Article Highlights Local Struggles in Maintaining and Upgrading Water Mains

June 24, 2013

An article in the Washington Post highlights the struggles of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) in maintaining and upgrading water mains in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has 350 miles of concrete mains that have been prone to exploding without warning. The particularly large mains are designed to carry high volumes of pressurized water. Utilities around the world have struggled with this type of pipe since the 1980s, when they began bursting decades before their 100-year life expectancy was up.

The WSSC’s inventory of large concrete pipe is second only to Detroit’s and two to three times that of many other U.S. cities and suburbs, according to a Washington Post survey of 21 large utilities.

While local officials work to protect residents who live in areas prone to water main breaks, they must also balance the costs of upgrades.

The scope of the problem has been a key question among local officials wrestling with how to best protect people who live, work, attend school and drive within what the utility has declared an 80-foot danger zone of the massive mains’ potentially explosive forces.

The pipes span up to eight feet in diameter, big enough to hold a minivan. Because they carry so much pressurized water, they can blow like a bomb, leaving 50-foot craters in roads and hurling rocks and other debris “like shrapnel,” said Gary Gumm, the WSSC’s chief engineer.

The 350 miles of large concrete pipe — technically called prestressed concrete cylinder pipe — form the backbone of the 5,600-mile water distribution system for 1.8 million people in Montgomery’s and Prince George’s counties. The large transmission mains carry water from the treatment plants to the smaller pipes that reach into neighborhoods. After decades of development, some of the mains, buried in what was once the countryside, now sit just beyond back fences and alongside or beneath major roads.

In the densely populated Washington suburbs, they’re too big to move, WSSC officials say, and replacing all of them would cost a prohibitive $2.9 billion. Doing so also wouldn’t be cost-effective because inspections have shown that only 1.5 percent of concrete pipe sections need to be repaired or replaced, WSSC officials said.


Caroline County Commissioners Approve Budget For Fiscal 2014

June 24, 2013

Caroline County Commissioners approved their fiscal year budget on June 4, increasing property and income tax rates.  As reported on MyEasternShoreMD.com:

The budget includes a 5-cent property tax increase, approved at the commissioners’ May 28 meeting, including a 3-cent increase to produce constant yield following an $800,000 decrease in tax assessments in the northern part of the county, and an additional 2-cent increase, largely to cover the increase in the county’s portion of teacher pension costs, said Finance Director Margaret Roe in a statement.

The budget also includes an increase in the income tax rate, from 2.63 percent to 2.73 percent, but Roe said that extra income will not be seen until the county’s 2015 fiscal year, and will go toward capital improvements.

Additional information can be found in the County’s FY 14 Budget Message.

…the County Commissioners required every department and allied agency to submit a flat budget request.  Commissioners made across the board cuts to the departments where they had authority to reduce spending…

For the first time since 2007, the Commissioner granted a very modest (one-percent) increase for all County employees, except senior management.


Kent County Commissioners Approve Fiscal 2014 Budget Totaling Almost $45 Million

June 24, 2013

Kent County Commissioner’s approved a fiscal 2014 budget of almost $45 million on June 11, providing a $2,000 across the board raise for employees and retaining property and income tax rates.  Other highlights from the approved budget are listed below.

  • Retires over $4 million of debt in the county general and water and sewer funds
  • Reduces water and sewer rates by 4%
  • Funds the schools at Maintenance of Effort
  • Maintains a 10% fund balance

More specifics on the county budget can be found in a PowerPoint  summarizing the county’s budget presentation.


Wicomico County Council Approves $127 Million Budget for Fiscal 2014

June 11, 2013

As reported by the Daily Times,

Wicomico County’s $127 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year was approved by the county council this morning.

The budget includes about $10 million more in spending than last year and increases the property tax rate to about $9 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

The county press release summarizes changes made to the budget by Council.

Significant changes to the proposed budget include:

A reduction of the Executive’s proposed allocation of $1 million above Maintenance of Effort for the Board of Education to $629,000

County Executive Pollitt accepted the following recommendations made by the Council:

  • An appropriation of $1 million in additional funds to accelerate the Roads Division’s maintenance program
  • A 1.7% increase for county employees who were not otherwise receiving an increase. The 1.7% is the allowable inflation adjustment under the revenue cap.


MACo 2013 Summer Conference Session – Integrated Stormwater & Wastewater Plans

June 7, 2013

Description:  Everyone wants clean waterways, but fiscal constraints can make it difficult to put the infrastructure in place to get there. Through working with states and localities, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has developed an “integrated approach” for achieving stormwater and wastewater plans. This comprehensive approach will provide localities with the opportunity for identifying cost-effective and protective solutions and implementing the most important projects first. This session will discuss this framework and how to apply it to your jurisdiction.

