Garrett County Commissioners unanimously approved a total capital and operating budget of $74.9 million this week using unassigned fund balance to make ends meet. The budget is $1.5 million greater than the current fiscal year and maintains the real property tax rate at the same level since 1997.
The county’s budget message describes the actions taken to balance the budget and funding priorities.
Original requested operating and capital expenses were in excess of projected revenue by $8.3 million. Knowing that estimated revenue would be limited, early in the budget review process, the Board informed all County departments, component units, and agencies to submit an operating expense budget 1% less than their Fiscal Year 2015. In addition, an Employee Voluntary Retirement Incentive Plan proved successful with 16 employees accepting the incentive. After interdepartmental transfers, total County Government employment was reduced from 347 to 333.5 employees. These two measures assisted with reducing operating expenses by $1.5 million. Capital project and small equipment expenditures were reduced from a requested combined total of $8.0 to $4.2 million of which $2.6 million will be transferred from the assigned capital reserves. The final budget was balanced by transferring $600,000 from the Garrett County Health Care Trust to reduce the cost of employee health care benefits.
Public transportation remains a priority for this Board. Fiscal Year 2015 did not include any capital funding for the Department of Public Works–Roads Division. To adequately maintain almost 700 miles of County roadways, the Department was appropriated $1.15 million for vehicles, equipment, and bridge construction for Fiscal Year 2016. Another priority for this Board of County Commissioners is public education, thus funding for the Garrett County Public School System was set at $257,512 over the State of Maryland Required Maintenance of Effort. Funding has also been approved for financial software for the Department of Financial Services, the Public School System, and Garrett College.
The approved fiscal 2016 budget can be located on the county’s website.