Wicomico Council Reviews Executive’s $148M Budget

SALISBURY – The county executive last week submitted his $148.5 million proposed operating budget for the coming fiscal year.

County Executive Bob Culver presented the Wicomico County Council with a proposed fiscal year 2020 operating budget of $148,541,879 last Friday.

“The primary focus of this budget is to effectively address Wicomico County’s core service needs: public safety and health, education and infrastructure,” he wrote in his budget message. “Recognizing that our citizens’ household and business finances are still under pressure, my proposed budget calls for no increase in either the real or personal property tax rates. However, the budget does address the most pressing needs in the aforementioned categories, continues my practice of providing efficient and cost-effective operation of our County departments and calls for reasonable utilization of our fund balance.”

In his budget message, Culver said revenues are expected to reach $145,022,554 – a 2.64% increase from the current fiscal year – and will fund recurring and non-recurring operating expenses, departmental capital investments and grants to outside agencies. He also proposed the use of $3,519,325 from general fund prior year revenue to pay for approved Capital Improvement Plan pay-go funding.

In total, the proposed budget of $148.5 million represented a $2.51 million, or 1.69%, decrease from last year’s proposed budget of $151 million.

Culver’s spending plan includes a 2% salary increase for eligible county employees, a step pay increase for the Fraternal Order of Police and a 6% health insurance increase.

“After experiencing a 12% health insurance premium increase last fiscal year, the employee change from the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) to the Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) contact has proven to be effective by minimizing the cost of the FY20 rate increase,” he wrote. “The FY20 budget includes a 6% health insurance increase, following several years of health insurance settlement losses.”

Culver’s budget also includes $800,000 above maintenance of effort to fully fund Superintendent Donna Hanlin’s Imagine 2022 initiative, which would establish universal pre-K, improve the graduation rate, and attract and retain a strong workforce.

Education and public safety and health make up 68% of the expense budget, while local property and income taxes make up the majority of estimated general fund revenue.

“I am pleased to see a continued increase in our net assessable real property base which now totals $6,202,236,937.00, a $224,514,974, or 3.756%, increase over last year …,” he wrote. “Employment has also continued on a positive trend and projections for local income tax revenue are $52,200,000 based on the analysis of our most recent audited annual receipts and our current year trends.”

Culver also outlined plans to rebuild Beaver Run Elementary School, complete the new public safety building, and improve the Salisbury airport.

“Wicomico County’s Airport is a major potential business center and we are continuing to not only contribute from the General Fund and bond in the future for additional improvements,” he wrote. “Some of these major projects are forward funded to be reimbursed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).”

A complete copy of the proposed operating budget is made available at www.wicomicocounty.org. The county council will hold a public hearing on the budget on May 7 at 6 p.m. and will schedule budget work sessions with department heads.

Once adopted, the budget will go into effect on July 1.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.