Spend­ing Af­ford­abil­ity Com­mit­tee presents re­port

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

CEN­TRE­VILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers will re­view and make a de­ci­sion at its next meet­ing whether or not to ac­cept the Spend­ing Af­ford­abil­ity Com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tions for the up­com­ing bud­get cy­cle.

Dur­ing the board’s Tues­day, Nov. 22, meet­ing, the Spend­ing Af­ford­abil­ity Com­mit­tee, made up of Anne McKin­non, Joe Zim­mer­man and John Wilson, pre­sented 10 rec­om­men­da­tions. The com­mit­tee was charged with mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions on spend­ing lev­els for the up­com­ing years and looked at sus­tain­able lev­els of debt, the six-year Cap­i­tal Im­prove­ment Pro­gram, the fi­nan­cial fore­cast and the county’s fund bal­ance, said Jon See­man, di­rec­tor of bud­get and fi­nance.

The rec­om­men­da­tions are as fol­lows: perform a re­al­is­tic out-year bud­get pro­jec­tion for cap­i­tal projects with de­tailed fore­casts; re­name the “Spe­cial Fund” to “Rev­enue Sta­bi­liza­tion Fund” and add $1 mil­lion per year un­til 5 per­cent of the prior year’s op­er­at­ing bud­get is ob­tained; use the fund bal­ance for non­re­cur­ring ex­pen­di­tures; unas­signed bal­ance to be used for in­fra­struc­ture needs and one­time cap­i­tal ex­penses bud­geted in the Cap­i­tal Im­prove­ment Pro­gram; change the mea­sure of debt as a per­cent­age of Gen­eral Fund rev­enues to an av­er­age of 10 per­cent of op­er­at­ing bud­get over a three­year pe­riod with a max­i­mum of 12 per­cent in any one year; op­er­at­ing bud­get ex­pen­di­ture growth not to ex­ceed rev­enue es­ti­mates; use per capita debt per cap­i­tal in­come with an 8 per­cent cap; only one debt mea­sure may be bro­ken in any given year; and in­crease the Rainy Day Fund to 8 per­cent from 7 per­cent.

If the rec­om­men­da­tions are ac­cepted and are not fol­lowed dur­ing the pass­ing of the fis­cal bud­get, the com­mis­sion­ers would be re­quired to state in their an­nual bud­get res­o­lu­tion why they did not fol­low a spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tion.

See­man, who made the pre­sen­ta­tion on be­half of the com­mit­tee, said since the Re­ces­sion the county’s fund bal­ance has made progress, adding a few mil­lion dol­lars ev­ery year. Though the fund bal­ance has seen in­creases the last five years, See­man cau­tioned that of the county’s two main sources to gen­er­ate rev­enue — in­come and prop­erty tax — only in­come tax has in­creased.

See­man said that prop­erty val­ues have been “es­sen­tially flat” and that the county is re­ly­ing on in­come tax. See­man said that “both the op­er­at­ing and cap­i­tal bud­gets are prob­a­bly not sus­tain­able un­der the as­sump­tions and practices of re­cent years.” He said in­come tax is an “ad­mit­tedly volatile rev­enue source.”

Be­cause of that, the com­mit­tee rec­om­mended low­er­ing ex­pec­ta­tions for more ex­pen­sive ex­pen­di­tures, which See­man said are usu­ally em­ployee salaries and ben­e­fits, as well as fund­ing of the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.

For the cap­i­tal bud­get, See­man said the county is near­ing the max­i­mum al­low­able debt of $150 mil­lion. A fo­cus on pri­or­i­ties and “core ser­vice lev­els” needs to be es­tab­lished in both the op­er­at­ing and cap­i­tal bud­gets and needs to be “mind­ful” of the debt mea­sures.

“Do long range plan­ning. Do an ef­fec­tive CIP. Not what you think you can af­ford, what you think you need,” Zim­mer­man said, “be­cause you’re all about de­liv­er­ing ser­vices to the pub­lic that the pub­lic re­quire and de­mand. You can’t just ig­nore that or you end up with a mess.”

Com­mis­sioner Steve Wilson echoed the com­mit­tee’s re­port in that he ex­pressed cau­tion for “fu­ture out­lays, par­tic­u­larly big ex­pense items.” He said com­mit­ments should be made with care.

“W’re in good shape but we are in good shape as long as we don’t spend a lot more, get in­volved with a lot more big ticket items,” Wilson said.

The Spend­ing Af­ford­abil­ity Com­mit­tee was cre­ated by the pas­sage of Or­di­nance 1511 in 2015.

Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @mike_k­ibay­times.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

The Queen Anne’s County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers lis­ten to the Spend­ing Af­ford­abil­ity Com­mit­tee present bud­get rec­om­men­da­tions dur­ing its Tues­day, Nov. 22, meet­ing.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

From left: Jon See­man, di­rec­tor of bud­get and fi­nance, and Spend­ing Af­ford­abil­ity Com­mit­tee mem­bers John Wilson, Anne McKin­non and Joe Zim­mer­man.

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