By Greg Wehner, Staff Writer
(May 26, 2022) After whittling down an $11.3 million revenue shortage in next fiscal year’s budget, the Worcester County Commissioners have agreed to cover the remaining $4 million using the FY22 fund balance.
The commissioners met for more than four hours on May 10 to discuss the budget during a work session.
At the beginning of the meeting, county Chief Administrator Weston Young filled the commissioners in with significant changes that were the result of committees reviewing their budget worksheets.
He said the state indicated there will be increased income tax revenue that will cover $3.5 million of the $11.3 million variance between income and spending.
The county’s share of funds generated by Ocean Down Casino help pay for capital projects with $610,000, and nearly $3 million in reductions were made by the county department heads.
Still, there was $5 million shortfall that was worked out during the work session last week.
The commissioners went through several departments during the meeting, including the county jail. The jail currently has 15 vacancies, according to Commissioner Diana Purnell, who was in favor of filling those positions if the department needed them.
What Purnell was not willing to do, though, was decide based on money.
She said the board needed to look at the reduction of $5 million coming from ICE and the reduction in officers to determine how to fix the issue.
“I would not want to go in there and try to change a thing,” Purnell said, unless she went in there herself and explained why changes needed to be made. “We are so hard core on money.”
Commissioner Ted Elder also weighed in on the jail shortage, stressing the importance of the facility.
He said he thought it was a good idea that five positions were eliminated and of the 15 vacancies, they can start looking for more. Elder also said with inflation rates going up, a proposal to split $84,000 across 24 officers is a good way to show the county appreciates them.
Commissioner Madison Bunting did not see it the same way and said if there was a 50 percent reduction in revenue coming in and fewer inmates, he saw no reason to go beyond the 15 vacancies.
After a discussion, the commissioners agreed they needed to get a report from jail personnel on where the facility plans to do in the future before filling the 15 vacancies.
The commissioners continued to look at areas where spending reductions were possible, but they still found themselves short $3,998,421.
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic proposed using FY22’s fund balance to balance the rest of the budget, and the board voted unanimously in agreement.
As a result, the second budget workshop scheduled for May 17 was canceled.
The commissioners will meet again on June 7 to vote on the final budget.