Board of County Commissioners' Actions: Commissioners Approve Operating Budget for 2011 Including Senior Tax Relief, Issue 2010 Bonds
Board of County Commissioners' Actions
Commissioners Approve Operating Budget for 2011 Including Senior Tax Relief, Issue 2010 Bonds
In its regular meeting on May 18th, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners approved the $197 million Operating Budget for 2011 with several changes.
The balanced budget holds the County Property Tax Rate to 94.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value in the unincorporated areas. Residents of municipal areas will pay 82.3 cents per $100.
As part of the budget, a new plan was approved that will mean qualified homeowners age 70 and above pay no County Property taxes. The measure designed to work in tandem with the State of Maryland Homeowner Tax Credit Program goes into effect July 1st and would be reflected on County tax bills that are sent during the summer.
Those age 70 and above would qualify if their household income is $12,000 or less. The County tax credit would apply to the remainder of taxes owed after the state credit is allowed.
Homeowners who apply for the state program would automatically be eligible for the one put into place by the County. Forms are available at the State Department of Assessments and Taxation office in the old People's Drug building on the square in Hagerstown, at the County Treasurer's Office at 35 West Washington Street, or on the Internet at www.dat.state.md.us/dataweb/HTC-60.pdf. Those who have already applied for the state program do not need to apply again, but first time applicants have until September 1st to take advantage of the programs.
The Commissioners also approved a program that would allow the state Homestead Tax Credit to apply to non-owner occupied properties. The state program limits tax increases due to assessments to 10% for properties that are occupied by the owner. A County program, used in conjunction with the state program, caps that increase at 5%. A State of Maryland Renters' Tax Credit is also available to assist those who rent. Information on that state program is available at www.dat.state.md.us.
Also approved were the Water and Sewer rates, as presented, which would boost the average cost for water use by $4.50 and sewer use by $4.90 per quarter.
Director of Environmental Management Julie Pippel presented a desktop analysis on the impacts of changing the minimum rate structure for the Department of Water Quality's water and sewer utility rates. As an enterprise fund, the revenue received from users must be maintained regardless of the rate structure. Data was presented that demonstrated if the minimum base rate was dropped from 6,000 to 4,000 or 2,000 an additional rate increase of 2.9% would be required for the remaining 85% or 92% of the customers respectively. If this new base rate structure was adopted a rate increase would be required in addition to the rate increases currently projected by the model. The presentation was for informational purposes and does not change the rate structure and increases presented in the public hearing.
The County Employee Sick Bonus program, eliminated during preliminary budget discussion, was included in the final approved budget, at a cost of $80,000.00.
Approval of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) was tabled until May 25th, after the Board failed to reach agreement on several issues. Under discussion were school site locations, land acquisition, road infrastructure, federal bridge funding, and potential for economic development in an area near Hagerstown Community College.
Purchase of a portion of the Mount Aetna Farms property using funds for school site land acquisition, previously budgeted funds for infrastructure improvements in the Robinwood corridor and potentially available federal grants were debated.
Commissioners also wanted further information regarding a construction bid at Hagerstown Community College.
A resolution authorizing issuance of Washington County General Obligation Bonds of 2010 in the amount of $33,070,000 was approved, following acceptance of electronic bids. Financial Adviser Lester Guthorn opened on-line bids and interest costs were evaluated. Washington County received an overall interest rate of 2.877 percent. Guthorn said that rate, for 20-year bonds, was the lowest in County bonding history. Low bidders were Davenport and Company, LLC for the 2010A series, J.P. Morgan for 2010B series and Davenport and Company for 2010 C Series refunding bonds. $18.78 million is new funding to be used for educational construction, environmental projects and public safety projects. Refinancing of the remaining bonds saved the County $1.23 million in interest.
In other actions, the 2009 John Frye Historic Preservation Award was presented to "Captain" South Lynn in recognition of efforts to promote historic preservation in Washington County. Lynn is the owner and restorer of the historic Kennedy Farm, and has carefully restored and maintained the Kennedy Farmhouse for over thirty-five years. To gain National Landmark designation, South Lynn went through arduous efforts to demonstrate that this was the house that was used by John Brown. The Kennedy Farm House is part of Washington County's history and heritage, and is part of the Washington County Association of Museums and Historic Sites.
The house is a two-story log farmhouse, furnished as it was in 1859. For several months it served as the residence for John Brown and his army of 21 abolitionists who ate, slept, and armed themselves for the Raid on Harper's Ferry. 150 Years ago John Brown staged his raid on that federal armory, and historians point to that event as being the spark that started the Civil War, and eventually led to the end of slavery in the United States.
