County Council of Dorchester County
Regular Meeting Minutes
May 18, 2010
The County Council of Dorchester County met in regular session on May 18, 2010 with the following members present: Present were Jay L. Newcomb, President; Effie M. Elzey Vice President; William V. Nichols; Ricky Travers; and Rick Price. Also present were E. Thomas Merryweather, County Attorney; Jane Baynard, County Manager and Donna Lane, Executive Administrative Specialist.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Councilman Travers led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.
CALL FOR ADDITIONS OR DELETIONS TO AGENDA
There were no additions or deletions to the agenda.
Councilman Newcomb asked that no campaigning be conducted during County Council meetings by either the public or the current Council members.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES- BUDGET WORK SESSION MINUTES-APRIL 1, 2010 and APRIL 8, 2010
The Council approved the April 1, 2010 Budget Work Session Minutes.
The Council also approved the April 8, 2010 Budget Work Session Minutes.
APPROVAL OF DISBURSEMENTS
The Council approved vouchers as presented.
FINANICAL REPORT: CASH AND INVESTMENTS
Councilman Newcomb reported total cash and investments as $6,849,730.92.
BUDGET COMMENT REVIEW
At the request of Councilman Newcomb, Michael Spears, Finance Director, noted that the following changes have been made to the proposed FY 2010 budget since the May 11, 2010 budget public hearing including adding back funding in the amount of $354,728 to the Board of Education to ensure the County’s funding is in compliance with Maintenance of Effort State requirement and $297,540 as an expenditure item for a trust fund for the funding of post retirement benefits, to the operating budget. He said changes to the proposed capital budget include adding final figures for the infrastructure in the Technology Park of $ 2 million to be funded by debt and the reauthorization of funding for the Cell 5 construction of the Beulah Landfill and the closing of the Old Beulah Landfill, from the Landfill Enterprise Fund. He noted that there are no changes to the proposed FY 2011 grant budget. He said copies of the amendments were on the back of the meeting room.
Councilman Newcomb noted that at that May 11th budget hearing, Wayne Robinson, Emergency Management Director, said the proposed salary of $73,000 for the new Emergency Services Director position was more than the Emergency Management budget. Councilman Newcomb clarified that the Emergency Management budget, including grant funds, totals $207,015 and noted that the figure referenced by Mr. Robinson is based only on General Fund contributions.
CONSTANT YEILD HEARING
Jane Baynard, County Manager, explained that pursuant to State law the Council is required to advertise its intent to set the real property tax for Dorchester County and to hold a public hearing on the Constant Yield. She noted that the current real property tax for Dorchester County is .896 per $100 of assessable value and included in the proposed FY 2011 budget are estimates to maintain that tax rate. She said the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) has calculated that the assessable base for Dorchester County will increase by 1.5% from $1.94 billion to $1.97 billion and the proposal to maintain the current real property tax rate at .896 per $100 of assessed value will result in some new revenue.
There was no public comment.
PUBLIC COMMENT – BUDGET
Paul Asplen, a Dorchester County resident, voiced his opposition to the creation of an Emergency Services Director position as proposed in the draft FY 2011 budget. He said he believes there is already capable staff in emergency medical services positions within the County. Mr. Asplen suggested that the Council consider taking the proposed salary for the Director position and using those funds for the Humane Society, local fire companies and the Sheriff’s Office. He said it is his understanding that the proposed budget includes reducing funding to the Sheriff’s Office. He expressed his opinion that the Council should accept the Dorchester County Humane Society’s officer to take over dog control within the County because they have the manpower, facilities and equipment. He said he believes Dog Control should be separate from the Sheriff’s Office.
Carol Embrey, a Dorchester County resident, asked Council to turn over the management of Dog Control to the County Manager and award a contract to the Humane Society to provide dog control services for the County. She said she supports using the funds designated for the Emergency Services Director salary to distribute funds to the Humane Society, local fire companies and the Sheriff’s Office.
Councilman Newcomb noted that all County Departments were asked to reduce their proposed FY 2011 budget by 2.5%. He explained that funds realized from vacant and frozen positions are being used for the Emergency Services Director salary.
Donald Gray, a Dorchester County resident, expressed his opinion that Sheriff’s Office deputies should not be allowed take home use of County vehicles. He explained that on several occasions he has observed deputies using their vehicles to travel out of the County and State and transporting their children to school in County vehicles. He suggested that less lighting be used in the County Office buildings in order to save on electricity.
Councilman Newcomb noted that the Council has asked Sheriff James Phillips in the past to eliminate all personal use and to have deputies park the vehicles at the Sheriff’s Office while not on duty to any avail. He explained that County funding is provided to the Sheriff’s Office, but because the Sheriff is an elected official the Council cannot tell the Sheriff how to run the Sheriff’s Office.
