Local Government Contracting Opportunities Begin to Grow

As reported by the online publication Route Fifty, local government contracting opportunities are rebounding. The article references a new report by Onvia, a Seattle-based government business intelligence company, that found that state, local and education (SLED) contracting activity increased by .3 percent after a noticeable decline.

From the article,

…third quarter growth was spurred by local governments, up 1.3 percent, and education agencies, up 3.1 percent,

Also factoring into the uptick was a 4.5 percent spike in IT/telecom purchases, up 388 bids and RFPs to 8,990 since this time last year, driven by state agencies. Consulting and software made up the majority of those purchases.

The article indicates that state agencies continued to see a 3.3 percent decline in purchasing activity.

Rating Agencies Affirm Montgomery County’s Triple-A Bond Rating

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett announced this week that all three rating agencies – Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s – affirmed the county’s Triple-A Bond Rating. All three rating agencies noted the county’s stable outlook and sound fiscal management practices.

From the county press release,

The Triple-A bond rating enables Montgomery County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The rating also serves as a benchmark for numerous other financial transactions, ensuring the lowest possible costs in those areas as well.

“What is remarkable about this is that Montgomery County has continued to receive a Triple-A bond rating from all three bond rating agencies even during these past few years when other jurisdictions – including the federal government – were seeing downgrades and despite federal shutdowns, budget sequestrations and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” said Leggett.

“Our ability to maintain our coveted Triple-A rating affirms my approach to putting the County’s fiscal house in order and reducing unsustainable increases in County spending, while investing in making government more effective and creating opportunities for the growth of good jobs in the future.

Howard Refines Procurement to Benefit Local Businesses

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman issued an Executive Order this week making changes to the county’s procurement practices aimed to benefit local businesses. As reported by the Baltimore Sun,

The change will have the county’s purchasing office certify companies maintaining a principal place of business in Howard County.

It then encourages county agencies to use certified local businesses when they purchase goods valued under a cutoff of $10,000. For deals of more than $10,000, purchasers will have to notify local businesses of solicitations. Solicitations done under sealed bids will also be able to be evaluated in part on whether local businesses are involved.

The Executive Order also encourages grant fund recipients to use their funds at local businesses.

Property Assessment Mapping Tool Provides Wealth of County Data

A new mapping tool implemented in King County, Washington has enabled county assessors, residents, businesses and constituency groups to gain a better understanding of property assessment data and trends in the housing market.

As reported by NACo County News,

“We had a growing demand, es­pecially when the economy turned, folks would come to our office and say they wanted information about how their neighborhood was chang­ing,” said Assessor Lloyd Hara.

And serving them wasn’t as easy as just pulling up the data they wanted.

“They’d have to call us to get a complete report, and that would take about two hours to a week, depending on the complexity of the issue,” said his community outreach manager, Phillip Sit.

A seven-month development effort compiled assessment infor­mation, along with Census data, and synthesized that data into a comprehensive mapping tool, which can be used to extract data based on user-drawn boundaries.

“You can draw the shape and it pulls the data from a multitude of census tracts and does it in real time,” Sit said.

The information is useful for resi­dents, the private sector, nonprofits and even the county government. Loaded onto tablet computer, Lo­calScape can go into the field with the assessor’s office staff.

“That’s been a real advantage for our appraisers because we’re under tight budget constraints and adding another full-time employee to do data retrieval wouldn’t be possible,” Hara said.

Interested constituencies no longer need to request data from the assessment office. They can go right to the website, enter their search parameters, and access the data.

Over three years, the program will cost $230,000 for both the development and operating budget.
In Maryland, the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) performs property assessments, not the county governments. Once assessments are complete, the county finance offices receive data files from SDAT and issues tax billings for both the state and local property tax.
In 2014, a Property Assessment Workgroup was established to examine issues related to the assessment process for real and personal property, tax credits, and tax exemptions. Recommendations for each of these areas predominantly focus on the use of new technologies to improve the assessment process and business process re-engineering to create greater operational efficiencies.  Recommendations also focus on developing better partnerships with local jurisdictions for more effective data sharing and improving communication between SDAT, local assessment offices and local governments.

Montgomery County Ranks 15th Largest in National Clean Energy Purchasing

Montgomery County’s Clean Energy Buyer’s Group ranks 15th in the nation as a voluntary purchaser of clean energy among organizations that are tracked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership (GPP); ranking fourth among local governments.

According to Montgomery County’s press release,

The County rose eight positions on the GPP’s list of national organizations, ranking above many Fortune 100 companies and federal agencies.

The Montgomery County Clean Energy Buyer’s Group includes Montgomery County Government, Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Chevy Chase Village Section 5, City of Takoma Park, and the towns of Kensington and Somerset. The group has consistently ranked amongst the nation’s top purchasers for more than 10 years. The City of Rockville and City of Gaithersburg also participated in the purchasing pool. Collectively, the County and its partners purchase 431 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of clean energy. According to the U.S. EPA, the Group’s purchase offsets 297,196 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. This is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of taking 62,500 passenger vehicles off the road or planting 7.6 million trees.

“Montgomery County has been a clean energy leader for more than a decade,” said County Executive Ike Leggett. “We were one of the first governments to adopt clean energy requirements, specifying how much energy from sources such as solar, wind and other zero emissions sources of energy should be used in our buildings. We are pleased to offset the greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in our buildings, contributing to a healthier and more sustainable community and planet.”

“Clean power is good for the environment, is good for taxpayers, and is good for our local economy,” said Councilmember Roger Berliner, chair of the County’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee and lead sponsor on Bill 9-14, that required the county to purchase 100% renewable energy by Fiscal Year 2016. “Our County has made a tremendous commitment to clean power, and we are glad the EPA is recognizing that commitment. Our County government is now carbon neutral, something every County resident should be proud of, and something every County resident and building owner can aspire to on their own property. With carbon neutral buildings, we can say that we truly are doing our part as a government to minimize our impact on the planet and to fight global climate change. Combining this effort with our determination to put solar panels on at least a dozen county buildings, Montgomery County is showing national leadership on how a government can be an environmental steward.”

