School fund­ing, raises, taxes top bud­get talks

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

SUDLERSVILLE — More money for schools, per­for­mance raises for county em­ploy­ees, taxes and the South Kent Is­land sewer project were the fo­cus of the third and fi­nal fis­cal 2017 bud­get hear­ing.

The cafe­te­ria at Sudlersville Ele­men­tary School on Wed­nes­day, April 27, was filled with about 45 com­mu­nity mem­bers with ques­tions about the pro­posed $130 mil­lion op­er­a­tional bud­get, of which 15 peo­ple spoke.

Former County Com­mis­sioner Mike Kova (2002-2006) said the county is “flush with cash,” hav­ing in­creased the bud­get by $13 mil­lion in four years with­out low­er­ing the taxes.

“I like this, ‘Live, Work and Play in Queen Anne’s County,’” he said. “That sign ought to say ‘Live, Work and Pay in Queen Anne’s County’ be­cause ... the cit­i­zens are pay­ing a lot more.”

Ko­val said in­creased money has come into the county at the cit­i­zen ex­pense and that main­te­nance projects, such as road re­pairs, are not be­ing done. Ko­val said the shoul­ders are not be­ing graded to al­low wa­ter run-off and he can show the com­mis­sion roads that are in dis­re­pair.

One rea­son all the depart­ments are ask­ing for in­creases to bud­gets, he said, is be­cause the county has the money in re­serves, more than $20 mil­lion, to sup­port those re­quests.

Sudlersville Ele­men­tar y Prin­ci­pal Richard McNeal asked the com­mis­sion­ers to imag­ine they were coach­ing a baseball team with 16 ath­letes. On this team, he said, three peo­ple have never seen or played baseball and don’t know the rules and six had played but were given in­cor­rect train­ing. Four of the fam­i­lies on the team do not have enough money to buy equip­ment, such as gloves, bats and hel­mets. One child is deaf “but oth­er­wise healthy,” and three chil­dren do not speak or un­der­stand English, he said.

On top of the var­i­ous in­di­vid­u­als com­pris­ing the group, the team only re­ceived two bats and three balls for the en­tirety of the sea­son. In two weeks, McNeal said, some­one from the state will be in at­ten­dance to as­sess the team’s progress and the com­mis­sion­ers’ ap­proach to coach­ing and de­vel­op­ing them.

“Know­ing this, you now have to de­velop a plan for prac­tice and train­ing. This is your re­spon­si­bil­ity as a coach,” McNeal said. “This is sim­i­lar to what many of our teach­ers are chal­lenged with ev­ery sin­gle day.”

McNeal asked the com­mis­sion­ers to fully fund the board’s pro­posed bud­get be­cause with­out the re­sources to sup­port those chil­dren, to keep class sizes down and to ap­pro­pri­ately com­pen­sate the work of the staff, “the chil­dren in our schools will not make the play­offs.”

Bar­bara Obert, who spoke at the two pre­vi­ous bud­get hear­ings in Stevensville and Cen­tre­ville about the South Kent Is­land sewer project, sub­mit­ted two pub­lic in­for­ma­tion re­quests to the board of county com­mis­sion­ers. The first re­quest asks the com­mis­sion to post the re­quired en­gi­neer­ing and cost study for the sewer project on the county’s web­site.

Obert said she re­quested the find­ings of the $1.4 mil­lion study at a pre­vi­ous com­mis­sion meet­ing and thanked Com­mis­sioner Robert Buckey for pub­licly re­quest­ing the study be made avail­able at a later meet­ing, though it was never posted.

Obert’s se­cond re­quest asked com­mis­sion­ers for in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the cash flow, bud­geted amounts, spent and un­spent money, rev­enue, debt and ex­pen­di­tures to ac­count for the SKI sewer project.

“Why is this so im­por­tant to the good peo­ple of Sudlersville? Look­ing out at the six year pro­jec­tions for this year’s bud­get it doesn’t in­clude the schools, roads and ad­di­tional emer­gency ser­vices costs that will be in­curred in south Kent Is­land and the good peo­ple of Sudlersville and your taxes will help pay for,” Obert said. “What I hear from that is that there is a gi­ant suck­ing sound of funds down to schools on south Kent Is­land that will be com­pet­ing with the funds of your schools, roads and emer­gency ser­vices up here, and it’s some­thing we have to ac­count for.”

Jack Pullen with the county’s solid waste divi­sion of the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works was one of three speak­ers to ask the com­mis­sion to con­sider fund­ing the pay for per­for­mance.

Pullen, a county em­ployee for more than 25 years, said he rec­og­nized the im­por­tance of fund­ing the board of ed­u­ca­tion, that if he had “paid more at­ten­tion rather than cut­ting up in school I might be fur­ther than I am now,” but asked the com­mis­sion to sup­port the em­ploy­ees of the roads, san­i­tary and solid waste di­vi­sions.

Lawrence Gan­non with the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works also re­quested the county fund pay for per­for­mance, say­ing the em­ploy­ees take care of the roads, sew­ers and take on var­i­ous other projects in a range of weather to keep the county func­tion­ing smoothly.

The county com­mis­sion­ers will vote on the fis­cal 2017 bud­get on Tues­day, May 17, in the Lib­erty Build­ing in Cen­tre­ville.

Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @ mike_k­ibay­times.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

Bar­bara Obert, who spoke at the pub­lic bud­get hear­ings in Stevensville and Cen­tre­ville about the South Kent Is­land sewer project, of­fi­cially sub­mit­ted two pub­lic in­for­ma­tion re­quests to the board of county com­mis­sion­ers re­gard­ing the pro­posed project dur­ing the Wed­nes­day, April 27, hear­ing in Sudlersville.

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