By Greg Wehner
Worcester County officials anticipate being $11.3 million short of covering the $229.6 million spending budget proposed for FY23, versus $218.3 million in revenue being projected next year.
Chief Administrator Weston Young presented the budget to the county commissioners on May 3, just before a public hearing on a proposed increase in real property taxes.
According to a notice that was posted, the estimated real property assessable base will increase by 1.9 percent from $16.5 billion to $16.8 billion, and if the county maintains its current tax rate of $0.845 per $100 of assessment, real property tax revenues will increase by 1.9 percent, or $2.6 million of new real property tax revenues.
The notice said the rate could be reduced to $0.8294, the constant yield tax rate, to offset the increasing assessments, though the county is considering not reducing its real property tax rate enough to fully offset them.
Instead, the county is proposing to adopt a real property tax rate of $0.845 per $100 of assessment, which is 1.9 percent higher than the constant yield tax rate and will generate $2.6 million in additional property tax revenues.
The county gets 92.5 percent of its revenue from three sources: property taxes, income taxes, and recordation and transfers.
While this year the county is expected to generate close to $2 million more in revenue than last year, the county will still be $11.3 million short of the $218.3 it plans to spend in FY23.
To reconcile the shortage, the county will make reductions in requested expenditures, create additional revenues, or a combination of both.
Education accounts for 50.6 percent of the budget, according to Young, and the school district is expected to get a $4.2 million boost from what it received last year.
The budget also helps fund Wor-Wic Community College, which did not seek an increase in funds this year, and public safety, which will get nearly $2 million more in FY23 than FY22 because of new programs such as police body cameras.
It also helps fund the State’s Attorney’s department, health and libraries, recreation, parks, tourism, economic development, and every other aspect of the county government to allow it to function.
The county’s income tax rate of 2.25 percent is the lowest in the state, Young said, and the $0.845 property tax rate it is proposing is the second lowest on the Eastern Shore, and third lowest in the state.
Young said during his presentation that a real property tax rate of $0.9076 would fully fund the revenue shortfall, but the county plans to maintain the $0.845 rate.
When the floor was opened for the public to chime in on the property tax rate increase, nobody spoke on it specifically.
Instead, many people, including Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Lou Taylor, thanked the commissioners for providing the funds the district needs to educate the students with the latest technology while maintaining small classrooms.
Others asked the commissioners and school district officials to take another look at getting bus contractors more money, especially as the cost of fuel continues to rise and the operators themselves do not get the same benefits as district employees.
Two budget work sessions will be held at the county government center in Snow Hill. The first took place on May 10, and the second is scheduled on May 17 at 1 p.m.
On June 7, the commissioners are expected to vote on and adopt the budget and tax rate.
For more information about the budget, call 410-632-1194 or visit www.co.worcester.md.us.