Culver calls for departments to cut 2.5 percent in next budget

County Executive Bob Culver is calling on each county department to incorporate 2.5 percent expense-line cuts into fiscal 2016 budget planning.

“I’m sending notice to all departments,” Culver told Salisbury Independent. “We’re going back to a line-item way of looking at the budget and reviewing spending. We will remeasure all of our needs and wants.”

With the county budget expected to be just short of $130 million, the cuts ordered by the county executi1198-1-06059ve are expected to save roughly $3.5 million next year.

Culver said the feedback from county administrative leaders has indicated the cuts are possible.

“I’m not asking for cuts to a major part of the budget,” he said. “Department heads should find it real easy.”

Culver said his next two weeks will be devoted mapping out the spending plan that could ultimately define his term as the county’s top leaders.

He said the cuts were negotiable for some departments.

“Some won’t have to cut that much, possibly, but there are other that I know can cut more,” he said.

Culver said he would, for example, understand the need to maintain consistent funding for public safety.

“For example, (State’s Attorney) Matt Maciarello — I don’t expect to see (expense cut) that from him because public safety is such a concern.”

Culver has repeatedly suggested the county will need to increase funding and initiate programs to deal with the local heroin and opiates problem. He has also maintained the county needs to spend more on economic development and marketing.

He said he is making inquiries on how to use Safe Streets grants money to help tackle the opium-use problem.

Culver said he would also use saved monies to pay down debt service and remodel county schools.

County revenue projections for the current year show that Wicomico will finish with a $2.1 million surplus, which would mark the fourth consecutive year of positive year-end results.

The county reserve fund — or “Rainy Day Fund” — stands at $41.7 million. Culver said the County Council will ultimately decide where to set the reserve fund and whether to pay down debt.

The executive said he and department heads will present their budgets to the council at the same time “to eliminate a lot of back and forth” and that he wants the budget process mostly completed by May 1.

“The more time we have to go over things (in a final form) the better,” he said.

In 2014, Wicomico County derived 49 percent of its revenues from property taxes. According to Wall Street bonding analysts, the county maintains low overall debt level, at roughly $1,157 per capita and 1.9 percent of market value. Debt servicing costs are 9.5 percent of total governmental spending.

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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