GREENSBORO — The Caroline County Commissioners have proposed an operating budget just over $60 million and a capital budget of nearly $23 million for fiscal 2023. The proposed operating budget is up about $2 million from the current budget but less than the nearly $62 million requested. The proposed capital budget is down more than $1.5 million from the current year.
Three people spoke on the proposed budgets May 3. The budget hearing as well as the annual constant yield tax rate and municipal property tax differential hearings were held at Greensboro Volunteer Fire Company Community Hall with about 25 people in attendance.
Cliff Coppersmith of Centreville, president of Chesapeake College, thanked the commissioners for their support of the community college and its programs.
Carol Visintainer of Denton, president of the Library Board of Trustees, also thanked the commissioners and county staff, signaling out County Administrator Jeremy Goldman and Public Works Director Ryan White for their help with a grant for the soon-to-start renovation of the central library. The Denton branch library was last updated in 1995.
She said the library plays an important role in the community and noted funds bequeathed to the library by the late John Hargreaves would serve as the local match for the state grant so the library doesn’t have to ask county for the money.
Bob Chapel of Ridgely of Ridgely said, “The budget is fat — again.”
He said funding for tourism is “a complete waste of money … this is not a destination.”
Chapel also objected to funds budgeted for nine nonprofit organizations operating in the county. He said he was sure they were “all fine organizations” but they “should not be getting taxpayer money.” He said it was his prerogative to give them money if he wanted to.
He did say he thought it was time to give the library some capital funding.
The biggest ticket items on the proposed operating budget are the board of education at $14,734,735, the sheriff’s office at $5,196,064, corrections at $4,630,111, emergency medical services at $4,573,627 and debt service at $3,927,850.
All three county commissioners praised staff for their hours working on the various budgets.
Commissioner Dan Franklin said it’s important to support organizations that make the community better.
Commission President Larry Porter said the proposed budget is about $1.8 million more than the current one, and most of those increases are in public safety.
“The sheriff’s department was increased almost 22%. The fire companies requested, and we were very happy to give them a 10% increase,” Porter said.
He also noted about a million in debt came off the books for the next year.
Porter said the fire companies are nonprofits and he didn’t think anyone objected to giving them money. As for the other nonprofits, “they do good work, and we do make sure that these organizations are run properly. We do make sure that the money is spent appropriately.”
Caroline County was not as adversely affected by Kirwan as feared this year, he said, stressing that’s just “this year, all bets are off in the coming years.”
The commissioners are proposing to leave the county’s property tax rate at 98 cents per $100 of assessed value for fiscal 2023. Because state assessments have gone up in most parts of the county, that would result in an additional $543,908 in revenues. To maintain the constant yield rate, the county would need to lower the rate to 95.19 cents per $100 of assessed value, so leaving the rate at 98 cents is an increase in real property taxes.
Chapel said the commissioners should try to create the budget without including the additional income. He also said he doesn’t think most people understand that leaving the rate at 98 cents is a tax increase.
Porter said the language used to advertise the constant yield is that required by the state.
Of the county’s 10 incorporated towns, five of them provide services to their residents, such as police. The county offers town residents a differential, or discount, so they aren’t being taxed on duplicate services.
The commissioners propose to leave the 2023 municipal property tax differential rates unchanged from the current year: 8 cents per $100 of assessed value for Federalsburg, 6 cents for both Denton and Greensboro, 5 cents for Ridgely and 1 cent for Preston.
No one offered testimony on the tax differential rates.
The commissioners unanimously voted to adopt the municipal tax differential rates as proposed. They set May 17 as the date to vote on the county’s property tax rate and noted the capital and operating budgets are set for vote at the June 7 evening meeting.
Reporter Tom McCall also contributed to this article.