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Commissioners approve operating and capital budget for Garrett County

Largest portion, 43 percent, allocated for Board of Education

Elaine Blaisdell Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — The Garrett County commissioners approved the $73.4 million fiscal 2013 operating and capital budget in their Tuesday public meeting. Commissioners also approved a real property tax rate of $0.9330 for Mountain Lake Park and $0.99900 for all other areas.

“The total tax of $0.9900 remains but we gain additional revenue in the general fund,” said County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt in an email to the Times-News.

Revenues from income tax generated by county residents is estimated to increase by $800,000 in fiscal 2013, according to Pagenhardt. The largest portion of the budget is allocated for education ($31.9 million), which accounts for 43.54 percent of the budget. Of the funds for education, $26,023,714 was allocated for the Board of Education, which was deemed the county’s No. 1 fiscal priority, according to a news release. The amount alloted to the BOE includes $664,714 to fund the teacher pension obligations, which was offset by a like amount from the state. Education dollars also go toward Garrett College, Ruth Enlow Library and the Garrett County Scholarship program.

The county will face even more challenges with the fiscal 2014 budget and will likely result in further estimated de-clines in revenues, ac-cording to Pagenhardt. Legislative action by the Maryland General Assembly will transfer a substantial amount of teachers’ pension costs to all local governments, which will result in $1.2 million cost to the county in fiscal 2016. In addition, it is projected that the triennial property assessments will once again result in less revenue for fiscal 2014, according to Pagenhardt.

Commissioners also ap-proved a $0.0200 landfill bond and multiple Garrett County Sanitary District ad valorem taxes compared to the fiscal 2012 tax of $0.0400. There was little change in the sanitary district taxes, according to Pagenhardt. In 2012, Deep Creek Sewer Sanitary District was added. For fiscal 2013, the Deep Creek Sewer Sanitary tax is $0.0600.

On the revenue side of the budget, the largest amount of new funding comes from shifting the landfill bond to the general fund, according to a news release. About $794,000 will be generated from personal property from nonutility electric-generating companies, which includes wind projects.

Also approved were the public utilities tax of $2.3325 for Mountain Lake Park and $2.4750 for all other areas.

The recent approval of the hotel rental tax from 5 to 6 percent will generate $300,000, some of which will go toward the Adventure Sports Center International, which the county took ownership of in March.

The commissioners discussed the potential use of Kitzmiller Elementary School, which recently closed and contains a branch of the library and Head Start. The elementary school building has reverted back to the county. The parties involved will continue to work toward a cooperative effort to find the best viable and affordable use for the facility, according to Pagenhardt.

The commissioners also discussed the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fee structure, which will raise from $30 a year to $60 and will exclude properties not in the bay watershed from paying the additional fee. The fee structure passed in the 2012 Maryland General Assembly and it will be up to the county to determine where a qualifying boundary is located, according to Pagenhardt. Final de-termination and location will be finalized and made publically available.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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