Bud­get in­put starts early in Calvert

Cit­i­zens bring con­cerns to town hall

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­news.com

The Calvert County De­part­ment of Fi­nance and Bud­get hosted a town hall Aug. 31 to present the county’s op­er­at­ing bud­get and cap­i­tal im­prove­ment plan process to county cit­i­zens, some of whom voiced con­cerns about trans­parency and fund­ing al­lo­ca­tions in the bud­get.

County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Terry Shan­non and Deputy County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Wil­son Par­ran, as well as county de­part­ment heads and cap­i­tal project man­agers, were on hand to re­ceive cit­i­zens’ in­put and an­swer ques­tions about the bud­get and projects.

“We rec­og­nize in the county that fi­nan­cial plan­ning is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of any healthy or­ga­ni­za­tion, and county govern­ment is no dif­fer­ent. It’s ac­tu­ally prob­a­bly even more crit­i­cal than in pri­vate in­dus­try be­cause the source of fund­ing is public funds,” said Shan­non to a room of nearly 60 peo­ple at the Calvert Pines Se­nior Cen­ter in Prince Fred­er­ick.

“We know we are han­dling your hard-earned tax dol­lars and we do not take that lightly,” added Shan­non.

Par­ran said it was im­por­tant to get cit­i­zens’ in­put into both the op­erat-

ing bud­get and the cap­i­tal im­prove­ment plan early in the process so that it can be in­cor­po­rated into the staff-rec­om­mended bud­get be­fore pre­sen­ta­tion to the Board of County Com­mis­sion­ers.

In Oc­to­ber of each year, the De­part­ment of Bud­get and Fi­nance be­gins col­lect­ing fund­ing re­quests from var­i­ous county of­fices and departments for their op­er­a­tional, staffing, main­te­nance and re­pair costs. This process con­tin­ues through to Jan­uary of the fol­low­ing year as the re­quests are vet­ted by staff, and work ses­sions are con­ducted with each of­fice or de­part­ment to ad­just the re­quests.

The first three months of each cal­en­dar year, fi­nance and bud­get staff de­velop rev­enue pro­jec­tions and up­dated rev­enue fore­cast for the next year. A work ses­sion is held with the board in Septem­ber to set the ex­pen­di­ture spend­ing guid­ance.

Items that bud­get and fi­nance staff and the departments dis­agree on go onto to an un­re­solved list for the BOCC to de­cide on later. Out­side fund­ing re­quests from other non-county agen­cies are also con­sid­ered.

In Fe­bru­ary, staff pro­duces a staff-rec­om­mended bud­get book that will be posted to the county gov- ern­ment’s web­site, once com­pleted. In March of each year, a public hear­ing is held on the staff-rec­om­mended bud­get. In April, the un­re­solved bud­get is­sues list is pre­sented to the com­mis­sion­ers for their in­put via work ses­sion.

In May, the bud­get is ad­justed to ac­com­mo­date the BOCC’s de­sired changes. The com­mis­sion­ers hold a public hear­ing to un­veil and dis­cuss their bud­get. In June, the com­mis­sion­ers vote on the bud­get. The adopted bud­get takes ef­fect July 1.

Dur­ing the public com­ment pe­riod, Drum Point res­i­dent and 2018 can­di­date for county com­mis­sioner Tricia Powell sug­gested the county ap­point a com­mu­nity ad­vi­sory board, with par­tic­i­pa­tion from each district, to pro­vide in­put into the pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of cap­i­tal projects and to en­cour­age greater trans­parency.

“When will you be in­cor­po­rat­ing those es­ti­mated $40 mil­lion into your bud­get?” asked Len Zuza of Solomons, re­fer­ring to the tax rev­enue from the Do­min­ion Cove Point LNG project. “Will you share with us places where those funds will be dis­trib­uted?”

But fi­nance and bud­get di­rec­tor Tim Hay­den said he thinks of the rev­enues and ex­penses as a pool and said he “doesn’t be­lieve we should re­ally match the dol­lars like that.” Shan­non in­formed the group that much of the money is going to­ward other post-em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits for county re­tirees, which is one of the larger ex­pen­di­tures in the bud­get.

“We need to be a lit­tle bit more proac­tive and I think it is well past time that we up­date our evac­u­a­tion study,” sug­gested Judy Hooker of Prince Fred­er­ick, ref­er­enc­ing the chal­lenges in Hous­ton due to Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

“We de­serve our roads to be safe,” added Hooker, de­mand­ing road im­prove­ments af­ter be­ing stuck on the St. Mary’s side of the Gov. Thomas John­son Bridge for two and half hours last week af­ter a traf­fic ac­ci­dent. “We’re tired of our traf­fic be­ing the way it is and not hav­ing an ef­fec­tive evac­u­a­tion sys­tem.”

Other res­i­dents asked about the sta­tus of ex­pen­di­tures on the planned Ar­mory Square de­vel­op­ment project, to which Shan­non said there is not much to share, as there has been no move­ment in commercial de­vel­op­ment, just pre­lim­i­nary con­ver­sa­tions with a de­vel­oper.

Fi­nance and bud­get deputy di­rec­tor Joan Thorp shared that the county ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing is in the six-year cap­i­tal im­prove­ment plan at $50 mil­lion.

On Sept. 19, fi­nance and bud­get staff will kick off the bud­get process with a work ses­sion with the com­mis­sion­ers to re­view bud­get fore­casts.

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