Com­mis­sion ap­proves $129 mil­lion bud­get

Record Observer - - Front Page - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

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.

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