Worcester Departments Outline Budget Wants, Needs

SNOW HILL – County officials continued their review of the proposed $211 million budget this week.

Following an initial work session last week, the Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday went on with their review of each department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019.

Requests for new employees came from several departments, including roads.

“The requests I make today will only enhance the beauty of this county and the ability of the division to uphold our longstanding reputation of having a topnotch road maintenance program,” said Frank Adkins, the county’s roads superintendent.

Adkins said he was seeking a 40-percent budget increase, bringing the roads budget from $3.8 million to $5.3 million, to hire new employees and buy new vehicles.  He said five new employees would enhance the county’s ability to keep its roads maintained.

“Trash along the roadways is a major concern for all of us today,” he said.

He said he was also hoping to replace two trucks, purchase two additional trucks and buy four new dump trucks with snow plows.

“This will enable us to have more reliable vehicles and a quicker response during major storm events,” he said.

The Worcester County Library’s proposed budget also includes funding for additional employees. Jennifer Ranck, the library’s director, told the commissioners 2019 would be a big year for the library as it would open a new branch and celebrate its 60th anniversary. The library is seeking $2.7 million in funding, a 9-percent increase over the current year.

“The library’s most pressing needs this upcoming fiscal year include funding to actually run and operate the new library in Berlin, a local history librarian position and new carpeting for our Ocean Pines branch,” she said.

Ranck said the library was also planning to spend more on periodicals, as customers were canceling their own subscriptions and coming to the library to read daily newspapers.

She said the Ocean Pines branch was heavily used — she estimates it’s welcomed 1.5 million visitors since it opened — and was in need of new carpeting.

She said the library wanted to hire a local history librarian so there would be someone to focus on preserving historical items.

“Libraries are not just places to borrow books,” she said. “We are the community’s learning center.

Another department seeking an increase in funding is economic development. Kathryn Gordon, the county’s deputy director of economic development, said a 21-percent increase in the department’s budget would fund a new vehicle and provide more money for advertising as well as the Step Up internship program.

“A lot of businesses have requested to be involved,” Gordon said, adding that she hoped to expand the program.

As for advertising, Gordon said the aerial videos the department had used last year were useful but expensive.

“With visual arts comes a price tag,” she said.

Commissioner Chip Bertino asked how effective the department’s annual real estate tour had been.

“A lot of effort and money goes into these tours,” he said.

Gordon said inquiries had increased following the tour.

Several department directors presented requests for salary or employee grade changes. Judge Brian Shockley, who presented the Worcester County Circuit Court budget, said the court was seeking to increase bailiffs’ pay by $5 a day. He said they played a vital role in the courthouse and hadn’t received a raise in years.

“We rely on those bailiffs quite heavily,” he said.

Bill McDermott, the interim state’s attorney, said his office’s budget addressed a variety of issues, including the state’s new electronic filing system for court documents, the opioid epidemic and school safety.

“As I went through the budget and prepared the budget, I had three goals,” he said. “The first goal was to address the issues of which I just noted. The second issue is one that has, I won’t say plagued, but has faced our office in recent years which is retention of the highly skilled prosecutors and office assistants that we train. The third was to reduce costs if possible. I think we achieved all three of those goals.”

Thanks to cost savings in some areas, he said the department’s overall proposed budget was slightly lower than the current year’s budget in spite of the fact that it included funding to provide prosecutors with mobile phones. He said that lack of a paid-for mobile phone was something mentioned by prosecutors who left Worcester County to take jobs in other jurisdictions.

The public will have an opportunity to comment on the county’s proposed budget at a public hearing May 1 at Snow Hill High School. As it stands now, a shortfall of nearly $9 million needs to be reconciled through the reduction of expenditures, which as proposed reach $211 million, or the addition of revenues, which are projected at $202.7 million. The commissioners have two more work sessions scheduled later in May and are expected to adopt the budget in June.

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.