Dissension among the Carroll County commissioners was apparent Tuesday during a presentation of the FY13 proposed budget in open session. The budget passed by a 3-2 vote.
The board voted to accept the proposed budget that is being presented to citizens in the coming weeks. Commissioners Robin Frazier and Richard Rothschild voted against it.
Ted Zaleski, director of management and budgets, presented the plan, pointing out significant changes from last year's projected budget and explaining the thinking behind some decisions.
Upon the completion of Zaleski's presentation, commissioners Rothschild and Frazier presented what they called the "minority report."
Rothschild and Frazier said that their concerns with the proposed budget center on three issues.
They said they believe it is a mistake to plan on increasing revenues in FY 13 and FY14.
They also disagreed with how the proposed budget spends a $16 million surplus, saying the funds should be used to pay down debt and increase reserves. In the proposed budget, the surplus is used to fund a handful of initiatives including $1.4 million for employee bonuses, $900,000 for public schools and $8 million for agricultural preservation.
Their third major issue was that the budget plan “increases structural recurring costs” such as Maintenance of Effort for the Board of Education and county employee salaries. They say structural recurring costs should be addressed when there is proof that revenues are improving.
“This is not an issue of whether or not we believe we should give a raise to our employees who have gone without one for more than four years," Rothschild said. "The question is whether or not it is responsible to do it at this time."
Frazier added that giving teachers salary increases is not the commissioners’ job.
“This is not about teachers' raises because we don’t give teachers raises, the Board of Education does and they have to prioritize it in their budget just like we have to prioritize things in our budget based on the revenues we have,” Frazier said.
Commissioner Haven Shoemaker shot back that the ideas presented in the “minority report” were "irresponsible."
“If you adopt the Rothschild-Frazier approach, what this means for education is the lay off of 200 teachers, the closing of three schools, the closing of media centers across the county, the closing of Hashawha Environmental Center, and a whole host of other things,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker said that economic development is tied to having a strong education system.
“We talk about how important economic development is for Carroll County. Well how are we going to attract business, how are we going to attract prospective employers to alleviate the tax burden on the residential tax payer, if our school system is not up to snuff?” Shoemaker said.
“What Howard’s proposed budget, that I wholeheartedly support, does is maintains the county on a conservative trajectory whereby debt is eliminated ... and it will also provide for tax relief this year,” Shoemaker said.
Frazier said she not only took issue with the budget but with the budgeting process, which she said was not thorough enough. She said the process did not allow her to adequately represent her constituents.
“My assessment of the budgeting process we went through is that the Howard proposal was ramrodded through," she said. "I felt like I had an inadequate opportunity to share some cost-saving ideas.”
The following budget items were highlighted in Zaleski's proposed budget presentation.
- The property tax rate will be reduced by 1 cent
- Carroll County Public Schools will see a $540,000 increase per year for the next five years and a one-time $900,000 increase in FY13
- Community college funding will be held flat at $6.9 million
- Public library will receive $8.8 million, an increase of $300,000
- Nonprofits will be held flat in FY13, with a five percent reduction each year in FY14-18
- Health department funding will be reduced $250,000
- Economic development infrastructure will be reduced $250,000
Watch Tuesday's budget presentation in the attached YouTube video or in the video archive on the .Visit this budget page of the government website to view the proposed budget documents.