Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

June 12, 2013

County budget faces reality, looks to future

Dear Allegany County residents:

The goals of Allegany County are expressed each fiscal year in our budget. This year’s budget reflects the economic and financial realities we face not only today but in the foreseeable future.

Like county commissioners before us, we must make tough decisions that prepare our county and future boards with a solid foundation. We have already made several difficult decisions and are required to do so again this year. For the first time for this board, the budget process was not overshadowed by the prospect of layoffs or furloughs for county employees.

However, we cannot relax. The loss of 90 percent of the county’s Highway User Funds and the shift of the State Teachers Pension Liability to the local level looms large and will preoccupy the county’s budgeting process and its financial commitments for many years to come.

For the first time in five years, our budget will provide an increase of $130,000 to Allegany College of Maryland. This will serve to eliminate one-third of the proposed tuition increase for students and their families for the upcoming school year.

For the first time in six years the county is able to give an increase to both Human Resources Development Commission and our library system. In compliance with Maryland State Law, this budget will achieve the state mandated Maintenance of Effort requirement for the board of education, which provides $378,000 over last year’s budget.

This budget also allows for a contingency fund to support school safety programs as may be recommended by the county Health Department and the Sheriff’s Office. Funding for education remains the county’s single highest priority and garners 80 percent of all outside appropriations made by the county.

In addition to supporting education, providing basic core services to our residents has been and remains a key priority. We have and will continue to work creatively with state and federal agencies to maximize the most favorable grant and loan opportunities available to our community.

Our Public Works Department is involved in the planning, design, or the construction of an estimated $50 million worth of public utility projects at this time.

Building upon our commitment from two years ago, this board will continue with a slight reduction in the county’s property tax rate of one-tenth of a penny as set forth in Resolution 1112. And, for the first time in recent memory, the county is prepared to set its tax rate below the constant yield rate.

In preparation for leaner times, the county has reduced its annual planned debt service. Again this year this board will not use the county’s fund balance to balance this budget. These basic strategies were viewed favorably by both Standard and Poor’s Rating Services (S&P) and Moody’s Investor Services, which chose to upgrade the county’s bond rating in 2013.

With the adoption of this budget, the county will accomplish these important goals:

1. A rate decrease in property taxes that equals one-tenth of a penny.

2. A budget which does not rely upon the county’s fund balance to fund internal or outside agency commitments.

3. Small budget increases for Allegany College of Maryland, the Allegany County Library System, HRDC, and the Allegany County Board of Education.

4. For the first time in four budget years, our budget provides an across the board COLA of three percent to county employees.

5. Cost saving initiatives that have helped control expenses included: refinancing existing debt to capture record low interest rates, block grant funding, and federal and state grants for water and sewer projects.

A complete copy of the budget will be available on the county’s website at www.gov.allconet.org in mid June.

The Board of County Commissioners

Michael W. McKay, president

Creade V. Brodie Jr. and William R. Valentine, commissioners

 

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