J.C. Collins, a Dorchester County resident and business owner expressed his opinion that deputies should have take home use of vehicles. He explained that he worked in the law enforcement field for several years but never worked at the Sheriff’s Office. He said he believes the presence of those vehicles throughout the County deter crime. Mr. Collins expressed concern that the proposed budget includes using a 171 hour over a 28 day period overtime threshold in the Sheriff’s Office and said he believes more overtime costs will be incurred if it is implemented. He questioned whether that overtime threshold will be used in the County’s Emergency Medical Services Department. Jason Shorter, Emergency Medical Services Director, explained that the 171 hour over a 28 day period does not apply to EMS. He said it is his understanding that only one county on the Eastern Shore uses that overtime threshold for the Sheriff’s Office and will be transitioning back to using a biweekly overtime threshold. Mr. Collins said that the Sheriff should be held accountable for ensuring that more than what is budgeted is spent. He expressed his belief that deputies have not received a pay raise in the past three years and noted his concern that the current salary structure may result in loss of deputies and will not assist in attracting qualified deputies. He said that although he believes the creation of an Emergency Services Director position is a viable option, he feels that due to the current economic climate the Council should not create that position at this time. He suggested that the salary designated for this position be used to provide more funding to EMS and the Sheriff’s Office. Mr. Collins expressed his opinion that the current emergency medical services Directors should be held accountable for their actions and work performance without adding a position to oversee them.
In response to a question from Councilwoman Elzey, Mr. Collins said he was a Maryland State Trooper for 22 years, a nationally registered pilot of 26 years and currently owns Collins Wood Products in the Town of Hurlock. Based on an inquiry from Councilwoman Elzey, Mr. Collison said he has experiencing working at a job using the 171 hour over a 28 day pay period overtime threshold and it was managed bi-weekly. In response to a question from Councilman Newcomb, Mr. Collins said that the overtime threshold is used in Kent County and that they are changing back to a biweekly overtime threshold.
Mr. Collins advised that it was his understanding from talking with County employees that if a deputy attends court for three hours and is scheduled to work later in the day, that individual’s work day is shortened by those three hours in order to manage overtime.
Councilman Newcomb noted that the Sheriff has advised Council that he has been using the 171 hour over a 28 day period method to schedule deputies for several years. He compared the approved budgets for the Sheriff’s Office in 2007-2009 with the amounts spent in those fiscal years and noted that each year overtime costs spent exceeded those budgeted amount.
Mr. Gray said he has been advised that there are only two deputies on duty per shift. Councilman Newcomb said that four to five deputies are on duty each shift.
Glen Bramble, a Dorchester County resident and business owner, expressed concern about the creation of an Emergency Services Director in the current economic climate. He noted that previously the Warden served as the Public Safety Director over the EMS Department, Emergency Management Department and the 911 Communications Centers at the additional salary of $5,000. He expressed his opinion that the Council should do something similar with the Emergency Services Director position. Mr. Bramble said to his knowledge Department Heads served at the pleasure of Council and suggested that the Council inform the appropriate individuals that they need to improve their work performance or replace them. Mr. Bramble thanked the Council as one Dorchester County Board of Education member for working with the School Board to ensure there are funds for the public schools within the County.
Ms. Embrey explained that she send a letter to the Council in February 2010 asking that they award the Humane Society the enforcement of dog control in the County. She suggested that the Council award them that bid with the stipulation that they provide quarterly reports. Ms. Embrey also suggested Council consider asking the Sheriff to provide quarterly public reports which may encourage him to manage overtime.
Charlotte Hughes, a Dorchester County resident, expressed her opposition to increasing County real property taxes. She said that affordable housing is needed in the County and expressed concern that a tax increase may increase foreclosures in the County. Ms. Hughes questioned why mobile homes cannot be placed on private property to serve as a residence instead of individuals being required to construct homes on their property which are more expensive.
Ms. Hughes questioned if an individual has to immediately pay the cost of a property and the taxes if they purchase it at a County tax sale. Mr. Spear explained that individuals purchase tax sale certificates at County tax sales and that they are required to pay only the taxes owed on the date of sale and not the entire bid amount. He said that individuals purchase the right to foreclose on a property after a certain time frame. Mr. Spears offered to meet with Ms. Hughes to explain the process.
Ms. Hughes said she met with an individual who told her that he had to buy his own house back. Mr. Merryweather noted that if a bank declares that a mortgagor is in default the property owner is required to purchase their property if they do not want face foreclosure proceedings.
Mr. Spears explained that from the date of the sale of a property at a County tax sale a homeowner has six months before the buyer of the tax certificate can purchase the house. He noted that the investor who purchased the property can then petition the Court to foreclosure on the property in order to obtain the deed to the property and that the owner has until the judge approves the foreclosure to pay the investor back the legal fees incurred and the taxes and interest owed on the property.
Mr. Spears noted that the proposed FY 2011 budget does not include a real property tax increase. Ms. Hughes clarified that she was speaking hypothetically.
In response to a question from Ms. Hughes, Ms. Baynard explained that the County is required to provide a Maintenance of Effort funding commitment to the Board of Education annually, which is set by the State.
