Education & Public Safety – The Focus of Worcester County’s Proposed Budget

Education and public safety funding makes up the majority of Worcester County’s expenditures for the proposed FY 2017 budget of $194 million. According to the MD Coast Dispatch,

Requests for funding teacher salary increases and technology for local schools again highlighted Worcester County’s annual budget hearing.

On Tuesday evening, dozens of county residents attended a public hearing on Worcester County’s proposed $194 million budget for fiscal year 2017. Comments from those present focused primarily on the need to support education funding.

“The County Commissioners heard everything you said,” County Commissioner Jim Bunting said at the close of the hearing. “We are listening. The spirit is good between the commissioners and the board of education.”

The county’s budget, as currently proposed, totals $194 million and includes a $6.5 million shortfall that needs to be reconciled through a reduction in expenditures or an increase in taxes. The commissioners have advertised for a 4.55-cent property tax increase that would bring the rate to $87 cents per $100 of assessment. The budget and tax rate are scheduled to be adopted June 7.

In a presentation during Tuesday’s hearing, Harold Higgins, the county’s chief administrative officer, said the bulk of the county’s proposed expenditures (49 percent) in the coming fiscal year were related to education. Public safety accounts for 16.7 percent of expenditures in the proposed budget while grants to municipalities account for 11.2 percent of costs.

Jerry Wilson, superintendent of Worcester County’s public schools, thanked the commissioners for their support in years past and asked them to continue it into the future. He said local students continued to be among the top performing in the state, something that was only possible because of the highly qualified staff the school system employed. Because of that, the budget proposed by the board of education includes funding for a STEP increase and a 1-percent salary increase for those not on the STEP scale.

To read the full coverage of the Worcester County budget hearing, please visit the MD Coast Dispatch online.