Commission approves $129 million budget
CENTREVILLE — After six budget work sessions and three public hearings, the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners approved both the Fiscal Year 2017 operating and capital budgets of $129 million and $35 million, respectively, during the Tuesday, May 17, meeting.
The operational budget was approved by a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Jack Wilson and Robert Buckey voting against it, and the capital budget was approved by a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Steve Wilson and Buckey voting against it. Jack Wilson said he voted no on the operational budget because he was “strongly for a tax break and I believe we could have done it.”
The total operational budget is
$129,439,127, and the total capital budget is $35,880,988.
The budget, which is an increase of 3.4 percent from the previous year’s budget of $125 million, keeps the real estate tax at the same level of $.8471 per $100 of assessed valuation. The commissioners opted not to use the lower constant yield rate, which is the rate needed to keep the property tax revenue the same as the previous year.
The county income tax rate of 3.2 percent will remain the same as the previous year.
A clause was added to the capital budget that requires any remaining funds from projects to be returned to the General Capital Project Fund rather than the money staying in a department’s capital budgets. Once the money is returned to the general fund, the commissioners must reallocate the money in order for it to be used.
“It’s basically to pick up all those table scraps instead of letting departments using those at their leisure for what they deem is necessary,” Moran said. “It’s our duty to be the care takers of citizens’ tax dollars.”
The resolution for the operating budget states that $0.15 of the county’s $4.95 recordation tax will be paid to the Critical Workforce Program by the Department
of Housing and Community Services. The remainder of the funds from the tax will go into the county’s general operating fund, Resolution 16-06 stated.
After numerous and loud requests from public works employees at the three April budget hearings, the county decided to fund the pay for performance system. To cover the cost, the commissioners reduced the cost of living allowance from the proposed 2 percent to 1 percent beginning July 1, then adding the pay for performance program. The system will use a one, two or three level rating system to determine an employee’s pay raise.
The county’s Board of Education will receive $1,060,708 above the state mandated maintenance of effort, which is a law that requires each county spend as much per student as it did the previous year. The increase is $937,000 above what the board was funded in FY16. The total education budget funded by the county is $53,787,293. The overall budget for the board of education, which includes state and grant money, is $87,905,759.
The total operational budgets for each department are as follows: county administration, $5,249,215; community services, $3,095,378; planning and zoning, $1,972,144; public safety, $13,008,931; public works, $9,880,624; parks, $3,636,931; board of education, $53,787,293; and other agencies, $20,137,865.
Incorporated towns will receive
their tax differential the same way they did last year, the commissioners decided in a 4-0 vote; Commissioners Jack Wilson abstained. Centreville had asked to receive the money as a lump sum rebate.
“What I’m going to propose [is] that the way we did it last year is the way we did it this year. I don’t think it’s fair to change it at the last second,” Moran said. “... If Queenstown has been keeping that money for the last three years and they keep it this year and their citizens have a problem with it, they can come to us next year. But we’ve all heard from the citizens of Centreville and I think that whoever ... received the money last year should receive it this July and keep it the same way.”
Jack Wilson said he was in favor of Centreville giving the money back to its citizens but not Millington and Sudlersville because those towns have smaller budgets to begin with and could use the money to support projects.
The municipalities had two choices to receive funds for the tax differential to ensure citizens weren’t doubled taxed for services provided by both the town and the county. The first option Jonathan Seeman, director of budget, finance and IT, said, is the towns can receive a “grant” to reimburse it for providing the service. The second option, Seeman said, is the town can choose to have a reduction in its citizens’ county property tax rate.
For FY17, the towns of Centreville, Millington and Sudlersville chose to receive the lump sum payment as did the remaining five municipalities. In 2016, Centreville, Millington and Sudlersville chose to have the rebate in the form of a tax reduction for its citizens.
Buckey said when the town officials came to make their case for duplicative service credits in early April, Centreville Town Councilman Jim Beauchamp, who spoke for the town, told the commission the town’s intention was to give the money back to the citizens. “I got some emails and some phone calls as well that that’s not being done now.”
Steve Wilson agreed with Moran’s motion to reimburse the towns the same way as last year because “we’re elected by citizens directly and then we set their taxes, and so are the officials of Centreville, and each of us is responsible to our citizens and I think we should give back the money to the people that elected us and they should deal with their citizens directly.”
Rather than giving the towns that asked for the lump sum, the commissioners overruled the towns and lowered the taxes for the citizens of the three individual towns by using the tax differential. The tax rate for Centreville will be $.7520 per $100 of assessed valuation, $.7928 per $100 of assessed valuation for Millington, and $.7925 for Sudlersville.