Schools open Aug. 29 for 2016-17 school year
The 2016-17 school year officially begins on Monday, Aug. 29, for students in grades kindergarten through 12. Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) expects to welcome more than 26,500 students this school year. Students enrolled in the pre-kindergarten and 3-year-old program start school on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
Dates for the coming school year are available on the CCPS website in the 201617 Parent Handbook/ Calendar at http:// www.ccboe.com/calendar/201617CCPSCalendar.pdf.
Students and staff members will receive a copy of the calendar during the first week of school. To ensure all students and staff receive a calendar, community requests will not be honored until after the first two weeks of school.
For additional back to school information, including open house and orientation dates and times, go to the CCPS press releases section of the website at http:// www.ccboe.com/pr/.
Stewart to host back-to-school fiesta
Commissioner Amanda Stewart (D) will host her second annual Back to School Community Fiesta 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, at Mattawoman Middle School, 10145 Berry Road, Waldorf. There will be information about healthy eating, learning activities and more. All children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. RSVPs are no longer needed.
State sales tax waived during Tax-Free Week
The annual Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week takes place Aug. 14-20. During that week, any single, qualifying article of clothing or footwear priced $100 or less — regardless of how many items are purchased at the same time — will be exempt from the state’s 6 percent sales tax.
Resulting from legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2007, the tax-free week is held annually during the second week in August.
Businesses selling items that are not eligible for inclusion in the tax-free week can still participate in Shop Maryland. Under “Sellers Privilege,” other unqualified merchandise can be sold tax-free, but the retailer is responsible for paying the sales tax owed to the state.
For more information on qualifying items, go to the Comptroller of Maryland’s website at www. maryland taxes. com, e-mail taxhelp@ comp.state.md.us or call 410-260-7980 in Central Maryland or toll-free at 1-800-MD-TAXES.
SMECO warns customers to avoid payment scams
Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) customer-members have been victimized from time to time as scammers seem to work their way through different areas of the country. Some trends have emerged as scammers become more proficient.
“Scammers frequently prey on the elderly and people who speak English as a second language. But, lately, businesses have been targeted,” Tom Dennison, managing director of government and public affairs at SMECO, said in a press release.
In one incident, a frantic business owner received a call and was told his power would be cut off within an hour if he didn’t make a payment. “That business owner was focused on a major event he was preparing for, and he became alarmed. Rather than taking a few minutes to contact SMECO directly to check his account, he made a payment over the phone to the fraudulent caller,” Dennison said.
Scammers may target businesses because of several factors. Businesses usually have higher monthly bills and scammers will take advantage of that, claiming the business customer owes $1,500 rather than just $200. Businesses may have more than one person authorized to pay bills, and scammers exploit the lack of communication between employees and business owners.
To cause further confusion, scammers can make the name of the utility appear on a customer’s caller ID, and they have improved their ability to trick people by duplicating voice recordings and imitating utility phone systems.
“Some of the ways these scammers can imitate the utility are pretty convincing. A scammer who provided a callback number even used voice prompts that were recorded from SMECO’s phone system,” Dennison said.
SMECO has a set routine for collecting payments from customers. Unknown callers who give short deadlines and threaten to cut off service within an hour or two are probably running a scam. SMECO will mail a termination notice if a bill is past due. SMECO calls customers who owe a past due balance using an automated phone system with a recorded message; rarely will SMECO employees make personal “collection” phone calls.
Collection calls are made about 10 days before service is to be terminated. SMECO does not require payment at the time of the call. SMECO does not make collection calls or terminate service on weekends or holidays. If service is going to be terminated, a SMECO collector will knock on the customer’s door before turning off service. SMECO collectors will accept credit card payments, checks, or money orders, but they do not accept cash.
Conversely, customers who know they owe money should contact SMECO to make payment arrangements.
Fraudulent activities are also conducted by email. Customers who receive electronic bill notices should not open emails from unfamiliar sources. SMECO’s emails contain account-specific information, such as the customer’s name and the first few digits of the account number, and they use the co-op’s distinctive orange and green colors. Emails that contain several grammar and spelling mistakes are probably not legitimate. If an email looks suspicious, it may contain malware or links to a virus-infected website. Customers who receive a suspicious email should not open it or click on any links; they can simply delete the email.
For customers who believe they have received a fraudulent email or phone call, some basic guidelines follow. Customers should use the phone number printed on their monthly bill and only give payment information over the phone if they initiate the contact. Customers should not provide personal information, banking information, user names, passwords, or account information to unauthorized callers or in an email. Customers should not provide Green Dot, Western Union, or Moneygram payments to unauthorized callers. Customers should never meet unauthorized callers at a local store or bank to make a payment—their personal safety could be at risk.
