Meeting Minutes

Meeting Minutes
posted: 04/28/11

County Council Meeting Minutes

April 19, 2011

County Council of Dorchester County

Regular Meeting Minutes

April 19, 2011


The County Council of Dorchester County met in regular session on April 19, 2011 with the following members present: Present were Jay L. Newcomb, President; William V. Nichols, Vice President; Ricky Travers; Rick Price and Tom Bradshaw. Also present were E. Thomas Merryweather, County Attorney; Jane Baynard, County Manager and Donna Lane, Executive Administrative Specialist.





The Council adjourned from a Regular Session and convened in a closed Executive

Session pursuant to State Government Article pursuant to pursuant to the State Government Article pursuant to § 10-508(A)(1) to discuss the appointment, employment, assignment, promotion, discipline, demotion, compensation, removal, resignation, or performance evaluation of appointees, employees, or officials over whom it has jurisdiction.


Voting in favor of the closed Executive Session were all Council members.





Councilman Nichols led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.




There were no additions or deletions to the agenda.


The Council approved the vouchers with the exception of payments to Hubcaps Automotive Center (Invoice #43227) in the amount of $35 and General Sales Administration (Invoice #70006) in the amount of $1,214.40 pending further clarification.




Councilman Newcomb reported total cash and investments as $3,330,230.99.


The County Council of Dorchester County convened in an Executive Session at 4:30  p.m. on April 18, 2011 in a closed session at Room 110, County Office Building, 501 Court Lane, Cambridge, Maryland, pursuant to the State Government Article pursuant to § 10-508(A)(1) to discuss the appointment, employment, assignment, promotion, discipline, demotion, compensation, removal, resignation, or performance evaluation of appointees, employees, or officials over whom it has jurisdiction.


Motion made, seconded and carried to conduct a closed session pursuant to the above.  All members of the Council voted in the affirmative to conduct the closed session for the purposes stated above and to discuss the topics listed above.


Action taken at the closed session: 1) Discussed information pertaining to personnel issues specific to proposed budget-took no action.


The above information is being provided to the public pursuant to and in compliance with Section 10-509(b) and (c) of the State Government Article.






The Council approved the request of Nancy Shockley, Local Management Board Director, to submit a grant application to the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention for funding from $75,000 to $100,000 with a 10% cash match of up to $10,000 of earned reinvestment funds from the “Adventure Diversion Program”, an alternative intervention program for juveniles who have been referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice.  The Council acknowledged that 12-20 hours per week of experiential learning, conflict resolution and pro-social skill development will be provided blended with outdoor recreation activities and community service over a 90 day period with monthly weekend venturing activities averaging six to eight hours in length.  The Council further acknowledged that the use of the reinvestment funds was previously approved by the Executive Committee of the Dorchester Community Partnership for Children & Families. 





The Council approved the request of Ms. Shockley, based on recommendations provided by the Dorchester Community Partnership for Children & Families, to use available earned reinvestment funds in an amount not to exceed $17,984 for Camp Seagull, a four week summer camp operated by the Dorchester County YMCA for developmentally disabled students.  The Council acknowledged that the total funds needed will be reduced by the amount of funds awarded through other grants or fund raising activities and that the YMCA provides in-kind services of meeting space, pool, lifeguards and program director with additional in-kind services being provided by the Dorchester County Board of Education in the form of space at the Sandy Hill Elementary School.  Additionally, the Council acknowledged that the funds will cover the cost of transportation, direct supervision staff, snack, arts & craft supplies, as well as physical activity supplies and special adaptive computer equipment for non verbal campers. 


The Council also approved Ms. Shockley’s request, based on the Board’s recommendation, to use up to $40,000 in available earned reinvestment funds with no local cash match for four sessions of Camp ESPA (Eastern Shore Police Association) and four additional events throughout the fiscal year for at risk youth in Dorchester County.  The Council recognized that there will be two week sessions for boys and two week sessions for girls, ages 9-12 and 13-15,  (20 each session) and activities will include team/social building, arts and crafts, positive interaction with law enforcement, fishing, archery, swimming, boating and a nightly campfire.  Additionally, Council acknowledged that funds will be used for camper welcome bags, food, activity supplies, transportation and stipends for volunteer staff. 




