Cumberland Times-News

Columns

June 8, 2014

Reality

County’s new budget addresses harsh facts

The fiscal 2015 budget adopted last week by the Allegany County Commissioners is rare in at least three respects, compared to often seems to be the norm elsewhere, at least at the state and federal levels: 1. It is $525,000 less than the fiscal 2014 budget.



2. Despite some serious — and emotional — opposition, it takes into account the current facts of local governmental life.



3. It holds the line on taxes. At a time when taxes, fees and expenditures are going up at the Maryland state government level, state funding for Allegany and other counties and municipalities has plummeted by millions of dollars.



The Allegany County Board of Education has been especially hard-hit by this, and the county has lost 90 percent of its Highway User Funds over recent years. The county also expects a 3.5 percent reduction in its share of state-collected income tax — a loss of about $858,000.



Even though the state funding has diminished, the responsibilities for such things education and road maintenance continue to grow. Much of the highway fund has been diverted to build mass transit systems in metropolitan areas that will be of no use to this end of the state. It’s no wonder people call this area “Almost Maryland.”



The biggest opposition to the new county budget comes from the public school sector. Teacher representatives and students attended a recent commissioners’ meeting to protest the budget proposal that would fund public education at the minimum level required by state law.



One student asked, “If we are the future, shouldn’t you invest in us?”



The fact that 84 percent of the county’s general fund expenditures to outside agencies goes to the board of education and Allegany College of Maryland indicates to us that the county is investing in the future.



It also appears to be addressing in serious fashion the unfortunate realities of the present.

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