County Comment: Commissioners hear state budget report

Caption: Senator Chris Shank (L) Delegate Andrew Serafini report to Commissioners on legislative issues

County Comment
Commissioners hear state budget report
By Norman Bassett
Washington County Maryland Public Information Officer

As part of its regular meeting on April 17th, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners heard a legislative update from State Delegate Andrew Serafini and Senator Chris Shank.
Actions both taken and not taken in the 2012 legislative session will have major impact on Washington County, with failure of the Budget Bills affecting State aid allocations for many aspects of life in the county.
Chair of the Washington County Delegation Serafini told the Board he expected a special session of the legislature in mid-May to reconcile the budget.
Bills directly affecting Washington County that passed included Payment in Lieu of Property Taxes on electricity generating facilities in the Town of Williamsport, Tip Jar Accountability and Oversight and Property Tax credits for job creation by small businesses.
. Legislative redistricting will affect the County, with Districts 2A and 2B merging into one sub district with 2 Delegates, in 2014.
In the proposed State budget, Washington County would receive increases for public schools, libraries and Program Open Space funds for parks. State aid for Community Colleges is expected to be reduced, Serafini said.
Senator Shank addressed the Maintenance of Effort Waiver, a bill requiring Counties apply for a waiver if spending for education does not meet the State maintenance of effort level. Shank called the proposed State budget a "live within your means budget."
Washington County does get its fair share of funding, Delegate Serafini said, citing Capital projects funded in the proposed budget that would total about $7.5 million for education construction projects, $800,000 for the Senior Center, $900,000 for a shelter for Homeless Veterans, $8.5 million for nutrient removal at Winebrenner Waste Water Treatment Facility, and $1.5 million for improvements to the R.C. Wilson Water Plant. In addition, about $1.35 million is included for African American Heritage Preservation, Brook Lane Services, the C&O National Park and the Korean War Veterans' Memorial.
Serafini said Washington County ranks 9th in per capita spending, and 8th in growth and public school expenditures.
The General Assembly "ran out of time" to get a budget bill passed in the recent session, Serafini said.