Montgomery Officials Hopeful on School Construction Funding

August 27, 2014

As reported by the Gazette, Montgomery County state and local officials are hopeful that the General Assembly will pass legislation during the upcoming session to direct more school construction funding to the county.

After a Monday event at Wilson Wims Elementary School — built to relieve overcrowding in the Clarksburg area — Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said he feels “very confident” state lawmakers can “make some progress” in the upcoming session toward a funding method that would help the county accommodate its growing student body.

According to the article, Montgomery County’s increase in its student body this year was the largest since 2000.

Montgomery County legislators introduced legislation this past session to direct more school funding to the county.

Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Calverton put forward a bill that would have established a program to fund construction projects based on a county’s bond rating and a school system’s total number of students. Legislators from Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties, who likely would have benefited from the program, pushed for the legislation’s passage.

State Sen. Nancy J. King submitted another bill that would have established a grant program and doled out money based on student enrollment growth.

Both legislators felt the bills did not have a strong chance of passage last session, but hope with a new Administration, the outcome will be positive next session.

However, County Council President Craig Rice commented that he is hearing a “different conversation coming from Annapolis.”

Rather than a focus on the state’s three bigger counties, he said, he thinks there will be a “statewide approach” this session concerning construction funding.

The Governor issued an Executive Order in May to conduct a study on school construction in Maryland.  The study will address the topics raised in Delegate Kaiser’s legislation, HB1323 Public School Construction – Creative Financing Study  and HB 349/SB 388 Study of Alternative Financing Methods for the Purpose of School Construction.  Additional information on the Public School Construction Financing Study can be found on Conduit Street.

 


Don’t Miss Out on the 2014 Governor’s Grants Conference November 13 – Register Now!

August 25, 2014

Stay on top of your game! Attend the preeminent grants conference of the year! This will be a whole day of intensive training and networking with top federal officials, state grants experts and StateStat analysts who look at your programs.

Thursday, November 13, 2014
8:00 AM to 4:00 PM EST

The Inn and Conference Center at UMUC
3501 University Blvd., East
Adelphi, MD 20783

You will be guided through the comprehensive Federal Grants Reform changes that you are expected to know and implement as they take effect on December 26, 2014. At lunch you’ll hear from Hudson Hollister, the nation’s ‘rock-star’ leader of the OPEN DATA movement.  Anyone who even “touches a federal grant” needs to be at this important conference.  Bring your team, bring your partners! Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits will be provided.

Take advantage of the early bird rate!  Early bird rate applies until October 10, 2014.  Register now!

Click here for the Governor’s Grants Conference agenda and to register.


Charles County Receives AAA Bond Rating From Standard and Poor’s

August 22, 2014

Standard and Poor’s Rating Services recently raised Charles County’s bond rating from AA+ to AAA. From the County’s press release,

“AAA” is the highest of Standard & Poor’s bond ratings.  According to the news release, the rating upgrade reflects Standard & Poor’s opinion of several factors, including Charles County’s very strong economy with strong income and wealth levels, strong budgetary flexibility, and a diverse revenue stream.

The higher bond rating will allow the county to borrow funds for capital projects at lower interest rates. As reported by Southern Maryland News,

The Standard & Poor’s upgrade to a ‘AAA’ rating is very rewarding. I compare it to receiving an ‘A+’ from your teacher on a school assignment,” Fiscal and Administrative Services Director Dave Eicholtz said in the release. “It is a very positive recognition from an expert evaluation of many factors, including our economy, debt structure, financial condition, demographics and management practices. The Standard & Poor’s upgrade accompanies our other ‘AAA’ rating from Fitch. The ratings continue to show the financial markets that our bonds are a good investment.


Carroll County Poised To Attract And Retain Businesses

August 22, 2014

Carroll County Commissioners met with the local Chamber of Commerce recently to discuss the county’s business climate and efforts to attract and retain businesses in the area.  As reported by the Carroll County Times,

Carroll County is poised to offer space and support for new businesses wanting to locate to the area, according to the county board of commissioners.

…The commissioners said Carroll is in a great position to bring in new businesses and nurture established ones.

A former limitation has been the amount of space available for businesses to locate and expand.  However, according to Carroll County Commissioner Doug Howard, this issue has been addressed.

For the first time since 2005, Howard said, the county’s opportunities to bring in new businesses are in line with the amount of space it has to support them. “Carroll’s opportunities and inventory never really lined up before, until right now,” Howard said.

