- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The St. Mary’s County commissioners have a question for residents next week.
How do you want the local government to spend $211.4 million starting this summer?
Citizens get their chance to comment on the recommended fiscal 2013 budget on Tuesday, May 1, at Great Mills High School, starting at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s important for the citizens across the county to have a voice in the process,” said Tony Jones, public information officer for county government, who will moderate the hearing.
County government’s revenues next fiscal year are estimated at $200.8 million, an increase of 4.7 percent over the current budget of $191.8 million.
The recommended budget uses $10.56 million in leftover funds from fiscal 2011, which is part of a $30.1 million surplus left from that year.
“We make government work in St. Mary’s County,” said Commission President Jack Russell (D). “We took good care of the taxpayer. I’m very well satisfied as to how the board has put this one together,” he said.
After the public hearing, the commissioners will hold budget work sessions before finalizing the spending plan on May 29.
Meanwhile, the Maryland General Assembly will likely reconvene in a special session to finalize the state budget. As the state budget stands now, St. Mary’s County would lose $1.6 million in previously anticipated aid to education and the library system, Del. John Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s) told the commissioners in a letter.
The school board is scheduled to get $85.7 million in county funding in this budget, an increase of $8.6 million, but $4.1 million of that is to cover any shift in funding teacher pensions to local government. Whether or not that happens may be decided in the special legislative session.
A tentative contract agreement between the school system and the employee unions call for a 1.5 percent raise for all school workers, approximately 2,300 of them.
“The one thing we’re not anticipating is the type of meeting that happened last year,” Jones said, when the commissioners were at odds over the budget with the board of education and school unions. “It’s much more harmonious this year. We’re always looking to better our relationship with the school board,” he said.
The proposed county budget calls for no change in local tax rates. The property tax is due to remain at 85.7 cents per $100 of assessed value and the local income tax stays at 3 percent.
Approximately 641 county government employees get a $500 stipend and a 2 percent pay increase after July 1.
The sheriff’s budget is set at $31.6 million, an increase of 3 percent, which includes funding for four new deputies for Lexington Park and the replacement of 16 vehicles.
Various agencies not under the control of county government, such as Walden Sierra, the Sotterley Foundation, the St. Mary’s County Historical Society and the Greenwell Foundation are facing an overall reduction in funding of 7.5 percent, from $1.5 million this year to $1.3 million in fiscal 2013.
“We do anticipate some comments from the non-county side, especially the nonprofits,” Jones said.
The separate $28.7 million building budget includes $1.7 million to continue land acquisition for the full connection of FDR Boulevard from California to Lexington Park. There is $3 million to resurface county roads. There is $7.5 million set aside to build infrastructure that the Navy might require as it reviews the missions at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. The commissioners also provide $3.5 million for the board of education to buy a new school site.
To continue to build the trust fund for county government retiree health benefits, the board is funding $6.5 million, and $12.5 million will be used to pay down the debt on past building projects.
“Right now, the commissioners are very comfortable with the recommended budget,” Jones said.
Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R) and Dan Morris (R) voted against the recommended budget. Jarboe hasn’t voted for a county budget since fiscal 2008.
To learn more
The St. Mary’s County government’s recommended budget for fiscal year 2013 can be reviewed online at www.stmarysmd.com/finance.