The Council accepted an Administrative Resolution to reduce appropriations and expenditures in the County’s FY 2011 budget due to the loss or reduction in highway user revenues and property, income and recordation taxes based on an anticipated structural deficit for FY 2012 and FY 2013.   The Council acknowledged that the resolution eliminates vacancies, reduces the County workforce in addition to certain funding, and is being enacted in the current fiscal year to set forth savings in future fiscal years.   Additionally, the Council acknowledged that significant budget reductions have been undertaken since 2003 due to loss of revenue and State aid reductions including elimination and freezing of numerous vacancies and the implementation of an employee furlough program.




Jane Baynard, County Manager, presented to the Council the proposed FY 2012 budget.  She explained that pursuant to the County Charter budget public hearings will be held on May 3rd  and May 10th with a legislative public hearing on May 17th during which the budget bill will be presented to the Council for consideration.  Ms. Baynard noted that the budget cannot be amended until the end of the second public hearing required by Charter as a part of the budget process on May 10th.  She explained that pursuant to the Charter a balanced budget for FY 2012 should be adopted by the Council by May 30, 2011. 


Ms. Baynard noted there were several impacts to the County’s proposed budget as a result of the adoption of the FY 2012 State budget which included a shifting of 90% of the cost for local State Department of Assessment and Taxation offices to local governments and the continuation of highway user revenue reductions.   She explained that the 90% SDAT shift will continue in FY 2013 but that it is the State’s intention to reduce the share to local governments to 50% in 2014.   Ms. Baynard further explained that the local SDAT office will remain under the auspice of the State of Maryland and that the Council will have no authority over the office expenses or staff. 


Ms. Baynard noted that other State budget items pertinent to local governments include the rejection of the shifting of teacher retirement costs to local jurisdictions, the rejection of significant changes to Program Open Space funds which are supported by transfer tax and the retention of the disparity grant.  She explained that the disparity grant is awarded to certain local jurisdictions to assist them in bringing income tax revenue to the average level in the State, of which Dorchester County is a recipient, and that if the grant were eliminated in future State budgets the impact to Dorchester County will be a revenue loss of $2 million.  


Ms. Baynard advised that the State legislature is scheduled to reconvene in September 2011 to address redistricting at the State level and transportation issues.  She said Council and staff are concerned that there may be additional budget issues discussed during that session and noted that the Council, at a previous meeting, agreed to meet with the local delegation  for a wrap up of the 2011 legislative session and to what potential topics may be discussed during the special legislative session.


Ms. Baynard said the State’s budget also included a small refund of highway user funds to counties, including an $80,000 allocation to Dorchester County versus the historical funding to the County of $4 million.   She noted that there are also unfunded State mandates that were passed to local jurisdictions that impact the proposed FY 2012 budget as well as declining property assessments which have resulted in a reduction in real property tax revenue. 


Ms. Baynard said pursuant to a calculation provided by the State Department of Assessment and Taxation, in order to raise the same revenue as last year, the constant yield rate can be lowered slightly for properties in the County or in the Town of Hurlock but would require a significant increase in the City of Cambridge, due to the recent reassessment of property in that assessment quadrant.  She noted that staff is tracking income, recordation and transfer tax revenue as well as fees budgeted in FY 2011 but have seen no growth in those areas. 


Ms. Baynard explained that the Council started the FY 2012 budget process in December 2010  with a recognized deficit of $4 million, mostly specific to the ongoing loss of highway user funds.  She said that deficit increased to $5.4 million based on a $1.4 million reduction in property tax revenue as a result of reassessments.  She further explained that prior budgets  have been approved by Council with measures to close the deficit in the form of temporary reductions and one time funds, including using $3 million in FY 2011 from the County’s Reserve Fund, deferring capital projects for the prior two years, and delaying highway maintenance.  Ms. Baynard explained that the Reserve Fund balance was $5 million at the start of FY 2010 but has been depleted to $1.6 million based on the budget actions in FY 2011.   


Ms. Baynard stated that the proposed FY 2012 budget includes a $53.5 million Operating Budget, a $0.6 million Capital Budget,  and a $2.0 million Grant Budget for a $56.1 million overall budget proposal, which is $10.5 million or 15.85% less than the last fiscal year.   She noted that the proposed FY 2012 budget is $1.8 million less than the FY 2007 approved operating budget.   She explained that the most significant reduction is to the proposed capital budget which has been reduced by 9.4 million dollars.  Ms. Baynard advised there are limited capital projects proposed to be funded in the FY 12 budget which include UPS Battery replacement for computers at the 911 Center and narrow banding for fire pagers which is mandated pursuant to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirement ($33,000); improvements to a hangar roof at the Cambridge Dorchester Airport ($70,000); a road program and a new water well for the Highway Division office ($407,500);  and Security and Maintenance items for the Circuit Court ($138,923), to be funded from transfer tax  for a total capital appropriation of $649,423.  She noted that the security and maintenance items for Circuit Court include the replacement of Court Smart components, ($32,990); replacement of Courthouse window sills ($31,250); replacement of a HVAC control system ($73,500); and replacement of a central fire/alarm system ($1,183). 


