Dorchester County Council approves FY18 budget

CAMBRIDGE — At its regular Tuesday meeting, the Dorchester County Council passed its new budget for fiscal year 2018.
The budget vote was taken after a public comment period that elicited no input from the small crowd in attendance at the county meeting room. The call for public comments and the vote took less than two minutes of meeting time.

Council President Ricky Travers congratulated the county staff for creating a budget that was essentially flat, with two exceptions, containing no increases in spending, and most importantly, “No new tax increases!,” a comment that he pointedly aimed at the press desk, and repeated three times. He pointed out also that the county has not increased taxes in at least five years.

The two significant line items in the new budget are the new North Dorchester High School, at slightly less than $12 million, and replacement of the public safety radio system with an estimated cost of $10 million.

The new school has been talked about, debated and ultimately approved for years, and its appearance in the budget was no surprise. Similarly, the county has been discussing the efforts to maintain and repair the two-way radio system for years, knowing that it was beyond its service life and would have to be replaced eventually.

The new year’s budget is based on an operating budget of $57,455,340, versus 2017’s operating budget of $57,094,622. Capital expenditures for 2017 were $8,071,358; which increases to $26,271,170 for FY18 including the new school and radio system. The proposed total expenditures for FY18 is $86,002,807 versus 2017’s adopted total of $68,299,613.

Projected operating revenue for FY18 remains virtually flat at $57,455,340, compared to the adopted operating revenue of 2017 of $57,094,622. Grant income is expected to remain nearly unchanged at $2,276,297 versus $3,133,633 for FY17. The county expects to issue bonds to cover the expenses for the school and radio system.

A public hearing in the same meeting was held for the county schedule of fees, which remains the same for the new fiscal year, with the exception of a rise in the landfill tipping fee of two dollars, from $60 to $62 a ton. No public comment was given, and the schedule of fees was voted and approved.

A second public hearing was held regarding water facility improvements in the Bonnie Brook Sanitary District. The water system there is failing and a project has been planned to upgrade the system and install new water meters. The project will cost an estimated $660,000, with approximately half of the funds coming from a USDA grant, and half from a USDA loan.

The Bonnie Brook project is expected to take 12 to 18 months to finish, and is expected to be accompanied by a $10 per month fee increase. Resident Richard Hinkle asked about the projected expense, and it was also pointed out that it was possible that some residents will see a more significant increase in their water bills since the existing water meters on site are not all working properly.

A third public hearing was held, seeking approval to apply for a Community Development Block Grant for the new fiscal year, which was quickly approved. The grant would be used to refurbish the washrooms in the county office building, and to add one new washroom to the Circuit Court building.

Paul Clipper is the editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at pclipper@newszap.com.

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