Cumberland Times-News

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April 25, 2013

Budget: Pay increase, new sheriff’s office

Not final until vote to adopt in June

CUMBERLAND — The first pay increase for county employees in four years and funds for a new sheriff’s office, improvements to Allconet and paving projects are among the highlights of the county’s budget for fiscal year 2014.

County Finance Director Jason Bennett gave commissioners a rundown of his preliminary budget, incorporating suggestions by commissioners, at their Thursday business meeting.

The budget is not final until commissioners vote to adopt it in early June.

“I believe we’ve weathered the storm up to this point,” said Commissioner Bill Valentine, commenting on the rough budgetary times over the past few years.

The 3 percent cost of living adjustment proposed for county employees would cost $442,237.

Funds for the sheriff’s office, the Allconet improvements and paving will come from so-called “pay as you go” funds, one-time monies available for these projects.

These funds largely came from savings the county achieved with debt refinancing, Bennett said.

The refinancing reduced by more than $700,000 the county’s appropriation for debt refinancing from last year.

“Those savings have been rolled right into the budget ... and we’re going to be able to do some good things with it,” Bennett said.

The county will also be able to purchase two new dump trucks and one pickup truck. Those vehicles are long overdue for replacement, Bennett said.

Plans are to build a new sheriff’s office at the intersection of Kelly Road and Springfield Street on what is now a grassy space in front of the county office building.

Allegany County commissioners have voted to award three contracts totaling $60,025 to private firms that will work with the county’s Office of Public Works to design and build the new offices. Much of the work will be done in-house to save money, county officials have said.

“Our project plan is to have the architect prepare plans and specifications and bid the construction of a building shell, consisting of walls, roof, doors and windows,” said a memo prepared by Paul Kahl, the county’s director of public works.

The fitting of the building’s interior and interior construction would be done by county staff to save money, officials have said.

County revenues have increased slightly in the past year. Most of the 1.6 percent increase came from property and income tax revenues.

Almost all of the $308,955 property tax increase can be attributed to the $295,000 payment in lieu of taxes agreement between the county and the owners of the Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort.

Income tax revenues have increased by $714,600, according to officials.

“This is the big stuff and thankfully it’s good stuff this year,” Bennett said.

Refinancing the county’s debt also helped with the budget, he said.

The projected total county fiscal year 2014 budget is projected to be $82.6 million, up from $81.3 million in fiscal year 2013, Bennett has said.

“Compared to where we’ve been, I’m pretty happy to see the increase,” he said.

The county does face increased health insurance and pension costs. The pension costs are determined by the state.

Other beneficiaries of the county’s budget plans include Allegany College of Maryland, the Human Resources and Development Council and the county’s library system.

A $130,000 infusion of cash for the college may abate a planned 3 percent tuition increase and allow the college to reduce the increase to 2 percent, Bennett said.

The college had planned to increase from the current $105 per credit hour to $108 per credit hour, college officials said.

The HRDC will receive an additional $30,000 if commissioners approve the budget, and the Allegany County library system will receive $35,000.

The library will use most of the money to retain staff members.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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