CUMBERLAND — Debt service payments are manageable now, Allegany County officials said Thursday, but two costly middle school renovations could hike the overall debt shouldered by local government over the next five years by 30 percent or more.

Annual efforts to pay off that debt also will increase. This year’s debt payment is about $4.36 million. In 2014, that figure is expected to jump 47 percent to $6.4 million — slightly above what Jerry Frantz, county finance director, called a comfortable level. The annual payment goal is about $5 million, adjusted for inflation.

“It’s way out there,” Frantz said of the five-year projection. “We think the recession would be over by then.”

Current and proposed debt for fiscal 2009, which ends June 30, is $31.2 million, Frantz said. More than $20 million is from multiple bonds issued between 1994 and 2008. Another $9.5 million is from two loans for the construction of Mountain Ridge High School.

That existing debt is expected to decrease to $13.6 million by 2015, Frantz said. But that was countered by a five-year Capital Improvement Program presentation Thursday that estimated existing and proposed debt to jump to more than $45 million.

“The two middle schools ... have a significant impact on our debt,” Frantz told Allegany County commissioners during the public meeting.

The Allegany County Board of Education proposed to the commissioners extensive renovations at Braddock Middle School in fiscal 2011 and to Washington Middle School in fiscal 2013, according to a report issued by County Engineer Adam Patterson.

The projects have a combined estimated cost of $59.8 million in 2009 dollars, nearly equally split between the two schools. Vince Montana, director of facilities for the Allegany County Board of Education, said Tuesday that information in a feasibility study report on both projects could be shared with the public as early as June 9. The final results of the study should be released in August.

Three Allegany College of Maryland projects would add another $6.5 million in debt over the next five years, Patterson said. The school intends to renovate its auto tech and physical plant buildings on the Willowbrook Road campus.

Frantz said additional capital projects would increase debt levels and annual debt service payments. Efforts should be made, he said, to reduce bond issue projects and lower the costs of any bond projects. Another option is to fund projects with money from one-time revenues.

Frantz’s presentation is expected to be available online at www.gov.allconet.org. The commissioners are expected to approve the CIP — funding for fiscal 2010 and only the planning beyond next year — and adopt the fiscal 2010 budget at their May 28 public meeting.

Contact Kevin Spradlin at kspradlin@times-news.com.

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