Com­mis­sion­ers mull more po­ten­tial leg­isla­tive re­quests

Changes to bud­get, pro­cure­ment rules pon­dered for FY18

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­ Twit­ter: @CalRecTAMARA

The Board of County of Com­mis­sion­ers held its sec­ond and third work ses­sions to wrap up a pre­lim­i­nary re­view of a se­ries of leg­isla­tive re­quests for con­sid­er­a­tion in the 2018 Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly.

On Oct. 17 and Nov. 6, the BOCC re­viewed the fi­nal 12 pro­posed leg­isla­tive re­quests in­tended to boost the lo­cal busi­ness in­dus­try; ex­pand ben­e­fits to pub­lic safety work­ers; re­lax county re­quire­ments on bud­get ad­just­ments, pro­cure­ment ad­ver­tis­ing and for­mal bid­ding; as well as ob­tain bond­ing au­thor­ity for ma­jor projects.

“The state has to au­tho­rize the county to sell bonds be­fore we can do it,” said Fi­nance and Bud­get Di­rec­tor Tim Hay­den of the first look at a re­quest be­fore the BOCC for $177,722,006 of bond­ing au­thor­ity for var­i­ous cap­i­tal projects in fis­cal 2019, on Oct. 17.

Hay­den in­formed The Calvert Recorder that the cur­rent re­quest is cur­rently down to $92.8 mil­lion from the orig­i­nal $177 mil­lion and he ex­pects it will be low­ered be­fore the re­quest is pre­sented to Calvert’s leg­is­la­tors for con­sid­er­a­tion in the 2018 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, as road im­prove­ment projects from the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works are not ready to be in­cluded in this round of fund­ing re­quests.

The bulk of the con­firmed fund­ing needs for fis­cal ‘19 is for the county of­fice build­ing at $9.7 mil­lion and the an­i­mal shel­ter at $6.4 mil­lion, and bonded over 15 years, ac­cord­ing to staff doc­u­men­ta­tion. How­ever, the county of­fice build­ing will have $40.3 mil­lion left to be funded in fu­ture years.

“The county of­fice build­ing hap­pened out­side of the nor­mal process,” ex­plained Hay­den to the com­mis­sion­ers, not know- ing if the money avail­able now for the project is bonded or not.

In 2017, $17.62 mil­lion in bond­ing au­thor­ity was au­tho­rized for fis­cal ‘18 projects, and in 2016, the BOCC ob­tained bond­ing au­thor­ity through the leg­is­la­ture to oc­ca­sion­ally bor­row no more than $9.4 mil­lion to fi­nance the con­struc­tion, im­prove­ment or de­vel­op­ment of spec­i­fied pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties for fis­cal ‘17 projects.

In ad­di­tion to this re­quest, this past Tues­day, county at­tor­ney John Nor­ris in­tro­duced a mea­sure to re­move the county’s re­quire­ment to pub­lish so­lic­i­ta­tions for bids on county gov­ern­ment con­tracts in lo­cal news­pa­pers, ar­gu­ing the in­fre­quency of the pa­pers’ pub­li­ca­tion elon­gates the pro­cure­ment process to one month.

In sup­port­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion, Nor­ris noted the ma­jor­ity of bids re­ceived for pro­cure­ments come from the eMary­land Mar­ket­place, which has a shorter lead time than pa­pers and re­quires a min­i­mum of five days for a so­lic­i­ta­tion.

The re­quest to re­move the news­pa­per pub­lish­ing re­quire­ment was pre­sented last year to the del­e­gates and se­na­tors rep­re­sent­ing Calvert in An­napo­lis, but the bill in­tro­duced by the House del­e­ga­tion died af­ter re­ceiv­ing op­po­si­tion from ad­vo­cacy groups re­gard­ing trans­parency and ques­tions on how to tran­si­tion those ac­cus­tomed to the pa­per from com­mit­tee mem­ber Del. Terri Hill (D-Howard, Bal­ti­more) dur­ing a House of Del­e­gates Health and Gov­ern­ment Op­er­a­tions Com­mit­tee hear­ing last ses­sion.

Re­becca Sny­der of the Mary­land, Delaware, DC Press As­so­ci­a­tion said the in­for­ma­tion pub­lished in the pa­per is not just for bid­ders, but is for the pub­lic as well and that the gov­ern­ment should spread the in­for­ma­tion far and wide de­spite read­er­ship. Con­cern about whether small busi­nesses have the re­sources for eMary­land Mar­ket­place also arose.

Dur­ing the Oct. 17 work ses­sion, Nor­ris pre­sented a fi­nance and bud­get re­quest to in­crease the for­mal bid­ding re­quire­ment from $15,000 to $50,000.

Cur­rently, by law, con­tracts for the pur­chase by the county of sup­plies or ser­vices in­volv­ing $15,000 or more must fol­low for­mal bid­ding pro­ce­dures and the con­tract must be awarded at a reg­u­larly sched­uled meet­ing of the com­mis­sion­ers to the low­est re­spon­si­ble bid­der.

Nor­ris said the mea­sure also seeks to clar­ify pro­ce­dures for pub­li­ca­tion of no­tice for emer­gency pro­cure­ments, among other ad­just­ments.

“If the pro­cure­ment were not to ex­ceed $50,000, if this leg­is­la­tion was to be passed, there would be no need to go to for­mal bid­ding and the one or two weeks publi­ca­tions for emer­gency pro­cure­ment is re­quested,” ex­plained Nor­ris.

