Commissioners To Vote On Budget

SNOW HILL – Worcester County officials are expected to approve the county’s $235 million budget next week.

On Tuesday, June 6, the commissioners are expected to vote on the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The $11 million shortfall initially associated with the budget has been eliminated through cuts and updated revenue projections.

“I am extremely proud of our departments and our finance team for the effort they put in to ensure we could prepare a budget that made sense for the county,” Commissioner Chip Bertino said. “As a result taxpayers will benefit from that.”

County officials began reviewing the proposed $241 million budget in March. Budget work sessions were held March 28 and April 11. On April 18, the commissioners heard budget requests from the Worcester County Board of Education and fire and EMS companies.

“When totaled, the budget requests exceeded projected revenues by over $11 million,” Chief Administrative Officer Weston Young said earlier this month. “We held a public hearing on these requests and projected revenues on the night of May 2. We heard from a variety of citizens and stakeholders. This document before you now includes efforts made by myself and our budget team to close this gap as well as updated figures based on recent information.”

He said a committee of county staff had reviewed the proposed budget and made about $1.9 million in cuts in various areas, bringing proposed expenditures down to $239 million.

In addition, the committee increased the county’s revenue projections to $235,890,227.

The remaining shortfall was addressed on May 9, when the commissioners voted 4-2 to approve a $100 million maintenance of effort budget for the school system.

Following the budget work session changes, staff will be presenting a balanced budget on Tuesday. Expenditures for fiscal year 2024 total $235,890,227 and revenues total $235,890,227. The proposed budget maintains the current property tax rate of $0.845 for real property taxes and the local income tax rate of 2.25%. The budget includes 2% cost-of-living adjustment for county staff as well as a step increase for eligible employees.

Bertino said the county’s finance team, administration and departments heads had worked hard to create a budget that made sense for the county.

“Things have gone smoothly with the process at the county level,” Bertino said.

He acknowledged that things hadn’t gone quite as smoothly with the board of education. County officials are currently waiting for detailed Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) budget information requested through a Public Information Act request.

“We encountered some challenges with the board of education that I believe we will get through,” Bertino said.

Though the commissioners voted May 9 to approve the maintenance of effort budget for the school system, WCPS officials have said they will not discuss how to adjust their budget to work with the reduced allocation until after the county’s entire budget is finalized.

“The board of education will likely meet very soon after the county strikes the budget on June 6, as at that time, the local share for the board of education will be finalized…,” said Carrie Sterrs, the school system’s coordinator of public relations and special programs, last week. “if the budget struck on June 6, funds the board of education at maintenance of effort, which is $4.5 million less than requested, the negotiating teams will have to go back to the table to renegotiate with both of our associations as well as have discussions with our bus contractors.”

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.