- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Calvert County budget was adopted unanimously Tuesday by the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners after months of work and public hearings.
The budget, with a general operating fund totaling $242,922,582, is structurally balanced with no tax rate increases and a one-time use of $5.9 million of prior years’ fund balance for $2.4 million of capital project costs and a $3.5 million contribution to the Other Post-Employment Benefits Fund.
The budget increased by $6.8 million, or 2.9 percent, from the pervious fiscal year’s adopted budget, figures of which are adjusted for prefunding.
The budget includes a 0.5 percent cost of living adjustment for county employees and a delayed step, effective in January 2015, of $900,000.
“I think we can be extremely proud of this budget,” Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) said Tuesday. “We’re in the right direction in terms of giving employees some cost of living and some [step] increase.”
The budget, although it includes increased funding of $1.9 million over the previous year to the Calvert County Board of Education — $2.4 million over the state-mandated maintenance of effort — does not include the full additional $3 million Calvert County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Nancy V. Highsmith requested at the May budget hearing to cover increased health care costs, said Tim Hayden, director of finance and budget.
Last year’s budget allocated about $109.8 million to the board of education, while this year’s budget allocates $111.7 million, Hayden said.
After months of negotiations with Blue Cross Blue Shield, the school system is experiencing a 13.7 percent increase in health costs. Highsmith said at the May budget hearing the school board has already responded to a tight budget by cutting six positions, and there would be a possibility for more cuts.
Now, with $1.9 million of the $3 million the school board needs, Highsmith said Wednesday some hard decisions will have to be made, but she appreciates that the board was able to provide the $1.9 million.
“We’re going to have to go back to our budget and see where we can cut out another $1.1 million, and that will be hard,” Highsmith said.
Despite the difficulties the school board might face in the upcoming fiscal year, commissioners expressed their support of the budget at Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting.
The commissioners emphasized how the county was still able to provide high-quality public education and some of the lowest tax rates in the state in the aftermath of a delayed recovery from the recession of 2008.
“On the local level, we see some light at the end of the tunnel,” Shaw said. “At the state and national level, it’s still very scary, and so we’re stepping out on behalf of our employees and on behalf of the school system, but we’re doing it very cautiously and conservatively.”
“We’ve structurally balanced the budget,” Commissioners’ Vice President Steve Weems (R) said. “We’ve held the line on taxes. We haven’t had disruption to our citizens and the services we provide, and we haven’t laid off anyone or furloughed anyone. It’s just a tough budget environment, and I think we’re doing the best we can.”
In other business, the commissioners:
• Approved a budget adjustment of $78,000 to pay for emergency medical care for three inmates at the Calvert County Detention Center, $54,000 of which is anticipated to be reimbursed from the state;
• Approved a budget adjustment of $27,983 to cover contract employee staffing hours for the Safe Harbor shelter using commissioner contingency funds;
• Allocated $71,486.85 previously used in the Maryland Resident Trooper Program, which was terminated at the end of 2013, to be used in the sheriff’s office budget to fund six months of costs for a deputy assigned to Calvert County Public Schools; and
• Held a public hearing, closed the record and approved amendments to the personnel chapter of the county code to address U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Highway Administration required substance abuse testing.