Cowger, Commissioners Differ On Budget

SNOW HILL – A
handful of potential changes to the fiscal year 2011 Worcester County budget,
thought to be mostly finalized last week, prompted county elected officials to
schedule one final meeting on the budget before it must be passed.

The County
Commissioners agreed to hold a work session on Tuesday, May 25, at 9 a.m. to
resolve some lingering questions.

The commissioners
discussed canceling the work sessions tentatively scheduled for the last week
of May with budget decisions made earlier in the month.

The few changes
made since the May 11 budget work session could be handled by June 1, the day
the budget must be passed, said county administrator Gerry Mason.

“Guys, I really
don’t think we spent enough time on that budget,” said Commissioner Bobby
Cowger.

The commissioners
only took three hours last week to balance a $170 million budget, he said.

“I don’t think you
put your best effort into that budget,” said Cowger.

Local
municipalities spent more time on their budgets than the county, Cowger
contended.

“There wasn’t a lot
of room to do anything more than we did,” said Commission President Bud Church.

Usually, the budget
takes more time, Commissioner Louis Gulyas acknowledged, but this year the
school budget was set by state law at the maintenance of effort level, so that
debate never needed to happen.

Commissioner Virgil
Shockley pointed out that during the current meeting the commissioners had
added funding for the Pocomoke Welcome Center to the budget mix.

The commissioners
should come back for a second work session for transparency, said Gulyas.

County attorney
Sonny Bloxom noted that trying to make changes to the county’s budget on the
day that it is adopted is very unwieldy.

“You need to have
it set by that date,” said Bloxom.

At the meeting,
county elected officials reviewed or approved a handful of relatively minor
changes to the budget agreed on last week.

The commissioners
also voted to offer early retirement incentives to eligible county and utility
employees, who must be over the age of 62 and already vested in the Maryland
state retirement fund.

“It offers them one
third of their annual salary to retire early. It gets paid in a lump sum,” said
county Human Resources Director George Bradley.

The early
retirement incentive will pay for itself in four to five months, according to
Bradley, and would reduce overall costs. Eligible employees have until June 11
to decide.

Bradley estimated
that around 36 employees would be eligible for early retirement. “There’s not
that many that will accept,” said Bradley.

Some items have
been eliminated from the budget, such as the optical voting technology that
will not be used in the 2010 elections, with corresponding additions to
expenditures on NASA interns and Health Department/Local Management Board
funding.

Those changes keep
the budget balanced, according to budget officer Kathy Whited.

“The reductions and
savings match expenditures,” said Mason.

A request to reduce
licensing fees on vending machines would also be handled at Tuesday’s work
session.

 

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