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Budget Committee makes spending list for COVID money

Employee bonuses among recommendations

MONEY TALK – Carroll County Budget Committee chairman Darrell Ridgely leads discussion regarding how to spend the latest round of COVID funding from the government during the March 3 meeting.

How to spend $2.7 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding already received from the federal government and another $2.7 expected to come in later this year – that was the main topic of discussion during the March 3 meeting of the Carroll County Budget Committee.

After quite a bit of discussion and number crunching, committee members voted that $475,OOO should be slated for employee bonuses, up to $500,000 set aside for broadband expansion in the county, up to $500,000 designated for water and sewer system improvements for county municipalities and utility districts, and $50,000 allocated for new digital pollbooks for the Election Commission.

These proposed expenditures will be presented to the full Legislative Body in the form of separate resolutions.

Other spending possibilities, most involving requests from various county department heads, were discussed, but it was generally decided to hold off on those for the time being.

Regarding employee bonuses, the committee voted to recommend a one-time $2,000 bonus for fulltime county employees and a $1,000 bonus for parttime employees, as well as $40,000 for the Carroll County Board of Education to be divided out as bonuses for that school district’s employees.

The extra social security and insurance expenses were factored into the total $475,000 amount.

According to County Mayor Joseph Butler, the $500,000 for water/sewer improvements, which includes $50,000 for each of the county’s eight municipalities and two utility districts, is a maximum amount that will be made available as possible county participation should any municipalities and/or utility districts in the county seek state loans from federal funding marked for wastewater infrastructure projects.

As Butler pointed out, county participation will help these municipalities and utility districts secure lower matching percentages for these loans, and he added that better water and sewer systems will help promote economic growth, which would mean more tax revenue for the county in the long run.

Regarding the $500,000 for broadband expansion, Butler said that would be held as a maximum pledge from the county in case a company (like Charter or TEC) is awarded government grant funding for broadband expansion projects in the county.

“I understand that county support helps them to get state grant funding,” said Butler.

Kelsey Schweitzer with the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) pointed out that all ARP funding must be obligated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

In other business:

•The committee generally agreed to conduct yearly budget meetings with the various department heads on March 24, starting at 9 a.m., and that each department head needs to submit a proposed budget to Butler by March 18 so that committee members can review these proposals in advance.

•It was generally agreed that, starting in April, the Budget Committee will begin meeting regularly on the third Thursday of each month.

•Several amendments to the current fiscal year budget were approved for recommendation to the Legislative Body.

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