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Commissioners receive COVID update, approve $433 million FY2021 budget

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Charles County Commissioners Meeting

The Charles County Board of Commissioners met virtually Tuesday and passed the FY2021 budget set at $433.44 million, a 2% increase over last year’s budget. Top left is acting clerk Carol DeSoto, top right is County Attorney Wesley Adams, bottom left is Commissioners’ President Reuben B. Collins II (D) and bottom right is Commissioner Thomasina O. Coates (D).

On Tuesday, the Charles County Board of Commissioners met virtually to receive an update on the local state of emergency, adopt the General Fund budget and approve several budget items.

Dr. Howard Haft, executive director of the Maryland Primary Care Program, said all residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities will be tested for the virus by the end of May.

“All skilled nursing facility residents and staff will be tested for COVID-19 before the end of this month,” Haft said. “In Charles County ... 371 have been tested and 35 positive. There are no new COVID deaths.”

He followed by saying that the testing site in Waldorf can now test 135 people in a day, and the total number of people tested so far at that site is 1,070 people.

“As of May 17, we have 859 positive cases in Charles County,” Haft said. “There have been 60 total confirmed deaths, the majority of those occurring at skilled nursing facilities.”

He said there have been a total of 4,056 tests so far in the county with a positivity rate of 17%. “This week and subsequent weeks we will be increasing significantly the number of tests that will be done.”

He added that there has been a sharp decline in the number of hospitalizations over the past two weeks in Charles County.

Department of Emergency Services Director Michelle Lilly said the amount of COVID-19 related cases are “trending flat” in the county, and that law enforcement calls have seen a resurgence since last month.

Additionally, she said there is an “after action plan” that is being developed and is in the early stages. “This plan will assist us in ensuring that we can improve our response for the next activation and will identify best practices for all emergencies,” she said.

The local state of emergency, additionally, has been extended to May 29. The county will be able to continue deploying staff and assets to support the response to COVID-19 during this time.

The General Fund budget will increase to just over $433.44 million — a 2% increase from last year. It protects core services in Charles County Government, exceeds maintenance of effort funding for public schools in the county and preserves operations for the sheriff’s office.

The funds will provide an increase of $3.64 million for Charles County Public Schools. The total amount of education funding, which also includes funding for the College of Southern Maryland, is $210.1 million or 48.5% of the General Fund budget.

Additionally, an increase of $1.61 million to the sheriff’s office to fund two new school resources officers and support volunteers in community services was adopted. In totality, $96.37 million or 22.2% of the General Fund budget is allocated to the sheriff’s office.

An increase of $1.91 million for Charles County Government operations, geared toward funding the emergency medical services crew in Waldorf was approved. This takes up $67.64 million of the budget or 15.6%.

A county press release states that, to address the shortfall in revenue due to COVID-19, the budget requests from Charles County Public Schools and the sheriff’s office were not fully funded, which comprises the majority of the budget — 71%.

Additionally, the five-year $656.5 million capital improvement program — which funds one-time expenditures for county assets — will be dispersed to work on projects including school modifications for Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, construction of new facilities including a new EMS station in the Pinefield neighborhood and maintenance for county facilities including the government building and the detention center.

Approval items at the meeting included a budget transfer request of $600,000 for equipment rental and power generator costs at the Mattawoman Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The reason for the transfer was because annual costs will exceed what was originally anticipated. The funds will cover sewer line maintenance, sewer support services and other operations and maintenance.

Another approval item was a budget transfer request of $50,000 from savings with the Post Office Road Expansion Study. The funds will pay for a study to determine the best fit for a potential Bryans Road Senior and Recreation Center.

Additionally, a budget amendment increase of over $2.5 million from the Cable TV I/Net Special Revenue fund will match the county’s share of the Maryland Broadband Infrastructure Grant was approved. The funding will provide broadband to the Nanjemoy and Cobb Neck area.

Commissioners proclaimed May 17-23 Emergency Medical Services Week in an effort to recognize all the emergency services workers and to give thanks to them during this difficult time.

They also proclaimed May 20 as Emergency Medical Services for Children Day for the 30 million children who receive medical care annually. The commissioners urged the theme “EMS Strong: Ready Today. Preparing for Tomorrow” to be shared.

Finally, the commissioners proclaimed May Mental Health Awareness Month and encouraged the community to take time to acknowledge, support and recognize those whose mental health is at risk during the crisis.

Twitter: @MDunlopSOMD

Twitter: @MDunlopSOMD

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