St. Mary’s County commissioners voted on Tuesday to request authority to issue $30 million in public facilities bonds on Tuesday, and agreed to push forward a proposal by a delegate to waive liquor licensing fees for the coming year.
After commissioners left the bond authority request amount as “to be determined” in December, Del. Matt Morgan (R) had recently asked for commissioners to supply an exact dollar amount, according to a meeting document, before bringing the request to the General Assembly, which began its 90-day session on Wednesday.
Two St. Mary’s commissioners dissented against the majority’s request for authority to issue $30 million for two years of public facilities bonds in fiscal 2022 and 2023, with Commissioner Eric Colvin (R) leaning toward using the county’s current unassigned fund balance of $11 million instead of using bonds.
Commissioner John O’Connor (R), attending over a teleconference line, also voted against the $30 million request.
“In the past it’s kind of been one of the sticking points for our delegation, has been asking to borrow money when we already have it,” Colvin said. “This year we actually have a sufficient fund balance that we don’t have to ask for it.”
But that would mean making another request next year, Commissioner President Randy Guy (R) said.
“When we go for bonding authority, we don’t have to use it,” Guy said. “It may not even be used.”
Commissioners also unanimously approved a largely symbolic legislative proposal by Morgan, who attended the meeting virtually, to waive liquor licensing fees for bars and restaurants for one year, in the wake of the industry’s downturn due to COVID-19.
Although the gesture “would not necessarily make or break it” for bars and restaurants that have been suffering since March, Colvin said, commissioners approved of the proposal, which, if passed at the state level, would waive $58,355 in fee revenue that would usually go to the commissioners, and $14,345 to the Town of Leonardtown, according to liquor board administrator Tammy Hildebrand.
However, commissioners also noted they may be able to make the move locally without going through Annapolis, and would prefer to do it that way if possible.
County attorney David Weiskopf said he would look into whether commissioners could waive the fees at the local level.