- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Charles County commissioners approved 3-2 a $354.5 million fiscal 2015 budget Tuesday, a 4.6 percent million increase on the county’s current $339 million budget that did not include pay raises for teachers or police or require a property tax increase.
Charles County commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) and Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) both voted against the budget, citing their preference for a plan that would have provided pay raises and paid for them using one-time funding transfers.
The budget keeps the county’s property tax rate at $1.141 per $100 of assessed value.
The spending plan includes 1.8 and 2.1 percent funding increases for the school system and the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, respectively, but neither covers requested pay increases for teachers, school staff, sheriff’s deputies, or correctional officers.
Both Kelly and Robinson said they were “disappointed” the board did not opt for an alternative plan that would have given pay raises to county teachers, police, correction officers, EMS personnel and government staff.
Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D) said it would be “irresponsible” to vote for a plan that paid for salary increases with one-time costs, thus adding to an eventual baseline deficit in the fiscal 2016 budget. Board Vice President Reuben B. Collins II (D) echoed Rucci’s concerns, stating the alternative preferred by Kelly and Robinson “would put us in a significant hole” in the fiscal 2016 budget.
“I’m terribly disappointed. I think we had an opportunity here today to do right by our board of education [and our] teachers. I think we had an opportunity to really give the school system the tools it needs now that we’re opening this new school.”
The approved plan drew from a variety of sources to balance a $10.6 million baseline deficit, including a $3.5 million one-time recordation tax from a natural gas-fired power plant being built in Waldorf, $2.75 million from the county’s contingency reserves and $2.3 million from the Charles County Board of Education’s fund balance to help fund the first-year operating costs of the new St. Charles High School in Waldorf.
Utilization of the one-time funding sources means the county’s fiscal 2016 budget will begin with a projected $3.6 million baseline deficit.
The commissioners also voted to cut funding in the capital budget for the cross county connector project in half, from $1 million to $500,000. The Indian Head Science and Technology Park will be purchased for $6.4 million using $2.7 million in capital budget surplus and $3.7 million in surplus from the county’s cable fund.