SALISBURY – Wicomico’s acting county executive this week submitted his proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2022.
On Tuesday, Acting County Executive John Psota presented the Wicomico County Council with a proposed general fund budget of $161 million for the coming fiscal year.
Psota told council members the balanced budget focuses on Wicomico County’s core services – public safety, public health, education and infrastructure.
“Additionally, this budget was prepared with the recognition that all county stakeholders’ finances have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “This proposed budget reflects no increase, neither in real nor personal property tax rates. In fact, upon application of revenue cap requirements, the real property tax rate declined for FY22.”
In his presentation this week, Psota said estimated revenues of $161 million represent an increase of nearly $8 million over last year’s budget. The spending plan includes $4 million in prior year fund balance to pay for capital improvement plan projects and $3.9 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
While the county received $20 million in federal funding, Psota said the money would be divided equally over the course of two fiscal years. Of the $10 million allotted for fiscal year 2022, roughly $4 million will go toward identified needs.
“Additional clarifying guidance on the utilization of these funds is expected from the United States Treasury Department by mid-May 2021,” he said.
Psota this week also presented a proposed real property tax rate of 91 cents per $100 of assessed value. He said local income tax revenues are projected at $56.4 million, while real property tax revenues are projected at more than $61 million.
“Applying the county’s revenue cap requirement of utilizing the lower of 2% or the CPI-U, the county could only grow its real property tax rate by 1.4%,” he said.
Psota this week also recommended an increase in commercial tipping fees from $65 per ton to $67 per ton and a new fee of $30 for additional household stickers.
“It is proposed that yearly household sticker fee remain at $60,” he said. “However, there would be a $30 fee per additional sticker. These fees remain the lowest in our region and aid in maintaining future costs.”
Psota noted the budget features major expense increases in several categories. He is proposing an additional $1.1 million in salaries and benefits to meet FOP contract negotiations, an additional $282,000 to meet board of elections requirements and $1.2 million in maintenance of effort funding for the board of education.
“A recent House bill did recently lower the county’s maintenance of effort to $1.2 million,” he said. “However, uncertainty remains for future MOE calculations, and the impending financial impact of Kirwan is concerning.”
The proposed spending plan also includes funding for the county’s capital lease program and several school construction projects. Psota has budgeted $10 million for Mardela Middle and High School’s renovation and addition, $19.6 million for a new public safety building and $5.4 million for a new applied technology building at Wor-Wic Community College.
“The one take away is public safety, health and human services, education and related debt service average approximately 75% of the total general fund spending …,” he said. “This is spending that reflects a commitment to the core services that the citizens of this county expect and deserve.”
The county council is expected to hold a public hearing on Psota’s proposed budget next month. Once adopted, the budget goes into effect on July 1.
“We look forward to working with you and answering any questions you may have as you go through this the next month, month-and-a-half before adoption,” Finance Director Pam Oland said.