Speaker:  Connie Bosma, Municipal Branch Chief, Office of Wastewater Management, Environmental Protection Agency

Moderator:  TBD

Date & Time:  Wednesday, August 14, 2013; 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm

MACo’s 2013 Summer Conference will be held from August 14 – 17 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

______________________________

More information about MACo’s 2013 Summer Conference:


NACo Releases Presentation on Immigration Reform

June 6, 2013

The National Association of Counties (NACo) just released a legislative presentation on the topic of immigration reform and the outlook for counties. The NACo’s electronic message:

The presentation highlights issues including:

  • Why immigration reform matters to counties
  • Context to the immigration reform debate
  • Outlook for legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate
  • Key provisions in the Senate immigration bill (S. 744) and the potential impact on counties

The U.S. Senate is planning to begin floor consideration of their comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 744), next Monday, June 10. Floor consideration is expected to last until the July 4th recess. In the U.S. House of Representatives, several Members are working on their own comprehensive reform measures. We will update the presentation as more details of the House package emerge.


Frederick County Commissioners Approve Operating and Capital Budgets for Fiscal 2014

June 6, 2013

Frederick County Commissioners approved the county’s fiscal 2014 operating and capital budgets during their commission meeting on June 6. Although the $516 million operating budget doesn’t increase property tax rates, it does make an adjustment to the rate through changes to the fire tax fund.  It also provides a 1% cost-living allowance and a merit increase for employees. From the Commissioners press release:

A key element of the approved budget is that the board addressed the catastrophic issues in the fire tax fund by consolidating the Fire Tax District expenses into the General Fund.  The result was a recalibrated property tax rate of $1.064, which is the sum of the $.936 property tax rate and the $.128 Urban Fire Tax Rate.

The capital budget totals approximately $69 million for fiscal 2014 and $555 million over the span of the Capital Improvement Program.

An overview of the operating and capital budget can be found in the Commissioner’s press release.


Prince George’s County Council Unanimously Approves Fiscal 2014 Budget

June 5, 2013

The Prince George’s County Council recently approved the county’s fiscal 2014 budget keeping property taxes level and avoiding employee furloughs. As reported by the Washington Post:

The Prince George’s County Council on Thursday unanimously approved a $2.7 billion spending plan that restores Sunday hours at three public libraries, offers a modest increase for public schools and maintains a $50 million economic development fund that County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has made a centerpiece of his administration.The budget, which will take effect July 1, avoids unpaid furloughs for the county’s 6,000 employees, a contentious issue that was being negotiated until a few days before Thursday’s council vote.

The budget will also keep the property tax rates at 96 cents per $100 of assessed value and provide $18 million for employee salary increases. With regard to education,

The council allocated nearly $1.7 billion for the county’s 204 public schools, an increase of about $23 million from current spending levels. The extra money was designated for teacher pay raises and efforts to improve high school academics, among other purposes.

But the council declined to fund a nearly $2 million request from the Board of Education to hire 15 new staff members, saying it would await the outcome of a planned audit of the school system that is expected to begin this year.


Worcester County Commissioners Approve Fiscal 2014 Budget

June 5, 2013

Worcester County Commissioners approved their fiscal 2014 budget this week maintaining tax rates and providing a 2% cost of living adjustments for employees.  From the county press release:

June 4, the Worcester County Commissioners approved the FY 2013/2014 Operating Budget of $168,643,654 in appropriations for the coming fiscal year. This reflects an increase of $2,739,398 or 1.7% more than the FY13 budget due to an increase in anticipated revenues.

As promised, the Commissioners did not increase the tax rate and will maintain the existing real property tax rate of 77¢ per $100 of assessed value in fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1, 2013. Even at the rate of $.77, Real Property Tax Revenue will be $5.7 million less than the current year due to continued decreasing assessment values.

The press release provides a summary of anticipated revenues and major expenditures.


Allegany County Commissioners Set to Approve Budget, Provide Pay Increases

June 5, 2013

Allegany County Commissioners plan to give approval to a contract with county roads employees and their fiscal 2014 budget when they on June 6.  As reported by the Cumberland Times-News:

The contract would give roads employees a 3 percent cost of living increase over each of the next three years. The contract will be on Thursday’s county commission agenda for approval and signing, said Brian Westfall, director of human resources for the county.

Other employees can expect to see a raise in the county’s budget for the upcoming year:

County employees have not seen a raise for four years, but a 3 percent across the board raise was written into the fiscal 2014 budget. The new fiscal year begins July 1, said Jason Bennett, the county’s finance director.


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