On Tuesday, May 14, the Board of County Commissioners adopted a balanced General Fund budget of $425,097,500 for fiscal 2020, an increase of 5.1 percent from the previous year. The adopted budget enhances core services and invests in community priorities that foster economic development, protect natural resources, expand school capacity, and ensure public safety needs are met.
“The adoption of the annual operating and capital budgets is the most important decision that the Board of Commissioners makes each year. We have approved progressive, forward-thinking budget that reflects our commitment to enhance the quality of life we enjoy here in Charles County,” stated Commissioner President Reuben B. Collins, II, Esq. “The approved budget allocations facilitate business growth, support our youth, protect vulnerable populations, and enhance public amenities. This is just a first step, but an important one, to invest taxpayer dollars in areas that prepare us for the future.”
The General Fund budget funds the ongoing costs of government, and includes:
• $8.67 million increase for Charles County Public Schools, to fund salary raises and open Billingsley Elementary School. The total allocation, which also includes funding for the Charles County Public Library and College of Southern Maryland, is $205.43 million, or 48.4 percent, of the General Fund budget.
• $4.47 million increase for the Sheriff’s Office, to fund increased compensation for employees, additional staff for a forensics science unit, two new school resource officers, and additional support staff. The total allocation is $94.75 million, or 22.3 percent of the General Fund budget.
• $2.33 million increase for County Government operations, to fund a merit increase, a cost-of-living increase effective Jan. 1, 2020 for eligible employees, part-time pay adjustments, additional paramedics/EMTs and dispatchers, operations of the Billingsley Elementary School Community Center, and a youth summer jobs program with the Tri-County Council. The total allocation is $65.73 million, or 15.5 percent, of the General Fund budget.
• $4.97 million increase for other local government functions, to fund two additional attorneys for the State’s Attorney’s Office, fund a reserve to match the Teacher’s Incentive Grant pending state-funding approval, support conservation initiatives, meet debt obligations for capital improvement program, fund the development of the Velocity Center in Indian Head, and pursue studies to facilitate Commissioners’ goals and objectives.
The $546 million, five-year capital improvement program (fiscal 2020-2024) funds one-time expenditures that pay for community assets (schools, roads, parks, water and sewer, etc.), and includes:
• School modifications and improvements for Benjamin Stoddert Middle School and Eva Turner Elementary School, full-day kindergarten additions at several elementary schools and other school maintenance projects;
• Transportation projects, such as the road overlay program, traffic signal program, drainage system improvements, sidewalk improvements, Billingsley Road safety improvements, Western Parkway Phase III, and Old Washington Road reconstruction;
• Construction of new facilities, including an animal shelter, VanGO maintenance facility, Waldorf Park Phase I, and La Plata library relocation;
• Detention Center roof replacement and other maintenance-related projects and renovations;
• Healthcare training facility for the College of Southern Maryland;
• County technology investments in new financial software and radio communications system upgrades;
• Support of conservation programs to protect the county’s natural resources;
• Maintenance for county facilities, including courthouse renovations, park and playground revitalization, and improvement projects at Capital Clubhouse and Elite Gymnastics and Recreation Center.
The real property tax rate is $1.141 for County Government and $0.064 for Fire and Rescue per $100 of assessed value. The adopted fiscal 2020 budget details are available online at www.CharlesCountyMD.gov/budgetprocess.