LEONARDTOWN, Md. – A recent dispute over the St. Mary’s County budget has the Board of County Commissioners(BOCC) split.
The BOCC held its final budget work session on May 18 and plan to finalize it at their next meeting on May 25.
The work session began with an update that the Board of Education found other sources for the $1.99 million they had requested the week prior. Commissioner Todd Morgan then proposed that the commissioners reduce the LOSAP fund from $3 million to $2 million. Commissioner Morgan proposed they use that money and the money the Board of Education was no longer using for three new turf fields for the high schools, allotting $3 million for the fields.
The discussion of the turf fields included how it would bring tournaments to the area, and the $3 million would allow them to build the fields at all the high schools at the same time. Commissioner Hewitt said at the work session, “If you’re going to one, you gotta do three”. The other issue raised about the fields was that the $3 million was seen as a starting point with no one clear on how much the turf fields would cost when construction began. One estimate proposed that it could take up to an additional $1.5 million for the fields.
The commissioners voted 4-1 to pass the $3 million for the turf fields, but after the vote, it was said that the fund balance would be in a deficit of $385,000. The commissioners then rescinded that motion and voted on giving $2.5 million for the fields. The commissioners voted 3-2 on the $2.5 million for the fields.
Commissioners John O’Connor and Eric Colvin took to Facebook after the meeting to share their opinions about the budget session, most notably about the turf fields. Commissioner Colvin posted, “Build turf fields at all of the high schools–this was a last-minute addition to use $2.5 million for turf fields at the high schools. NEVER discussed previously. NOT enough money to get the job done. I think artificial turf fields would be very nice at each of our high schools, but every other CIP project has more planning than this go into it.”. Commissioner O’Connor shared the post and agreed.
The commissioners discussed and voted on putting $2 million towards the LOSAP fund. The LOSAP Benefit Trust is used to fund the retirement benefits for qualified firefighters, rescue personnel, and advanced life support volunteers based on a point system. The funding for this trust was unanimously passed.
Another item voted on was reducing the income tax. The commissioners passed a reduction of the income tax rate from 3.17 to 3.1% unanimously. The reduction will take effect on January 1, 2022.
The Emergency Services Billing Fund was also discussed and voted on. The plan that the volunteers brought to the commissioners wanted 38 full-time positions. Concerns with the contract positions included lack of accountability and that after COVID, there is a fear volunteers won’t come back at the same numbers that they once were pre-COVID. The commissioners compromised and passed 16 hires for full time and the rest on contract.
The budget work session is available to watch on the St. Mary’s County Government YouTube Channel.
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