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County staff has cut the draft recommended six-year budget by more than $54.2 million, pushing more than 21 capital improvement plan projects to fiscal 2020 and beyond.

On Tuesday, the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners were presented the draft staff recommended six-year capital improvement plan budget, which staff said is slightly higher than previous years’ six-year CIPs due to larger projects in later years. The draft defers more than $54 million in capital projects until at least fiscal 2020.

“We have cut our budget by $54 million,” Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) said, adding that the county has had to cut its budget just as citizens have had to cut theirs.

“It’s the long wish list,” Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) said, to which Commissioner Gerald W. Jerry Clark (R) responded, “This is the short one. You should have seen the one we used to have.”

The fiscal 2014 CIP includes:

• Six Calvert County Board of Education projects, including the final construction phase of Calvert High School, the beginning phases of renovating and constructing Northern High School, an upgrade to the HVAC system in the Brooks Administration Building and fire suppression and interior renovations at Mutual Elementary School;

• Four public facilities projects, including HVAC replacement at Calvert Pines Senior Center, roof replacement at the Northeast Community Center, master plan implementation at the Calvert Marine Museum and an analysis of the Calvert County Detention Center as well as the creation of an inmate program space;

• Five projects for technology services, including a phone system upgrade, upgrading the network and wireless infrastructures and a major system review;

• Five parks and recreation projects, including the creation of a master plan for the Calvert County Youth Recreation Facility, construction of playgrounds and parking at Hallowing Point Park and additions and renovations to the Solomons boat ramp;

• Seven public works transportation division projects, including the widening of Dowell Road, Pushaw Station Road improvements, improvements to the intersections of Route 231 and Skipjack Road and Williams Road and Route 231, along with multiple non-specific transportation projects;

• Four public safety facility projects, including construction and installation of the sixth 800 MHZ system tower, an upgrade and extension of the current 800 MHZ system and annex of the HVAC system at the Solomons Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department;

• Eight public safety apparatus projects, including replacement of several ambulances and command vehicles throughout the county;

• Five public works water projects, including Chesapeake Heights/Dares Beach Water Treatment System upgrade, Paris Oaks Pump Station and system capacity improvements and the Cove Point water capacity expansion;

• Six public works sewerage and wastewater treatment facility projects, including upgrades to the Industrial Park Wastewater Treatment Plant, phases 2 and 3 of the Prince Frederick WWTP replacement and improvements to that system to include Calvert Middle School sewerage; and

• Course improvements at the Chesapeake Hills Golf Course.

The total expenditure for the fiscal ’14 CIP is estimated at $30,553,413, composed of $2,597,900 in county funds, more than $1.5 million in excise taxes, almost $4 million in state funding and more than $23 million in bond financing.

The total expected expenditure for the fiscal 2014 through fiscal 2019 CIP budget is $218,920,643, according to staff’s presentation, which is more than $5 million over the estimated fiscal 2013 through 2018 CIP budget.

Of the deferred projects, there are two public facility projects, two BOE projects, four recreational resources projects, two technology services projects, three public safety projects and eight public works projects, said Julie Paluda, capital projects analyst.

Director of Finance and Budget Tim Hayden said the county is expected to remain below the county’s debt affordability model threshold of 9.5 percent until fiscal 2017, when the estimate is at 9.6 percent. He said the debt threshold is expected to drop to 9.4 percent the following year and then rise again in fiscal ’19 to 9.8 percent.

“The further out you get, the harder it is to predict,” Hayden told the commissioners, adding that staff will be working on “rearranging” projects in the upcoming years “to make sure we don’t exceed” that debt limit.

According to a memo from Paluda, “The debt limit is calculated using estimated revenues and project scopes continue to be adjusted, staff is comfortable with the CIP plan as presented and will closely monitor revenues as the next couple of years’[sic] progress.”

Although the commissioners’ main focus was on the upcoming fiscal year’s CIP, they scrutinized additional years’ as well. Clark told Paluda he thinks there may be a few more projects in fiscal ’14 and beyond that could be pushed back, though he didn’t mention any specific items.

“This is a very fluid document,” Paluda told the board.

The commissioners ended the work session with requests for another work session, with Karyn Molines, division chief of the Natural Resources, for an overview of the division and project statuses, as well as work sessions on the county’s debt affordability model and the overall prioritization of projects.

The staff recommended budget will be presented at a public hearing scheduled for March 26, followed by the commissioners’ budget public hearing tentatively scheduled for May 21. Adoption of the budget is tentatively scheduled for June 4.

aharrison@somdnews.com