Ocean City Today

County departments request $9M more than tax revenues

By Brian Gilliland | Mar 22, 2018

(March 23, 2018) Department requests of Worcester County government’s budget for fiscal year 2019 exceed tax revenues by nearly $9 million so far, as the county’s budget committee and the county commissioners begin to cut spending so they can pass a balanced budget without a tax increase.

Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins said he was aware of the commissioners’ priority to not raise taxes this year. Higgins said previously that county employees focused on raising salaries as their own goal this year.

General fund revenues are estimated to be $202.6 million this year, while the requested expenditures total about $211.6 million, leaving a shortfall of almost $8.95 million, according to Higgins.

The state budget has also not been finalized, which could also affect the final county budget.

County tax revenues are up by about two percent this year, or about $3.73 million. Net property tax revenues are up by $2.6 million, according to Higgins, because of increased assessments and homeowner tax credits, based on the current tax rate of 83.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Income tax revenues are anticipated to increase by about $500,000 based on the January 2016 tax hike from 1.25 to 1.75 percent. Other tax revenue increased $1.325 million.

County investment interest increased almost $1 million based on increased rates of return.

Requested expenditures increased about $12.68 million, or about six percent more than the current year.

County staff salaries, insurance and benefits increased by about $2.65 million, which includes a 2.5 percent step increase, longevity bonuses and a one percent cost of living adjustment.

The Sheriff’s Office request increased by almost $900,000 for five new full and part-time deputies, plus overtime for existing deputies as well as 16 new vehicles and building improvements.

Emergency services increased by about $300,000 for a new position, radios and to replace the Snow Hill water tower building. Fire company and ambulance grants increased by a total of about $50,000.

The roads budget increased by about $1.55 million for five new positions, road paving, a transportation grant and vehicles including four dump trucks with snowplows and two pickup trucks.

The parks budget increased by almost $775,000 for two trucks and park improvements from state Program Open Space projects.

Municipal grants increased almost $590,000.

The county budget also includes the estimated $88.4 million Board of Education proposed budget, which is an increase of about $3.52 million from last year. Worcester also pays for school construction debt of about $10.4 million, bringing the total requested cost of the schools to the county to about $98.8 million, or 49 percent of the county’s total estimated revenue.

The schools requested a payroll increase of about $1.75 million.

In a separate action, the commissioners approved transferring $1.03 million from the general fund to cover recycling and nearly $665,000 for the convenience centers in the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund. Enterprise funds are intended to support themselves through users fees and other charges.

The commissioners will begin budget work sessions following its next regular meeting on April 3, with another scheduled for April 10.

The county also holds a public hearing on the budget, which is scheduled for Tuesday, May 1 at 7 p.m. at Snow Hill High School.

The budget must be adopted on June 5.

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