Ms. Hughes expressed concern about the process undertaken by the Board of Education to hire a new Superintendent. Councilman Newcomb explained that the Dorchester County Board of Education makes the decision on who to hire.
Richard Newcomb, a Dorchester County resident, said he was a 30 year veteran of the Coast Guard and expressed his belief that raising taxes puts added stress and pressure on families during. He suggested that individuals may be willing to volunteer their services to the County or take a lower salary to fill the Emergency Services Position. He expressed concern about establishing multiple levels of bureaucracy. Mr. Newcomb said the Council should remove individuals who are not performing their job duties appropriately. He expressed concern about the creation of an Emergency Services position at a time when employees are receiving a temporary pay reduction and furloughs.
The Council adjourned into Legislative Session.
PUBLIC HEARING BILL NO. 2010-11
There was no public comment.
Councilwoman Elzey thanked Ms. Baynard, Mr. Spears, Robert Willey, Assistant Finance Director and Becky Dennis, Human Resources Director for their hard work during the FY 2011 budget process. She said that there are funds from vacant positions in the FY 2011 budget to use for the Emergency Services Director position.
She explained that Council listens and takes public comments under advisement and expressed concern that more residents did not attend the FY 2011 budget work session. Councilwoman Elzey noted that the majority of those work session are open to the public. She thanked the Board of Education staff and the Dorchester County Board of Education members for working with the Council to ensure funding for the public schools for FY 2011. She noted that Humane Society representatives asked for additional funding in FY 2010 to providing housing and other services for dogs picked up by the County’s Dog Control Officers and when asked if they would accept a lower figure, elected not to offer those services. Councilwoman Elzey said Sheriff Phillips stepped forward to accept the responsibility of dog control within the County and will do so in FY 2011.
Councilman Price thanked Ms. Baynard, Mr. Spears, Mr. Willey and Ms. Dennis for their assistance during the FY 2011 budget process. He expressed concern that the budget included temporary pay reductions for County employees and increased the amount they pay in health insurance co-pays. He noted that drastic State highway user revenue reductions played a significant role in the budget deliberations. Councilman Price expressed his appreciation for the public comments made by residents during the budget process and said he looked forward to future input from County residents.
Councilman Travers said that although he agreed with the overall FY 2011 budget he was not in favor of certain aspects of the budget including the implementation of a 171 hour over a 28 day period overtime threshold in the Sheriff’s Office. He thanked County staff for their assistance during the budget process.
Councilman Nichols said he also is not in favor of some of the items in the adopted FY 2011 budget. He clarified that there is no real property tax increase and no increase of County fees in the budget. He expressed his appreciation to Ms. Baynard, Mr. Spears and Mr. Willey for their hard work during the budget process. Councilman Nichols said that the Humane Society was offering to assume responsibility for dog control in the County for the same amount the Council asked them to accept in FY 2010 that they refused. He noted that in the past seven years overtime costs exceeded budget amounts by $662,000. Councilman Nichols noted that to date $132,000 in overtime has been expended. He said it is his understanding that Kent County is still using the 171 hour over a 28 day period threshold, divided in half, to calculate overtime in that County’s Sheriff’s Office and is successful in managing overtime costs. He expressed his opinion that deputies should not be allowed take home use of County vehicles.
Councilman Nichols noted that the adopted FY 2011 operating budget is $54.6 million and represents a $3.5 million decrease from FY 2010. He noted that legislation was passed in the Maryland General Assembly three years ago that increased the Sheriff’s Salary.
Councilman Newcomb noted that in preparation of the FY 2011 budget process the Council started meeting in August 2009. He thanked Ms. Baynard, Mr. Spears, Mr. Willey and the other Council members for their cooperation and hard work during the FY 2011 budget deliberation process and Department Heads for reducing their budgets and cooperating with the Council to ensure there are funds to maintain services and programs for residents. He noted that the Council also reduced appropriations to agencies. He said that the Council’s goal was to no lay off individuals, which was also the request of Department Heads, on behalf of staff, in the beginning of the budget process. Councilman Newcomb noted that a 90% reduction in State highway user revenues has resulted in funding not being available to maintain all of the roads, bridges and ditches in the County. He expressed dismay at having to increase employee’s health insurance costs but noted that without the increase $400,000 would have had to been identified. Councilman Newcomb said he was aware that volunteer fire company members are concerned about their funding being reduced by $1,000 but noted that the Council, after the FY 2010 budget was adopted had to expend $15,000 from the FY 2010 Contingency Fund to cover increased Workers Compensation insurance costs.
Councilman Newcomb expressed his thanks to Sheriff Phillips for taking over the responsibility of Dog Control in the County. He invited the public to attend future budget work sessions noting that only a few of those meetings are closed when personnel items need to be addressed.
With no further business to discuss, the Council adjourned.
ATTEST: DORCHESTER COUNTY COUNCIL:
Jane Baynard, County Manager Jay L. Newcomb, President
Effie M. Elzey, Vice President
William V. Nichols
Approved the ______day of , 2010.