Worcester Budget Faces $9M Shortage

SNOW HILL – Worcester County faces a nearly $9 million shortfall as the annual budget process begins.

Staff presented the Worcester County Commissioners with the proposed fiscal year 2019 operating budget this week. Projected revenues of $202,665,379 are exceeded by projected expenditures of $211,611,999.

“The shortfall of $8,946,620 will be reconciled either though the reduction of expenditures, the creation of additional revenues or a combination of the two,” said Harold Higgins, the county’s chief administrative officer.

He told the commissioners the estimated revenues for fiscal year 2019 were 2 percent more than they were for the current fiscal year but that estimated expenditures were up 6 percent. Increases in revenue are highlighted by a rise in property tax revenues and income tax revenues.

The proposed budget includes a $12.6 million increase in expenditures. The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office’s budget request increased $891,622 to fund several new positions and new vehicles. The county’s emergency services department is seeking an additional $302,434 to allow for a new position and the purchase of new radios. The roads department has requested an additional $1.5 million in the proposed budget to cover the cost of five new positions, capital equipment and additional road paving.

The estimated budget also includes increases in the requests made by local municipalities as well as jumps in health insurance costs. The budget also includes $914,701 to allow for salary increases for county employees. As proposed, eligible employees would receive a 2.5 percent step increase and a 1 percent cost of living adjustment.

The request from the Worcester County Board of Education in the proposed budget has also increased. The school system, which received $83,570,125 from the county for the current fiscal year, has requested $86,575,293 for fiscal year 2019. The school system’s budget request includes an increase of nearly $1.3 million in maintenance of effort funding as well as $1.8 million for salary increases. The salary package includes a step increase as well as a 1 percent cost of living adjustment for teachers and a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment for support staff. The budget also provides for a 1 percent increase in bus contractor rates.

When asked if he would be presenting the commissioners with a balanced budget, Higgins said that was his intent.

“I understand your number one priority is not to increase taxes,” he said. “We’re fully aware of that concern and will proceed accordingly.”

Citizens will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed budget May 1 at the county’s annual public budget hearing.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.