Commissioners ponder requests for 2018 legislature
Pay increases, limits for school super, more on table
On Tuesday, the Calvert Board of County Commissioners held its first of two work sessions to triage a litany of legislative requests for possible consideration in the 2018 Maryland General Assembly.
No positions were taken by the board on the first eight, of 18, proposals presented that included limiting the salary and benefits for the county’s future school superintendents upon retirement or dismissal, approval of BOCC-supported pay increases for county elected officials, as well as a handful of provisions for law enforcement and rescue workers.
One provision is a BOCC initiative to expand the property tax credit authorization against the county for disabled first responders and correctional officers. An authorization in state law allows for counties to offer some form of real property tax credits, but the county seeks to do more for its disabled public servants that serve on the front lines.
“This one is particular to Calvert County and will give you guys the authority to grant a property tax credit that is not greater than the percentage of the disability of the law enforcement or correctional officers or rescue workers that has been found to be disabled by an administrative body or a court of competent jurisdiction authorized to make that determination,” county attorney John Norris explained in great detail, adding that the disability had to occur in the line of duty and not by willful misconduct or substance abuse.
Norris further explained that an officer or first responder with a 10 percent disability could get a 10 percent credit against his or her property taxes, if enacted.
Once enacted, the county would have to approve the measure through a resolution. Commissioners’ Vice President Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) suggested the proposal be presented as a statewide initiative, so each jurisdiction can decide whether to have its own authority.
A second provision intended to help law enforcement is the establishment of testing and concussion protocols for law enforcement personnel having suffered a head injury while on duty. Slaughenhoupt also suggested it be extended to firefighters and other first responders due to job-related danger.
On the table for legislative consideration are BOCC-approved pay increases for the commissioners, sheriff and county treasurer for 2018 through 2021.
Spurred by events in Howard County, where the coun- ty’s school board agreed to pay school superintendent Renee Foose $1.65 million plus lifelong health benefits to encourage her retirement, the BOCC has presented a proposal that restricts the compensation and benefits of the Calvert superintendent of public schools upon upon retirement, dismissal, termination or removal.
Commissioner Steve Weems (R) took credit for the initiative during the meeting as he itemized and quantified Foose’s post-termination payments, retirement, pension and paid unused days off.
“The superintendent’s benefits would be no greater than a merit employee at the board of education would be able to receive,” explained Norris, of the provision.
The Calvert Recorder could not confirm whether controversial circumstances regarding former superintendent Jack Smith’s compensation package factored into this proposal. What is clear is that the proposal is meant to be prospective, not retroactive, and would not apply to any already executed contracts, according to Norris.
Another legislative request deals with BOCC authority in the court system.
“On a code enforcement case, the defendant in the case, who has been issued a municipal infraction, has the ability to appeal that decision in the circuit court, but that is the only party that has the authority to petition the circuit court,” said Norris, reporting that the commissioners do not have that authority.
Norris further explained that if the BOCC believed an error was made in a judgment in the district court that the commissioners cannot appeal that in the circuit court today.
To mitigate, Norris introduced a legislative request, on behalf of the County Attorney’s Office, to give the authority to the board to appeal a district court decision for a municipal infraction to the circuit court.
The board is also pondering Sheriff Mike Evans’ (R) request for a change in language regarding the calculation of the assistant sheriff’s pay, Island Bingo’s requests to amend the state law to allow the expansion of gambling to Solomons, and the allowance of breathalyzer testing on county employees upon reasonable cause and following any incident of damage.
The next work session for the remaining 10 proposals for consideration will be held Oct. 17. In the second week of November, the commissioners will take a position on all 18 proposals. Board-supported proposals will be submitted to the senators and delegates representing Calvert.
In other business, the BOCC:
• Conducted a work session with the Department of Public Safety on the complexity and growing amount of fire, rescue and EMS training requirements;
• Signed forms for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community Rating System annual recertification to ensure 100-year floodplain property owners receive a 10 percent discount on insurance premiums;
• Approved a budget adjustment in the amount of $20,000 for an entrance study for Hallowing Point Park;
• Agreed to direct Human Resources to amend the personnel policy to include compensation of Calvert Emergency Communications’ training officers;
• Awarded a $155,778 contract to Johnson Truck Center of Landover for a heavy duty diesel engine truck for the Solid Waste Division;
• Approved the acquisition of a perpetual right-of-way easement and revertible slope easement for the construction of the Dowell Road widening project at 521 Twin Cove Lane in the amount of $8,200;
• Established an Economic Development Advisory Commission to advise the BOCC on business-related issues, and to expand and enhance business opportunities in the county; and
• Made several appointments to boards, commissions and committees.