Ms. Baynard stated that in order to address the ongoing budget deficit, the proposed budget includes a range of cost saving strategies, including expenditure reductions of over $1.8 million consisting of a continuation of the employee furlough program; replacement of capital at critical needs level only; filling vacant positions only as needed and approved by Council; across the board departmental reductions in operating (5%) and significant agency cuts, in some cases equal to 50% of historical funding.   She noted that there are some agency reductions of 50% over prior year funding.   Ms. Baynard commended the Department Heads for identifying a 5% reduction in their departmental budgets and noted that since approximately 2003 Department Heads have been asked to reduce their budgets for several budget years because of economic slowdowns or State aid reductions.   


Ms. Baynard explained that Council discussed seeking a Board of Education Maintenance of Effort Waiver for FY 2012 but noted that Council decided not to move forward with that initiative based on concerns about meeting State criteria in order to qualify for a waiver and in light of the Board of Education staff’s proposal to return to the County unexpended capital funds from the North Dorchester Middle School and Dorchester Career and Technology Center projects in an amount of $711,000. 


Ms. Baynard advised that the proposed FY 2012 budget does include the workforce reductions including changes identified in an earlier adopted Administrative Resolution and advised that the budget proposal includes downsizing of departments by means of workforce reductions  (layoffs), restructuring certain positions from full time to part time and reallocating staff resources to certain functions for efficiencies.  She explained that the Council members clarified during the budget process that they will fill an Emergency Services Director position funded in the FY 2010 budget but advised that action will only be taken in conjunction with the restructuring of certain management level positions in EMS, 911 Communications and Emergency Management to achieve a savings.  


Ms. Baynard noted that in prior years’ budgets the Council has taken the following cost saving measures: 1) eliminated over 30 positions in the last two years,  including some middle management positions through attrition, for a $1.5 million savings based on annual salary and fringe;  2) implemented a furlough program in 2009 of $357,000 which is still in place in the current year and will be continued in the FY2012 budget; 3) provided no steps or cost of living increases to employees for several years including FY 2012; 4) eliminated all post requirement funding for health benefits for the last two fiscal years; 5) approved departmental and agency reductions; and 6) expended reserve funds to fill budget gaps.


Ms. Baynard said in order to achieve long term, sustainable solutions to the budget deficit,  and in light of the probable ongoing reduction of highway user funds from the State, the Council is proposing an increase to the real property tax rate.   She explained it is Council’s belief that the State may be using the highway user funds to reduce its own budget deficit and to fund urban mass transit projects.    Ms. Baynard advised that Council is proposing an eight cent real property tax rate increase which will raise the current rate from 89.6 cents to 97.6 cents per $100 of assessed value in the County and 93.7 in the Town of Hurlock and City of Cambridge.  She said it will generate $2.6 million and allows the retention of the County’s Reserve Fund balance of $2 million.   She noted that there has been no change in the 5% homestead tax credit and that real property tax rate is the major revenue source for the County.  She explained that the proposed budget does continue the municipal tax differential of a 3.9 cent per $100 of assessed value rate to offset duplicative services provided by those municipalities.   Ms. Baynard further explained that it is Council’s historic policy to use identified and audited fund balances as PAYGO for capital projects to avoid issuing debt and maintaining a balance in the reserve fund will allow for possible PAYGO funding for future capital projects.


Ms. Baynard advised that staff has been instructed to investigate cost savings opportunities for future budget years and that Council will continue to pursue options to achieve county-wide savings, including bidding for certain services such consumables and service contracts for machinery and equipment.  She said Council will also be reviewing proposed fiscal policies to determine if additional cost savings can be achieved, including possible controls relating to meals and travels, phone and cell phone usage and expense reimbursements.  Ms. Baynard explained that Council has also discussed making Dorchester County government facilities non-smoking which may provide savings on future health care costs.  