Following a Public Hearing that drew no testimony, Commissioners gave approval to add libraries as a permitted use in the BL (Business Local) and BG (Business General) zoning districts. While the amendment is specifically in regard to these two districts, by making this change, libraries will also be permitted in the (PUD) Planned Unit Development, (PB) Planned Business, and (HI-1) Highway Interchange Districts.
The amendment would go into effect ten days from passage, and pave the way for a branch of the Washington County Free Library, proposed to be located in the North Pointe Shopping Centre, at the intersection of North Pointe Drive and Pennsylvania Avenue.
Ten sets of the 2009 International Code Council Residential and Building Code Books were donated to Washington County Vocational Technical School and the Barr Construction Institute, the education center of the Cumberland Valley Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. For the first time, the International Code Council (ICC) and International Code Council Foundation (ICCF) has expanded Building Safety Week into a month-long Building Safety Month campaign to expand opportunities and increase awareness about the critical importance of building and designing safe, sustainable and green structures in the United States and worldwide.
These codes books contain the latest code requirements that will be adopted by Washington County in the next few weeks and will hopefully become a valuable asset for both students and teachers. The County Permits and Inspection Department has nine Inspectors who are graduates of the Vo-Tech program.
The Discovery Station was honored for five years service to the Community. Museum Director Marie Byers accepted the proclamation from Commissioners' President John Barr. The proclamation lauded Discovery station as a "hands on" learning museum with educational and entertaining displays and programs.
Under Citizens' Participation Vance Creech of Boonsboro lauded the Senior Tax credit. Edward Wurmb of Hagerstown commented on the age requirement for that tax credit.
Five grant applications from the Washington County Sheriff's Department were approved. Badges for Baseball, funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention in the amount of $18,000.00 is a multi-faceted crime prevention and mentoring program that conveys the tenets of "The Ripken Way" to young people through a variety of programs, including "Healthy Choices, Healthy Children" and baseball and softball themed activities. Funding originates from a program sponsored by the Cal Ripken foundation.
Also approved were state and federal grants for Sex Offender Compliance and Enforcement in the amount of $42,039.00; the Edward Byrne Memorial, Justice Assistance Grant for $21,895.00; the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention School Bus Safety Enforcement grant for overtime patrols by deputies in the amount of $15,000.00.; and the Department of Justice Recovery Act JAG Program for $94,721, that will be used to upgrade the Department's vehicle impound lot.
A bid award was approved for the Transit Garage Facility Maintenance contract to Callas Contractors, Inc. of Hagerstown, in the amount of $220,388.60. The award included ADD Alternate No. 1, Furnish and Install New Aluminum Fence. The facility is located at 1000 West Washington Street. The contract is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the Maryland Transit Administration.
The County's upgraded Progressive Discipline and Dismissal Policy was approved, the latest in a series of Policy revisions by the Department of Human Resources in fulfillment of a Departmental Goal. Revisions add changes to examples of unacceptable behavior, an electronic warning report form, and procedural changes for discipline and dismissal of employees.
Advertisement of an Accounts Receivable Technician position in the Treasurer's Department was approved. Treasurer Todd Hershey cited three new major financial initiatives, the Senior Tax Credit program, the Non-Homeowner Occupied "Homestead" Tax Credit program and the Differential Property Tax Rate program as proof of need for filling the position, vacant since January 1st.
A bid for Sheriff's Department uniforms was approved in the amount of $52,068.75 to Red the Uniform Tailor, Inc. of Lakewood, New Jersey, based on estimated quantities of each uniform piece at per unit bid prices.
Commissioners approved submission of the requests for federal Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funding for road projects for FY 2011. The Realignment of Shawley Drive project request for $600,000.00 was given first priority under the Transportation Equity Act (TEA-21) portion of that request. Board members voted to swap current TEA-21 funding with Garrett County. A project, which had been funded, an access road in the Mount Aetna Farms area, likely would not have been constructed by the time funding was to expire, while Garrett County had a project ready for construction. The swap would ensure that Washington County got first choice of funds for Western Maryland in the request for fiscal year 2011. The Shawley Drive project would promote development in the HUB business park near Maugansville.
Commissioners attended a joint meeting with the Board of Education to discuss school costs, pupil generation rates, budget adjustments and school construction, and attended a Luncheon with the Board of Directors and Volunteers of Children In need at the noon hour.