Wicomico’s County Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a $161.14 million fiscal 2022 budget that takes effect July 1.
Under the formula imposed by the county’s Revenue Cap, property taxes would be cut by a penny, being set at $0.9195 per $100 of assessed value.
Revenues from property taxes are pegged at $61.48 million.
State tax assessors have calculated Wicomico's net accessible real property base at $6.66 billion, a 3.43 percent increase over last year. Each 1-cent change in the real property tax rate equals approximately $665,000 increase in real property tax revenue
Revenues from local income taxes -- so-called “piggyback taxes” -- are projected at $56.4 million.
The Wicomico County Board of Education has drafted a mostly flat budget that calls for a county contribution of $58.23 million, compared to $57.69 million last year.
Under the County Charter, the council can only cut the budget -- the seven-member body cannot add to spending.
A spring ritual has developed, however, in which the council has scrutinized various departments and redistributed spending according to political desires.
During this budget review, the council acted to reject several contingency spending allotments, which will force county department heads to obtain council approval to overspend their budgets.
Acting County Executive John Psota had proposed a fairly standard budget plan that reflects revenue uncertainties related to the pandemic. While county property taxes have been unaffected by the nationwide health emergency, there are concerns that income tax revenues -- which the county receives of a delayed basis from state collectors -- could be down significantly.
Psota’s first budget in the county’s top leadership post calls for $161.14 million in total spending.
“The primary focus of this budget is to identify and fund Wicomico County’s core service needs: public safety, public health, education and infrastructure,” Psota wrote in his budget message. “Additionally, this budget was prepared with the recognition that all county stakeholders’ finances have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The county continues to experience revenue growth, with receipts for next year estimated at $161.15 million, an increase of $7.8 million or 5.15 percent. That figure includes nearly $4 million in federal Covid-19 relief money.
In March, the county learned it would also receive $20 million in Coronavirus fiscal recovery relief funds, but officials are still weighing local needs before determining where to apply those dollars.
Unlike last year, the budget does not include a pay raise for county employees. The county has hired a consultant to conduct a salary survey and make recommendations on pay, which should come next year.
Spending in the county Sheriff’s Office would rise slightly to $14.2 million. The budget calls for a $1 million hike in ambulance services provided by volunteer fire companies, which is up almost $2 million over two years. As an offset, $400,000 would be cut from the volunteer fire services.
County roads spending would increase some $2.6 million.
In a budget work session held May 21, council members aired cuts to the county library and Tri-County Council.
Councilwoman Nicole Acle, who previously questioned the library’s operating decisions, suggested the county divert its $500,000 annual library contribution to public safety. No action to change the library’s contribution was taken Tuesday.
The Tri-County Council, which among other tasks operates Shore Transit, was seeking a $288,000 increase to make up for previous cuts.
Councilman Joe Holloway said he opposed the increase and proposed moving that money to police, fire or emergency services.
Holloway had objected to Shore Transit’s decision to donate two old buses to the city of Salisbury. The Tri-County Council increase, however, was ultimately included in a contingency account.