Cumberland Times-News

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May 9, 2013

Education to take lion’s share of Garrett budget

Despite being fully funded, board predicts a bleak forecast for next few years

OAKLAND — The largest appropriation in Garrett County’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget is $32.3 million for public education, or 41 percent of the total Operating and Capital Budget for fiscal year 2014, according to Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator.

The county is proposing to allot $26.2 million to the board of education for fiscal 2014. The remainder of the public education funding goes to Garrett College, the Ruth Enlow Library and the Garrett County Scholarship Program.

“The board of education was informed in May of 2012 of this funding level,” said Pagenhardt. “The BOE budget for 2014 is fully funded.” The board was alloted $26 million for fiscal 2013.  

Despite being fully funded for fiscal 2014, the board is predicting a bleak financial forecast for the next couple of years, according to a letter from the board to citizens.

Superintendent Janet Wilson, Pagenhardt and respective staff will attempt to develop cooperative points of interest regarding the budget and set up a meeting at a later date.

“County government has for some time reviewed current budgets along with five impending years, and this practice has proven to be a wise judgment, which is evident when comparing actual/final budgets to initial budget estimates,” said Pagenhardt in response to the board’s letter.

“County government and the Board of County Commissioners have made public education a priority for many years. Now, more than ever, open dialog and cooperation, to include the participation of the county administrator, superintendent of schools, and senior staff from both our organizations, is imperative.”   

The real property tax rate for fiscal 2014 will be the same as 2013 at $0.9900, according to Pagenhardt.  

During the public informational meeting Wednesday, the public questioned Adventure Sports Center International funding and asked questions that were under the authority of the elected board of education, according to Pagenhardt. Four elected board members were in attendance but didn’t speak or provide commentary, said Pagenhardt. Wilson was not in attendance.

The expenditure for ASCI debt repayment for fiscal 2014 is $100,000 to be paid out of hotel rental tax. In March of last year, the county took ownership of ASCI, paying $600,000 to secure the assignment of ASCI debts from Susquehanna Bank.

The fiscal 2014 budget is recommending $1.7 million for Deep Creek 2014 capital improvements to ASCI. The ASCI capital improvements are completely funded by grants.

Total budget for fiscal 2014 is $78.3 million, which is $4.4 million less than the fiscal 2013 budget of $82.7 million. Capital projects and outlay make up $2.6 million of the $4.4 million, according to Pagenhardt.

The fiscal 2014 budget includes $2.2 million from the unreserved/undesignated fund balance (reserves restricted for planned capital expenditures).  

“No reserves are used for operating expenses,” said Pagenhardt.

Pagenhardt doesn’t expect changes to the fiscal 2014 budget for now.

“There will be amendments to fiscal year 2013 budget when we have actual revenue or expenditures,” said Pagenhardt. “Final adjustments to the fiscal year budget come with the audit.”  

The county commissioners will approve the budget during the June 4 public meeting.

The budget, in its entirety, can be viewed at  www.garrettcounty.org.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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