Two pro­pos­als for amend­ments to bud­getary pro­ce­dures were also in­tro­duced. The first is a leg­isla­tive amend­ment al­low­ing bud­get ad­just­ments less than $100,000 to pro­ceed with­out a res­o­lu­tion. Cur­rently, “county com­mis­sion­ers may change an adopted bud­get only by res­o­lu­tions,” ac­cord­ing to Sec­tion 5-103 of Code of Pub­lic Lo­cal Laws of Calvert County.

If the mea­sure is in­tro­duced and passes in the leg­is­la­ture, the BOCC would be able to change an adopted bud­get with­out a res­o­lu­tion.

The sec­ond pro­posal is a leg­isla­tive amend­ment to pub­lic law al­low­ing bud­get ad­just­ments less than $150,000 to pro­ceed with­out a pub­lic hear­ing.

“You would be able to do bud­get ad­just­ments up to $150,000 with­out a res­o­lu­tion and with­out a pub­lic hear­ing,” ex­plained Nor­ris, if the two mea­sures were en­acted.

Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent Evan Slaugh­en­houpt (R) said there had been some in­cre­men­tal changes over the years and re­called that in 1985 the county thresh­old was $1,000; in 1997 it was changed to $5,000, and then to $50,000 in 2007.

To spur eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, a new pro­posed in­cen­tive to of­fer a real prop­erty tax credit for blighted com­mer­cial prop­er­ties was pre­sented Oct. 17.

The goal of this mea­sure is to en­cour­age buy­ers to pur­chase blighted com­mer­cial prop­er­ties and im­prove them. The county hopes to do so by cre­at­ing an au­thor­ity for a five-year, 50 per­cent tax credit to cor­rect blighted com­mer­cial prop­erty through de­mo­li­tion, con­struc­tion or re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. El­i­gi­ble prop­er­ties in­clude com­mer­cial land in town cen­ters, em­ploy­ment cen­ters and in­dus­trial, marine com­mer­cial or ru­ral com­mer­cial zones.

An­other in­cen­tive ben­e­fit­ing the busi­ness com­mu­nity un­der con­sid­er­a­tion is the cre­ation of an ex­emp­tion or credit of busi­ness per­sonal prop­erty tax. Hay­den had pre­sented the pro­posal ear­lier Oct. 17 to of­fer an ex­emp­tion de­signed to help the county’s new or vul­ner­a­ble busi­nesses that have an as­sessed value of prop­erty used in a trade or busi­ness be­low a thresh­old of $215,000.

Hay­den said there might be some ad­di­tional pa­ram­e­ters that may be added to the small busi­ness “in­cu­ba­tor” leg­is­la­tion to ad­dress is­sues out­side of the scope of the BOCC’s cur­rent au­thor­ity.

Hay­den rein­tro­duced a mea­sure from 2016 to give Calvert­based busi­nesses a leg up on county gov­ern­ment con­tracts. The mea­sure, which would give re­cip­ro­cal pref­er­ence for county busi­nesses bid­ding on con­tracts, failed. If au­tho­rized this go around, un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances the county can give a pref­er­ence to a res­i­dent bid­der whose prin­ci­pal of­fice is in the county, over a non­res­i­dent bid­der whose prin­ci­pal of­fice is out­side the county.

In the realm of pub­lic safety, Nor­ris in­tro­duced an amend­ment ex­tend­ing the Length of Ser­vice Award Pro­gram ben­e­fits to al­low a qual­i­fied re­cip­i­ent who is not mar­ried to ap­point an al­ter­nate ben­e­fi­ciary for a pe­riod not to ex­ceed 10 years. This would ap­ply to mem­bers who have reached 25 years of ser­vice and the el­i­gi­bil­ity age of 50 years old and are col­lect­ing monthly ben­e­fits. Nor­ris ac­knowl­edged he mis­tak­enly failed to in­clude the lan­guage in the orig­i­nal re­quest that was granted through the leg­is­la­ture in 2015.

An­other pub­lic safety mea­sure would al­low fire and res­cue as­so­ci­a­tion to ap­point al­ter­nates to the fire and res­cue com­mis­sion.

De­part­ment of Parks and Re­cre­ation is look­ing to ex­tend the sun­set date for the Calvert County Youth Recre­ational Op­por­tu­ni­ties Fund in or­der to fully fund the Ward Farm Re­cre­ation and Na­ture Park with­out the di­vert­ing money cur­rently al­lo­cated for up­dat­ing ameni­ties, de­vel­op­ment and re­de­vel­op­ment of the park.

At the com­mis­sion­ers’ re­quest, Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D–Calvert, Charles, Prince Ge­orge’s) and Sen. Steve Waugh (D–Calvert, St. Mary’s) in­tro­duced last ses­sion an ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill in the state’s an­nual bud­get for the park, but the bill died in the Bud­get and Tax­a­tion Com­mit­tee.

The last leg­isla­tive re­quest in­tro­duced to the com­mis­sion­ers was des­ig­nat­ing the Calvert Marine Mu­seum as the Mary­land State Pa­le­on­tol­ogy Cen­ter.

On Oct. 10, the board triaged the first eight of 20 pro­pos­als pre­sented that in­cluded lim­it­ing the salary and ben­e­fits for the county’s fu­ture school su­per­in­ten­dent. No po­si­tions were taken by the board to date.

All 20 re­quests will be brought back to the com­mis­sion­ers Nov. 14 for a vote.

Nor­ris said items sup­ported by a ma­jor­ity of the BOCC will be pre­sented to the se­na­tors and del­e­gates rep­re­sent­ing Calvert in the Gen­eral Assem­bly at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at Calvert Pines Se­nior Cen­ter.

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