Wednesday, April 01, 2009

BREAKING NEWS - Charles County Government Press Release

Board of Education Presses for Tax Increase during Recession

The Charles County Board of Education issued a press release yesterday
asking the Charles County Commissioners to raise taxes instead of
requesting a waiver of the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirement for
public school funding.

According to a press release, Donald Wade, Chairman of the School
Board, said that State law requires the County to raise property taxes
to fully fund the school system.

The Commissioners requested a waiver of the State’s MOE requirement
in anticipation of deep funding cuts by the State of Maryland that could
have significant impact on the County’s budget.

The County’s request is based on the Maryland General Assembly’s
consideration of additional cuts in State funding for counties, and the
current expectation that State and local revenues will continue to
decline during the recession through the remainder of this fiscal year
and in fiscal year 2010, which begins on July 1. The potential State
cuts, along with declining local revenues, may impair the County’s
ability to support local operations of State agencies, such as Social
Services and the Health Department, as well as local County government

In contrast to the County, the Charles County Board of Education is
slated to receive additional aid this year. In addition to
appropriations of State and County funds to support the schools, this
year local boards of education will receive more than $1 billion in
special funding from the federal economic stimulus package (American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act). According to State sources, the Charles
County Board of Education’s share of this new funding amounts to $18.5
million over the next two years.

Considering the economic challenges facing all Charles County citizens
and businesses during this national recession, the Charles County
Commissioners are unanimously opposed to any tax increases.

Commissioner President Wayne Cooper noted that last week, fifteen
Maryland counties were pursuing a waiver of the Maintenance of Effort
requirement, including Calvert County. “The Maryland Association of
Counties has encouraged all counties to seek State legislation for a
State-wide waiver,” added Cooper.

Commissioner Gary V. Hodge commented that “we are under an obligation
to adopt a balanced budget. Decisions at the State level, which we have
no control over, will flow down to the counties. We have no alternative
as County Commissioners but to adopt a balanced budget.”

“There is an opportunity in the process for the public to be
heard,” said Commissioner Reuben B. Collins, II. “A public
hearing is required by the State before action can be taken.”

The County’s projections for FY 2010 indicate that local revenue will
be 1.4 percent less than in the current FY 2009 adopted budget, due to
lower income from most of the County’s revenue sources.

The Commissioners have already taken steps to reduce spending and save
money in several key areas. Next year’s budget will not include
employee cost of living increases, or step increases in pay, and will
continue a hiring freeze on current and future vacancies. The
Commissioners are also considering a furlough, which would result in a 4
percent decrease in salaries, as well as exploring the option of
refunding portions of the County’s bond debt to save interest costs.
In addition, substantial cuts have been made in the capital construction
program in an effort to trim every possible budget line item.

The County Commissioners believe that the waiver request is essential
to meeting the County’s basic responsibilities to protect the health,
safety and welfare of all the citizens of Charles County.

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