FY 2018 bud­get gets OK

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By DO­RIAN MITCHELL dmitchell@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CHESTERTOWN — The Kent County Com­mis­sion­ers unan­i­mously adopted the county’s fis­cal year 2018 bud­get and weighed in on sub­mit­ted pub­lic com­ments dur­ing a meet­ing Tues­day.

The bud­get, which takes ef­fect July 1, has a bal­anced gen­eral fund of about $49.5 mil­lion. Kent County will be­gin the new fis­cal year with a fund bal­ance of $7.1 mil­lion.

The com­mis­sion­ers also kept the prop­erty tax rate at $1.022 per $100 of as­sessed value and $2.555 per $100 as­sessed value for pub­lic util­i­ties. There will be no in­creases to taxes or fees in FY 2018.

Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Pick­rum said the com­mis­sion­ers re­ceived four writ­ten com­ments from cit­i­zens via email last week that “re­ally de­cried” the bud­get, with each fo­cus­ing on fund­ing to Kent County Pub­lic Schools and the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of­fice.

“Our schools are and should be an at­trac­tion to bring fam­i­lies and work­ers to our area,” Fran­coise Sul­li­van wrote.

Robbi Behr and Jes­sica Machuga wrote that they were dis­ap­pointed in the com­mis­sion­ers’ “level of com­mit­ment” to ed­u­ca­tion in the county.

A copy of the FY 2018 bud­get shows $18.4 mil­lion has been al­lo­cated for ed­u­ca­tion, with the Kent County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion re­ceiv­ing about $17.9 mil­lion and the re­main­ing bal­ance go­ing to Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege and the Kent County Learn­ing Cen­ter.

“It was ex­actly the amount of funds the school sys­tem did re­quest,” Pick­rum said.

Machuga and Kent County Arts Coun­cil Pres­i­dent John Schratwieser both wrote that more busi­nesses that can at­tract vis­i­tors and young fam­i­lies alike are needed in the county.

Schratwieser wrote that there ap­pears to be “so much em­pha­sis on pro­vid­ing pri­mar­ily for the ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.”

Machuga cited the re­cent clos­ing of Ch­ester 5 The­atres in Chestertown as a “big hit” to the area, be­cause “we have noth­ing else to of­fer.”

Pick­rum said the theater is within the town and thus not “a county is­sue.”

“It is un­for­tu­nate that some­one made a busi­ness de­ci­sion to close the Ch­ester theater. But busi­nesses make busi­ness de­ci­sions” Pick­rum said. “We’re gov­ern­ment, not a busi­ness.”

He said the “multi-mil­lion dol­lar” Wor­ton Park is most likely one of the best “of its kind” and is highly ac­ces­si­ble. He said the Kent County Parks and Re­cre­ation Depart­ment is re­ceiv­ing about $1.8 mil­lion in FY 2018.

“This board is not ig­nor­ing youth ac­tiv­i­ties or ac­tiv­i­ties for any of our other cit­i­zens. There’s a plethora of ac­tiv­i­ties out there,” Pick­rum said. “We do take re­cre­ation se­ri­ously.”

The bud­get shows that $248,428 has been al­lo­cated for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Sul­li­van wrote that to truly show­case the broad­band fiber net­work be­ing built through­out Kent County, the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of­fice needs a strong and well-funded mar­ket­ing cam­paign.

“The 1G (gi­ga­bit) ser­vice is crit­i­cal to our fu­ture and to draw­ing these younger peo­ple/fam­i­lies ... but only if they know about it and only when it is up and func­tion­ing,” Schratwieser wrote.

“We’ve all made a big-to do about the fiber net­work com­ing to KC, but we can­not ex­pect that merely putting the fiber in the ground is go­ing to drive busi­ness here,” Behr wrote.

Com­mis­sioner Bill Short said the county’s $4.5 mil­lion com­mit­ment to the fiber net­work last year and its on­go­ing sup­port of KRM De­vel­op­ment Corp.’s Chestertown busi­ness cam­pus project shows its ded­i­ca­tion to boost­ing the lo­cal econ­omy

“We’re ad­dress­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and we’re ad­dress­ing the school sys­tem to the best that we can, with the funds that we have,” he said.

Pick­rum said with the theater clos­ing, there is now a “void” that oth­ers could see as an “en­tre­pre­neur­ial op­por­tu­nity” to pur­sue.

“Step up to the plate and fill it,” he said. “Eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is not an overnight op­er­a­tion. In some cases, it’s gen­er­a­tional.”

Also at the meet­ing, the com­mis­sion­ers held a pub­lic hear­ing on a pro­posed text amend­ment, pre­vi­ously sub­mit­ted by Sul­tana Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion. The amend­ment is to al­low safe har­bor for the foun­da­tion’s ves­sels dur­ing ex­treme weather, keep­ing them moored at a pri­vately owned pier.

It also al­lows the ex­ten­sion of pri­vate pier stan­dards ex­clu­sively for tall ships, in the “event of a hur­ri­cane or other se­vere weather-re­lated threat.”

Apart from Sul­tana Pres­i­dent Drew McMullen’s ex­pla­na­tion of the amend­ment, there were no pub­lic com- ments. The com­mis­sion­ers will con­sider the amend­ment at their June 20 meet­ing.

The com­mis­sion­ers voted to waive the bid­ding process for re­me­di­a­tion at the Ni­chol­son land­fill near Chestertown. This will al­low the use of a flare sys­tem from Theia Air LLC to tem­po­rar­ily bring the site un­der Mary­land En­vi­ron­ment Ser­vice com­pli­ance, un­til a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion is found.

En­vi­ron­men­tal Op­er­a­tions Di­vi­sion Chief Marty Holden and Ryan Ran­gel of McCrone Inc. at­tended the meet­ing. Holden said cur­rently, there are is­sues with meth­ane gas dis­charges at the land­fill.

He said the flare sys­tem’s equip­ment vents the gas and burns it away. Ran­gel said the equip­ment will be pi­lot tested while his firm con­ducts a pre­lim­i­nary en­gi­neer­ing re­port.

Holden said the cost to rent the equip­ment — $22,000 — is in his bud­get.

“As I’ve said be­fore, Ni­chol­son is the gift that keeps on giv­ing,” Pick­rum said.

The com­mis­sion­ers met with County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Shel­ley Heller in a closed ses­sion to dis­cuss per­son­nel mat­ters.

PHOTO BY DO­RIAN MITCHELL

Kent County Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Pick­rum speaks about sev­eral pub­lic com­ments on the fis­cal year 2018 bud­get dur­ing a meet­ing Tues­day.

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