County Reduces Proposed Budget By $15 Million

SNOW HILL – Worcester County officials cut more than $15 million from the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget in anticipation of the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a virtual meeting this week, staff presented the Worcester County Commissioners with a revised spending plan for the coming year. Though the budget presented last month showed an $11 million shortfall, the document presented this week showed just a $272,504 difference between revenues and expenditures.

“Estimated revenues and requested expenditures have been adjusted based on potential impacts of COVID-19,” said Harold Higgins, the county’s chief administrative officer.

As the county is now anticipating less revenue as a result of the current health crisis, staff presented a revised budget for fiscal year 2021 to the commissioners during a video teleconference Tuesday. Proposed revenues have been reduced from $209,931,786 to $205,694,286 million. Proposed expenditures have been reduced from $221,258,000 to $205,966,790.

Expenditure cuts have been made in just about all areas of the budget. The Worcester County Board of Education requested budget of $98,529,334 has been revised to $94,611,239. Requested grants to towns have been adjusted from $7,242,640 to $5,986,250. The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office requested budget of $8.8 million has been reduced to $7.5 million. Proposed funding for volunteer fire and ambulance companies has been cut from $9.4 million to $7.9 million.

The county is advertising no change to the current tax rate of $0.845 per $100 of assessment.

“It is the intent of the county to keep the county real property tax rate the same,” Higgins said.

A virtual public hearing on the proposed tax rate and fiscal year 2021 budget is set for May 5. When asked if they were sure the meeting would have to be held virtually, staff said it would depend on state restrictions regarding gatherings. The commissioners indicated that if restrictions were lifted, the hearing could be held in the commissioners’ meeting room and livestreamed.

When the commissioners asked if they’d be getting more detail on the budget than the brief summary in this week’s meeting packet, Higgins said they would.

“We’re working on that now,” Higgins said. “The only thing that’s different is we’re not going to bring department heads in but prior to I guess that first meeting in May we’ll have a detailed schedule with everything out there and our recommendations.”

Higgins said essentially the revised budget honored maintenance of effort funding for the school system, included county pay raises and featured minor adjustments to EMS funding.

The revised budget presented this week is available on the county’s website, Citizens who would like to comment during the video teleconference public hearing on May 5 must register in advance. Public comment may also be submitted via email or in writing by 4 p.m. on May 4.

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.