Leonardtown, Md. — On Tuesday, May 25, the St. Mary’s County Board of Commissioners(BOCC) approved the budget for 2022, but not without some heated debate.

Last week the commissioners met for the final budget work session. The BOCC met after passing  $2.5 million for three turf fields for the local high schools at the prior work session, sparking an outcry on social media.

Before the meeting on Tuesday, a press release from St. Mary’s County Government outlined the budget. The press release stated that the BOCC had, “plans for unprecedented funding increases to the Board of Education and Sheriff’s Office, and reduced county income taxes.”

Commissioner John O’Connor[R], who was one of the opponents of the turf fields took to his Facebook page, writing, “About this press release. My name may be on the letterhead, but I disagree with the ‘Spin.’ What’s the point of allocating historic funding if it’s misplaced and the needs of the citizens weren’t met.”

Commissioner Todd Morgan[R] brought a motion to the board to use the $207,373 from the emergency fund that was going towards snow removal, to instead be used for salaries for the Board of Education, police officers, and county employees. The motion allocated $133,000 to the Board of Education and a $70,000 split between the Sheriff’s office and county employees.

The measure passed unanimously.

O’Connor called for a motion to restore the 38 full-time EMTs that were originally requested and to provide more funding to the Sheriff’s office. The motion also allocated more money to give the Board of Education the $400,000 it had requested. The motion failed in a 3-2 vote.

Commissioners Mike Hewitt[R] and Morgan both defended their positions against funding the 38 full-time EMTs by citing financial discipline. Their arguments included that the BOCC did not yet know the projections from last year, especially with COVID as a factor in the economy.

The 2022 budget passed with a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Guy, Hewitt, and Morgan voted to approve it.

During the closing commissioner’s comments, Morgan restated that he believed because the metrics weren’t in yet from income taxes, mid-year adjustments could be made to the budget. Commissioner President Guy[R] echoed those statements and said everyone was funded fairly and the board could readjust, if needed, in November.

The budget work session is available to watch on the St. Mary’s County Government YouTube Channel.

Contact Brooke and our news desk at news@thebaynet.com