LEXINGTON PARK, Md. – Local officials in St. Mary’s County are grappling with how to fund critical infrastructure projects, such as school repairs and new construction, while also balancing the needs of developers and homeowners.
On the 32nd episode of The BayNet’s Podcast, “Get Real with Chris & Mark,” the hosts ‘Get Real’ with Commissioner Scott Ostrow about the challenges that come with being a commissioner and the difficulties in managing the county budget. They also touched on the new excise tax and what it means.
Ostrow has been a St. Mary’s County commissioner, representing District 4 since December 5, 2022. He has a background in finance and has been a resident of St. Marys for ten years.
Despite Ostrow’s challenges so far, he was excited to announce that the county has money earmarked for a YMCA in Lexington Park and other improvement projects.
“I’m kind of getting away from calling it Lexington Park. It’s the center of the county, as far as I’m concerned,” Ostrow expressed.
“The pushback that I get from so many people, Lexington Park gets everything, and we’ve dumped millions and millions of dollars in Lexington Park over the years. And my comeback to that is, yes, that’s good. But it almost doesn’t count because, infrastructure, nobody can see it. So if you want people to have pride in where they live and really want to take ownership of that, we need to do things that are more outwardly visible,” Ostrow explained.
In a recent board meeting, county officials discussed the impact fees that developers pay to help offset the costs of new development.
During the podcast, Ostrow explained that the impact fee goes away as of July, and the new excise tax will essentially replace the impact fee. The impact fee currently covers roads, schools, and parks & recreation.
“The excise tax is good for the county in a lot of ways. It gives us more flexibility to be able to move money. So it doesn’t have to just go to the three (roads, schools, parks & recreation). We’re going to add public safety,” emphasized Ostrow.
Chris mentioned that people were concerned that the new tax would be higher than the original impact fee, which Ostrow clarified that the proposal included the maximum recommended number, and they wish to avoid reaching it.
“Our county is growing, and we want that to happen. But at the same time, you’ve got to be able to support it,” said Ostrow, adding that aging schools and other infrastructure needs are costing the county millions.
The price tag for a new roof for Great Mills High School alone is $56 million, with estimates for a new school running as high as $200 million.
Despite the high costs, Ostrow acknowledged that they must balance the needs of developers and homeowners, who are often resistant to higher impact fees or taxes.
“I don’t want to see a higher impact fee. Nobody does,” expressed Mark, who represents builders and buyers of new homes.
Mark also noted that how impact fees and taxes are structured can also impact homeowners’ costs. In Calvert County, for example, developers can pay the impact fee or an excise tax in three phases, with two-thirds of the cost passed on to homeowners. However, in Charles County, the excise tax is spread out over ten years, pushing all of the cost onto homeowners.
“It’s a little bit more manageable when it comes in the smaller chunks. We’re still having the public hearing and exploring how we are going to do this. I am personally in favor of spreading it out over a few years,” Ostrow added.
Ultimately, the county officials are exploring different options for managing the county’s budget and funding critical infrastructure projects while satisfying the needs of all stakeholders.
You can stay up-to-date with St. Mary’s County board meeting agendas on their website: https://www.stmarysmd.com/Boards/4/Agendas/
To hear more improvements coming to Lexington Park and how the excise tax and constant yield are linked, watch the full video here.
Once a week, Century 21 New Millennium Realtors Chris Hill and Mark Frisco ‘Get Real’ with topics surrounding life in Southern Maryland while showcasing local business tastings and highlighting hidden gems in the area.
You can watch or listen to previous episodes at: www.thebaynet.com/podcasts
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Those taxes are a scam! Nothing but theft! The Chesapeake ranch estates has been in one for over 20 years and have done nothing but pocket the money!
I’ve lived here since 1997 and there hasn’t been a new high school built. I think Carver Elementary was the only new one. The Navy was supposed to aid with money going towards schools, infrastructure, etc. with the move from headquarters in Arlington, Va to here. What’s been done with that money?
Mr. Ostrow, How do you see Lexington Park as the center if St. Mary’s County? Older people in the county are half afraid to even go down that way by themselves. Lexington Park is seen to be the center of something alright, but it is not the center of this county!
When can we get public sewer in the north end?
$56 Million for a new roof for GMHS, please explain. That is more than a new roof! This is especially in light of “estimates for a new school running as high as $200 million”! No way a roof cost 1/4 or even 1/5 of a whole new school. If that’s the case, it’s more economical to replace the school! Yet the two Podcast Journalists(?) running the interview don’t ask why?
Maryland law provides that elected officials and federal judges can be impeached. Jan 22, 2021. SB907 is for a Recall Petition.
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