For more information, call SMECO at 1-888440-3311 or go to smeco. coop/stop-scams.
Kickball tournament to benefit foundation
The Community Foundation of Southern Maryland’s sixth annual Community Kickball Tournament, presented by Bayside Auto Group, will take place 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, at Hallowing Point Park in Calvert County. Sign up or sponsor by Aug. 12.
Teams are made up of 10 players (mixture of males and females). Individual registration is $15 and sponsored team levels start with our Grand Slam sponsor at $1,250, Home Run sponsor at $500, and a Triple Play sponsor at $250. All players will receive a T-shirt. Sponsors will get there business logo on all t-shirts and printed materials and recruit their own team players. Check in is at 1:30 p.m. and the tournament begins at 2 p.m. Each team is guaranteed two games and prizes will be given to the first and second place teams.
For additional rules and details, to volunteer, sponsor, or register, go to www.somdgiving.org, or contact Lisa McKinnon at donorservices@cfsomd. org, or call 240-670-4483 (GIVE).
Partnership helps save more than $2 million on prescriptions
United Way of Charles County Inc. and familywize announced in
a press release that 11,675 local community members have saved $2,091,567 on prescription medications through the organizations’ partnership. The results were revealed in the annual Health Impact Report, a compendium of data reflecting the health and financial support offered by United Way and familywize in its joint community initiatives across the countr y.
More than 1,000 United Way chapters have collaborated with familywize to help 9.6 million Americans save more than $1 billion, with an average savings of 40 percent since the partnership began, according to the press release.
The familywize program is free and saved participants an average of 43 percent off of their prescription medications in 2015. Accepted at more than 60,000 pharmacies nationwide and covering all FDA approved prescription medications, the familywize card has no eligibility requirements and is available to anyone. To sign up for the program, go to www.familywize.org, download the Android or Apple app, or print out the card. The card is also available at the United Way of Charles County, Inc.
For more information about United Way of Charles County, Inc., go to unitedwaycharles.org or call 301-609-4844. required to be tested in accordance with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 217 and 2034 standards. Manufacturers are required to submit these life saving devices to approved testing laboratories, such as, UL or Intertek/ETL for testing and review. Approved laboratories test these devices to the industry-accepted standard. When devices are not tested to this standard, they may not accurately detect the presence of smoke and fire in the appropriate time and thusly not allow occupants to escape the effects of fire or a carbon monoxide incident.
The National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), an association whose principal membership comprises the senior fire officials in the United States and their top deputies, is asking the countr y’s largest online retailer to stop the sale of smoke alarms that are not tested to nationally-recognized standards and which may not comply with applicable building codes in many states and municipalities. NASFM is also asking the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to take action to ensure consumers are protected and purchasing safe products.
NASFM identified multiple smoke alarm brands lacking third party testing laboratory marks on Amazon. com including: X-Sense, Arikon and Bovon.
Safety tips and best practices:
• Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of the home, including the basement. For best protection, smoke alarms should be installed inside and outside sleeping rooms. Make sure everyone can hear the alarm, knows what it sounds like and what to do when it activates. Keeping bedroom doors closed while sleeping will help prevent smoke and toxic gases from entering the room, allowing more time for the occupant(s) to escape or be rescued. People who may be hard-of-hearing or deaf can use specialty alarms. These alarms have lower decibel 520 mhz alarms, lights and/ or bed shakers. Install photoelectric smoke alarms near the kitchen to prevent nuisance alarms. Generally, the device should be a minimum of 10 feet from a cooking appliance. For the best protection, equip your home with a combination of ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or dual-sensor alarms. Smoke alarms with non-replaceable 10 year long-life batteries are available and are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. These devices are now required where battery-only devices are in use in the State of Maryland. If the alarm chirps on these units, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away. For smoke alarms with any other type of battery, replace batteries at least once a year (preferably twice a year during daylight saving time). If the alarm chirps, replace only the battery. Remember, even alarms that are hardwired into your home electrical system need to have their battery maintained in case of an electrical power outage. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning to keep smoke and CO alarms working properly. The instructions are included in the package or can be found on the internet. Test alarms once a month using the test button. All smoke and CO alarms should be replaced every 10 years to ensure the earliest notification in the event an incident occurs. Devise a fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and a designate an outside meeting place. Share and practice the plan with all who live in the home, including children. Be sure guests are aware of the plan as well. When a smoke alarm sounds, get out of the home immediately and go to a pre-planned outside meeting place to call 911.