Visit Montgomery County online to read the full press release or to track the progress of the County’s initiatives to reduce the environmental footprint of County’s operations.


College of Southern Maryland: First College to Join MACo’s OPEB Investment Trust

Last week, the Board of the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) approved the College’s participation in MACo’s OPEB Investment Trust. CSM is the first college to join the investment trust.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the MACo OPEB Investment Trust is a newly developed offering to assist counties and other local government units to invest toward long-term liabilities of their retiree health insurance cost programs.

For more information, see Conduit Street‘s previous coverage of the Trust creation.

Register Today for the 2015 Governor’s Grants Training Conference – November 9



David Brinkley, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Budget and Management, will open the 2015 Governor’s Grants Training Conference on November 9th at the College Park Marriott Conference Center. Join hundreds of colleagues from around the country, and from Maryland state agencies, local governments and nonprofits to engage with federal and state grantors. Officials from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget will teach you how to properly manage your federal grants under the new federal grants management uniform guidance.  Pick up tips on how best to prepare for audits from the author of the State’s Single Audit, SB & Company. Managers of the massive accountability website, USASpending.gov, will talk about improvements to the site, and the top brass from Federal Funds Information for States will discuss trends in federal funding. Talk to the manager of the State Data Center on how to pump up your grant applications with meaningful census data.

Maryland Governor’s Grants Office director Merril Oliver will present “The State of the State of Grants in Maryland,” and the luncheon keynote speaker will be Amy Haseltine, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Grants and Acquisition Policy and Accountability who leads the U.S. Open Data Act implementation.

Immerse yourself in this full day of strategically-designed training to give your organization the competitive edge it needs!  Guaranteed, you will never find better training under one roof, in your state, and at such an affordable price. This event comes but once a year so don’t delay, register today!

Registration closes on November 5th!


St. Mary’s County AA+ Credit Rating Affirmed by Fitch

St. Mary’s County recently announced that its AA+ credit rating has been affirmed by Fitch Ratings.  From the County’s press release:

As part of its routine surveillance review Fitch Ratings has affirmed St. Mary’s County’s AA+ credit rating on $70.5 million of outstanding unlimited tax general obligation bonds. The bonds are used primarily to fund school construction but have also paid for road construction and improvements at public facilities.

Though the county is not selling bonds at this time, the review is not considered uncommon. Rating agencies typically update their review whenever a county has not sold bonds in a few years. Fitch last issued a review of the county’s rating in 2013. The last issuance of new bonds by the county was in 2009. The rating agency noted the likelihood that a moderate amount of bond issuance would be likely to fund the county’s capital needs in FY2017.

In its review Fitch pointed to the county’s “healthy reserves and budgetary flexibility,” “low debt, modest pension liability” and “economic base concentrated in the military” as key rating drivers. Fitch also took note that the county has consistently maintained a separate reserve to preserve its bond rating at 6% of general fund expenditures and a constant $1.625 million rainy day fund. In addition, a minimum unrestricted fund balance policy of 15% of general fund revenue was established in August 2015.

“This is very good news. A strong, positive rating confirms that our conservative fiscal policies and practices are sound,” said County Administrator Dr. Rebecca Bridgett.

The agency also pointed out the county’s careful management of its capital spending program, issuance of debt and rapid amortization of debt. Fitch concludes the county is on track to reduce 86% of its current outstanding debt within 10 years and debt service represents a low 5% of governmental spending.

“This report is another indication of how county government and the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County continue to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollar,” said Commissioner President Randy Guy. “This review reaffirms our conservative approach to overall fiscal management as we continue to meet the needs of our ever growing community.”

U.S. Communities Offers New HVAC Products, Installation and Services Through Trane

uscommunitiesU.S. Communities has awarded a multi-year contract with Trane to provide HVAC products, installation and services. Save time and money with this new contract that delivers a comprehensive HVAC offering from the world leader in air conditioning systems, services and solutions.

Trane’s entire portfolio of energy-efficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems, advanced controls, building, contracting and energy services is included under the U.S. Communities contract. From the initial design concept to re-commissioning and upgrades — and everywhere in between — Trane is here to support you with a solution that’s right for your building.

To learn more about this new contract, register for a complimentary one-hour webinar.


If you are unable to attend one of the webinar dates, contact us for additional information.

Fitch Assigns Wicomico AA Rating as It Prepares for Bond Sale

Fitch Ratings has assigned Wicomico County a AA bond rating as the county prepares to sell $19.8 million in general obligation consolidated public improvement and refunding bonds in a competitive bond sale on October 20. The article in the online publication, BusinessWire, identified the following key factors as rating drivers:

STRONG FINANCIAL PROFILE: Management’s conservative budgeting practices and recent revenue enhancements have resulted in historically positive operating results, ample reserve levels and strong liquidity. The county’s charter limitations have not hampered financial performance, and revenue and spending flexibility remains available.

SOCIOECONOMIC METRICS SOMEWHAT WEAK: Key economic metrics have shown improvement the past year but remain below state and national averages. Agriculture, higher education and healthcare provide a solid foundation for the economy.

FAVORABLE DEBT POSITION: Overall debt levels are low, amortization of principal is rapid, and county officials prudently analyze capital needs alongside debt affordability.

WELL MANAGED LONG-TERM BENEFIT LIABILITIES: The county’s pension system remains well funded and teachers’ pension costs funded through the state plan are affordable.

For more information, read the full article in BusinessWire.