

The county's property tax rate is slated to remain at 94.8 cents per $100 of assessed value. Tax bills will rise, however, because assessments are going up.

The county is projecting $7.8 million in new property tax revenue in fiscal 2009.

Water rates would go up 3.7 percent and sewer rates would rise 3.6 percent for average residential customers.

The fiscal 2009 budget would fund 63.5 new full-time equivalent positions, most of which would be in the Washington County Sheriff's and Emergency Services departments.

Only a few speakers at Tuesday's hearing suggested changes to the proposed budget.

Ron Lytle of the Contemporary School for the Arts asked the commissioners to fund an arts program for the group.

Gerald Ditto, a Clear Spring farmer, asked the commissioners to consider the effect on residents of rising property assessments. Ditto said his taxes went up 11 percent last year.

Daniel Moeller echoed Ditto's comments with a brief statement.

"Spend more, borrow more, lower the property tax rate," Moeller said.

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