Caroline County Struggles to Balance Budget

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Caroline County Commissioners held a public hearing last week on the FY 2016 budget and a proposed property tax increase. The proposed 2-cent property tax increase would be necessary to produce constant yield, the same amount of property tax revenue next year as this year, due to another drop in county property assessments.

County Administrator Ken Decker opened the meeting with an overview of the budget. As reported by MyEasternShoreMD,

In order to balance the FY16 budget, Decker said, commissioners moved $600,000 in unrestricted funds from the current year’s budget to next year’s, chose to distribute tax differential checks to municipal fire departments instead of to the towns themselves, flat-funded departments and agencies wherever possible, did not give county employees an across-the-board pay raise and switched employees to a state health care plan, which will save $130,000.

The health care savings were reinvested into the county’s workforce, Decker said, by giving a small pay increase to the lowest-paid positions, where the county sees the most turnover, and revamping benefits for retirees.

The capital budget has suffered the most from the last several years of tough economic conditions, Decker said. The county has been forced to defer maintenance for so many years, the things that need fixing are getting older and therefore increasingly expensive to replace.

This year, there was $7.2 million requested for capital expenses, but only $1.1 million to spend, Decker said.

The majority of comments on the proposed budget came from agency heads and others thanking the Commissioners for funding in the budget.

The Commissioners are set to adopt the property tax rate and the BY 2016 budget on May 19.