County Uses Current Year Surplus To Balance Next Budget

SNOW HILL – County officials agreed to use surplus funds to eliminate the $3 million shortfall projected in the coming year’s budget.

The Worcester County Commissioners agreed this week to balance the $216 million fiscal year 2022 budget with a transfer of $3,158,627 in from the surplus projected for the current fiscal year.

“I think it was a great day for the county budget-wise,” Commission President Joe Mitrecic said after the meeting. “We gave a lot of people what they needed. After last year, cutting to the bone, we had a lot of making up to do.”

Though the commissioners entered Tuesday’s budget work session facing a $3 million shortfall, Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins said rather than propose additional cuts he and the county’s financial team recommended using surplus funds to fill the estimated gap. He said the county was expected to end the current fiscal year with at least $9 million in surplus funds. That figure could be as high as $12 million. Even after using $4 million for capital expenditures, he said there was still $5 million in surplus that would be available.

“I think this is an opportunity to use surplus that we will have at the end of this year,” he said.

Higgins added that he knew the commissioners put a heavy emphasis on maintaining the tax rate and that could be done.

“I believe at least in the next two years we can maintain that tax rate,” he said.

Higgins said that in addition to the surplus, the county had $15 million set aside in a budget stabilization fund. In addition, property assessments are expected to increase 3% to 5%. If the county expands access to broadband, that will increase assessed value 1% to 3%. With those potential increases in mind, he recommended using the current year surplus.

“That will still leave you $2.6 million in the projected surplus that will go into budget stabilization,” he said.

When asked if the county was operating on a false economy, Higgins said the county had a conservative budget philosophy.

“I just think our conservative budgetary process has always kept us out of trouble,” he said.

He added that no one expected during a pandemic that transfer and recordation tax figures would reach the level they had.

“Who would have thought that you were going to be able to sell as many properties as you did?” he said. “That brought monies into the county coffers.”

Mitrecic said he supported the staff recommendation.

“To be as high as $12 million over what we figured when there were some of us that thought we were going to be short this year, so I think we did great,” he said. “We’re very fortunate things turned out the way they did.”

The commissioners voted unanimously to balance the budget with a transfer of $3,158,627 from the current year surplus. The fiscal year 2022 budget is scheduled for adoption June 1.

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.