In the past couple years, a number of businesses have moved or expanded their facilities in Carroll. Fuchs North America, a spice company, is building a new facility in Hampstead; Carlisle Etc. LLC, a women’s clothing company, purchased a building in Westminster; and the firm Black Oak Associates is redeveloping the former Carrolltown Center space in Eldersburg.


Innovative Approaches To Fund and Finance Projects and Programs

August 15, 2014

doubling dollarsThe economy and limited resources have forced counties to think creatively when identifying approaches and funding for projects and programs. MACo’s Summer Conference General Session titled “Doubling Your Dollars and Outcomes – Innovative Approaches for Funding and Financing Projects” highlights financing options and methods for identifying available resources to stretch your dollars and achieve greater outcomes. The session, moderated by Delegate Adrienne Jones, House Speaker Pro Tem and Chair of the Appropriations Capital Budget Subcommittee, discussed alternative infrastructure financing, Pay For Success Programs, and grant resources.

The panel’s first speaker was Teno West, Partner at Pannone, Lopes, Devereaux & West. Mr. West discussed alternative infrastructure financing and public-private partnership arrangements (P3s). Mr. West spoke favorably about using a design build approach for wastewater and solid waste projects.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz followed sharing how the county financed a single stream materials recovery facility program using $20 million in pension reserve funds. The new facility has enabled the county to reduce recycling costs and increase the average tonnage of recycling sold to increase revenues.

Liya Shuster with Third Sector Capital Partners discussed Pay For Success programs (social impact bonds) and provided examples of counties that have used this approach to address significant social problems.  Ms. Shuster shared the key characteristics of a Pay For Success program and emphasized that these programs focus on producing successful measurable outcomes.

Karl Kalbacher of the Ferguson Group offered expertise in the identification of both federal and nonprofit grant opportunities.  He provided a general overview of grants offered by the federal Departments of Justice, Commerce, and Agricultural, to name a few. He also encouraged counties to start early when identifying grant opportunities.

 


Group To Examine The Prequalification of Contractors Based on Safety Requirements

August 8, 2014

The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR)  recently formed a workgroup to study and make recommendations regarding the prequalification of  public works contractors based on occupational safety and health requirements. The Workgroup, which is required by HB 951 (Ch. 625, Acts of 2014), has formed subcommittees to do the following:

  • analyze the potential effects of the public works contractor occupational safety and health prequalification requirements;
  • study the effectiveness of public works contractor occupational safety and health prequalification requirements that exist in other jurisdictions in the United States; and,
  • study the requirements and practices currently used by units in the State to evaluate public works bids and offers to ensure contractor adherence to safety standards.

Elizabeth Moss, Howard Community College’s Director of Procurement, is representing MACo on this Workgroup.

A major issue to be debated by the Workgroup is whether a statewide prequalification process for public works contractors should be established as required under the original legislation.  As introduced, HB 951 would have prohibited a contractor or subcontractor from bidding on a public works project with any public body in the State unless they have been prequalified as a bidder based on a safety rating system established by DLLR. MACo opposed this legislation stating that this approach would limit the number of qualified bidders and place more onerous requirements on local governments when procuring for projects, thereby increasing costs. MACo also expressed concern that the bill would have a limiting effect on small and minority contractors. These same issues were raised by workgroup members during the second meeting held on August 6.

During the meeting an alternate proposal was offered which would require prime contractors to self evaluate and certify that they as well as their subcontractors meet certain safety requirements. As proposed, this evaluation and certification would be incorporated into bid qualifications and contractors would sign an affidavit stating they are in compliance with all safety requirements. The Workgroup will continue to debate these options and others over the next several meetings.

The next meeting of the Workgroup will take place on September 3 at DLLR.

 

 

 


Pension System Earns 14.37% in Fiscal 2014

July 30, 2014

As reported by MarylandReporter.com, Maryland’s State Retirement and Pension System earned 14.37% in fiscal 2014, bringing the total value of the system up to $45.4 billion, a gain of more than $5 billion for the year.

It was the second year in a row of strong performance due to sharp upturns in stocks, according to Chief Investment Officer Melissa Moye. The fund exceeded its target of 7.7% and its market benchmark of 14.16% — what its basket of assets would have been expected to earn.
The System’s press release provides additional information.
“The funds annual returns continue to reflect the strong market environment that has prevailed since the end of the credit crisis,” said State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, Chair of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System Board of Trustees.
10-yr-investment-returns-graph-with-2014

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