Friday, January 9–County Slashes Long-Term Project Outlook

SNOW HILL – A re-ordering of the capital improvement plan (CIP) for Worcester County has nearly halved the proposed future outlay on county capital projects, reducing the September estimate for the next 10 years of capital improvements from $335 million to $176 million.

The Worcester County Commissioners asked staff to revise the CIP in November to better reflect economic realities. The result was a significant reduction in the number of projects.

“We felt the delaying of projects is prudent,” said Worcester County Budget Officer Kathy Whited.

The commissioners also instructed staff to reduce county school board estimates of school construction costs, which included an extra 5 percent to account for inflation. The county and school board must be on the same page planning wise, the commissioners said in November.

The 47-percent reduction in planned future capital spending does not mean that projects listed in the plan will still be denied funding if the money becomes available. 

Projects in the CIP are not automatically funded. The plan is considered a planning tool.

“Inclusion of a project in the plan does not constitute a guarantee of funding by the county,” Whited said.

Commission President Louise Gulyas felt Whited’s comments needed to be heard twice.

“I want to reiterate what you said. It’s a plan. It doesn’t guarantee anything,” said Gulyas.

The projects listed for fiscal year 2010, mostly public works efforts, should total $19.2 million, Whited said.

Several projects retained in the plan, which show no funding and under the revised CIP would not be considered for more than a decade, were kept in to keep track of the original request, according to Whited.

Several school projects, the most high profile work, will be delayed.

While the Pocomoke High School renovations and addition already under construction will forge ahead, similar work at Snow Hill High School will have to wait until 2013. That work will cost at least $46 million.

Showell Elementary School will go for planning approval in 2014 with funding to be sought in 2015.

Stephen Decatur Middle School’s addition will seek planning approval in 2015 and go after funding in 2016.

The CIP is created, and must be approved, every year, allowing elected officials to change the plan with the times.