Ms. Baynard noted that County employees will be required to increase their contribution for retirement, based on a change in State law, from 5% to 7% of gross salary and that there are new reductions in retirement benefits for anyone hired after July 1, 2011.  She said the County has achieved a reduction in health care costs due to previous plan design changes made during the last fiscal year.  She also advised that the temporary salary reduction and resulting furlough program will continue although the days County offices are closed to the public will be reduced from 8 days to 5 days.


She said the budget message, budget summary and proposed budget bill are available at the Council’s Office or the Finance Office.  A copy of the budget message is attached.




The Council adjourned into Legislative Session.




E. Thomas Merryweather, County Attorney, said Bill No. 2011-3 will adopt the County budget which consists of an Operating Budget, Capital Budget and Grant Budget for the appropriation of funds for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 and ending June 30, 2012.


The Council agreed to proceed with publication for public hearings to be held on May 3 and May 10, 2011 with a budget legislative hearing/adoption being held on May 17, 2011.



Donald Gray, a Dorchester County resident, expressed his understanding that there has been an increase in foreclosures in the County and questioned who is responsible for paying the taxes when the property are foreclosed upon.  Mr. Merryweather explained that if property taxes on foreclosed homes are not paid he will notify the bank which holds the property and advise that the taxes should be paid or the property will be sold at tax sale.  He said the tax sale process is a two year cycle and that most banks will pay the taxes in order to save the property from going through that process.  He advised that the Council has the option to take possession of the properties that are not sold at tax sale and resell them in order to place them back onto the tax rolls.


In response to a question from Les Simering, a Dorchester County resident, Ms. Haythe advised that the owners of the building previously occupied by the Metro grocery store have been advised that they have to remove the boards on the windows/doors.  She said it is her understanding that property will still remain unoccupied.  


Charlotte Hughes, a Dorchester County resident, also expressed concern about the amount of properties being foreclosed upon in the County. 


Portia Ennals Johnson, a Dorchester County resident, noted that legislation was passed in the Maryland General Assembly to provide assistance to individuals whose homes have been foreclosed on as well as for seniors who need improvements made to their residences.   She said residents can contact the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development for assistance.


Mr. Simering noted that he attended the FY 2012 budget work sessions and commended Council for preparing a balanced budget in light of State aid reductions and declining revenues.  He expressed his support for raising real property taxes to increase revenue and encouraged the Council to be more proactive and plan ahead for future budget years.


In response to a question from Mr. Gray, Councilman Newcomb said the eight cent real property tax increase is in the proposed FY 2012 budget and Council has made no decision on whether to increase that tax in FY 2013.  Mr. Gray expressed concern that businesses may leave if taxes are substantially increased. 


Gail Dean, Dorchester Star Editor, questioned how many employees will be laid off and asked for clarification on the furlough day office closures.  Councilmen Newcomb advised Ms. Dean that a copy of the administrative resolution which pertains to the layoffs will not be available until all employees are notified.  He said he anticipates the resolution will be available by 4 p.m. tomorrow.  Ms. Baynard clarified that County offices will be closed for five instead of eight furlough days.



Councilman Bradshaw said he labored over decisions regarding the proposed budget and noted that in addition to the real property tax increase, Council made cost cutting measures based on future needs and to account for the State aid reductions which had an adverse impact on the budget.


Councilman Price thanked Ms. Baynard, staff and Department Heads for their assistance in composing the proposed budget.    He said it was a difficult budget process and expressed concern about the continued loss of highway user funds, particularly since the outlying areas of the County need road repair and/or maintenance.   He expressed concern about the passage of the cost for the State Assessments and Taxation Office to the County as well as unfunded State mandates.  He thanked the public for attending the meeting and encouraged them to continue their interest in County government.


Councilman Travers said working on the proposed FY 12 budget was the hardest task he has undertaken particularly as it will influence others.  He stated that Council is proposing to raise real property taxes in order to continue to run basic services in light of State aid reductions and unfunded mandates.  He stressed that the Council made severe reductions before making the final decision to propose that increase.


At the request of Councilman Newcomb, the Council members agreed to send a letter of condolence to the family and/or staff of Governor William Donald Schaefer, who recently passed.


With no further business to discuss, the Council adjourned.



ATTEST:                                                         DORCHESTER COUNTY COUNCIL:


______________________________            ____________________________________

Jane Baynard, County Manager                       Jay L. Newcomb, President



                                                                        William V. Nichols, Vice President



                                                                        Ricky Travers



                                                                        Rick Price



                                                                        Tom Bradshaw


Approved the ______day of ­­­­­­­­­­­­_________________, 2011.