Commissioners mull more potential legislative requests
Changes to budget, procurement rules pondered for FY18
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.