Maryland Board of Public Works – October 7 Agenda

Maryland’s Board of Public Works reviews projects, contracts, and expenditure plans for state agencies – many of which have effect on county governments. It meets on alternating Wednesdays and the meetings are open to the public.  The meeting will be held in Governor’s Reception Room on the 2nd floor of the State House in Annapolis.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at 10 a.m. Material for the upcoming meeting is available online:

For “frequently asked questions” about the Board’s charge and meetings, visit the Board’s website.

MACo’s Annapolis Immersion Training: Your Key to Navigating the MD General Assembly Session

MACAnnapolisStateHouseo’s 2015 Half-Day Annapolis Immersion Training will be held on Monday, October 19 at the MACo office (169 Conduit Street, Annapolis, MD). The training will be held from 10:00 am – 2:30 pm.

Every year, MACo offers a Half-Day Annapolis Immersion training program to help county elected and appointed officials and county professionals navigate the Maryland General Assembly Session. Register today!

The training features segments on the following topics:

  • Overview of the General Assembly Session and the Legislative Process
  • What is MACo and its Role in the Legislative Process?
  • The Fiscal Note Process
  • The Bond Bill and Budget Hearing Process
  • Tips on Testifying

These topics will be covered by MACo staff, experts from the Department of Legislative Services, and appropriate staff members from House or Senate Committees.

In addition to this information, there will be a walking tour of the State Capitol, Senate, and House buildings.

This training has a great mix of information for both seasoned officials and those new to participating in the General Assembly Session. It is appropriate for newly elected officials and new county staff members as an introductory course, but it is also a great refresher course for seasoned elected officials and staff. Registration is free and is ONLY OPEN for MACo members (Maryland county elected and appointed officials and county professionals).

Space is limited and the deadline is October 14, so please register today!

This event is a membership benefit for MACo Members – only Maryland county elected officials and county staff members are invited to attend.

Baltimore County to Ease Restrictions on Solar Panel Installation

To increase the use of solar power in Baltimore County, the County Council is considering legislation to reduce the amount of open space required around the panels and allow companies to run wires and conduits in the space. The industry indicates these requirements have caused Baltimore County to lag behind in the number of homeowners installing solar panels on their homes.

Earlier this month, the County Council approved legislation to increase the number of homeowners who may receive a property tax credit for installing solar panels. As reported by the Baltimore Sun,

…the council unanimously raised the cap for how much in solar energy tax credits the county can approve each year, from $250,000 to $750,000.

Homeowners who install solar panels can claim a one-time credit against their property tax bill equal to half of the value of their solar system. Since the tax credits were started in 2010, 223 homeowners have received $910,727 worth of tax credits, an average of about $4,000 per homeowner.

But with the credits capped at $250,000 per year, property owners have had to wait years to claim their credits. The waiting list has 568 homeowners on it, and some of them will have to wait nine years, according to the county.

The legislation to ease the open space requirements and allow wire and conduit to be run in them is expected to  be voted on during the Council’s Monday voting session.

NACo Report: Mental Illness and Medical Conditions in County Jails

Did you know that 64% of jail inmates have a mental illness?

Using an analysis of U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data on the jail population and the results of a 2015 National Association of Counties (NACo) survey of county jails, a recently released NACo report Addressing Mental Illness and Medical Conditions in County Jails,  details this and other findings on the challenges of mental and medical health needs in local jails and the programs jails are offering to reduce and manage these population of inmates.

Protecting public safety and ensuring the health and well-being of residents are essential functions of county governments. County governments own and operate a majority of all jails in the U.S. and spend $70 billion annually on the criminal justice system. Counties balance the pursuit of justice with the strategic management of the jail population and prudent county spending on the corrections system, including for the healthcare of the jail population.

The jail population has complex healthcare needs. Better management of the inmates with mental illnesses and chronic medical conditions may assist counties with reducing the number of people in jail that require medical and mental health treatment. This approach may also reduce costs and better provide for the healthcare needs of this population.

The report included companion county case studies, one of which focused on Montgomery County, Maryland:

In Montgomery County, a lack of community resources coupled with overall reductions in state and local mental health funding has resulted in the jail becoming the default response for individuals requiring mental health residential placement and treatment services. While overall jail intakes have been declining, the number of people assessed for mental health has increased over the years. In addition, the number of mentally and physically ill individuals, and the severity of their illnesses, within jail facilities is growing. The Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (DOCR) estimates that serious and persistent mental illness impacts at least 20 percent of the jail population.

For more information read the full NACo report Addressing Mental Illness and Medical Conditions in County JailsAnd read the companion Montgomery County case study.

MACo Adopts 2016 Legislative Initiatives

At its September 30 meeting, the MACo Legislative Committee formally adopted the proposed initiatives for the 2016 session, a work product of the Association’s Initiatives Subcommittee.  The Initiatives Subcommittee met through the summer to refine and focus a list of 25 initiatives into no more than four, as required by the Association’s bylaws.

The 2016 Initiatives are a very proactive agenda which will span across all budget and policy committees of the General Assembly.  MACo will continue to advocate for local transportation funding and solutions to address substance abuse issues in the counties. MACo has also responded to county concerns in other policy areas, adopting initiatives to address school construction funding and the need to review and update the State’s school funding formulas and guidelines; and police body camera video and how this footage is treated under the Public Information Act.

The items adopted as legislative initiatives are as follows:

Local Transportation Funding Restoration – Restoring local Highway User Revenues (HUR) has been a MACo priority since the local share was slashed during recession-driven budgets. The former $555 million share has been drastically cut back to $167 million – with a mere $26 million to be shared among 23 county governments. The cumulative loss of local roadway investment has topped $2 billion – compromising roadway safety and betraying taxpayer expectations. With the recent expansion of transportation revenues and additional funds recently being allocated for roads and bridges, it is now time for local governments to again play a more significant role in the State’s transportation funding plan. MACo advocates for the restoration of local transportation funding.

Strong and Smart State Funding for School Construction – The State’s commitment to school construction funding needs to remain strong and smart – to best serve the modern needs of our schoolchildren, educators, and communities. State funding needs to recognize modern cost factors as we achieve new environmental and energy standards, satisfy heightened needs for technology, ensure student safety, fulfill community resource needs, and mesh with evolving teaching methods. County governments share responsibility for financing K-12 school construction with the State, whose funding depends on statutory formulas and regulations. MACo advocates reviewing and updating the State’s school funding formulas and guidelines to promote the smartest and most effective funding for modern schools, and urges State policymakers to retain the State’s strong commitment to this top funding priority.

Addressing the Drug Problems Across the Counties – Heroin and drug misuse continue to be threats to the lives and livelihood of county citizens. Both an Administration Task Force and a General Assembly Joint Committee have taken the initiative to fight addiction, reduce drug misuse and related crime, and treat and reduce behavioral health and opioid use disorders. MACo supports these initiatives, and advocates broadly in support of budgetary and legislative action providing counties with resources to address drug misuse and provide vital education, prevention, and treatment.

Balancing Release of Police Body Camera Video – As governments work to implement sensible police body camera policies, the State should clarify how body camera footage is treated under Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA). The PIA was largely created to handle paper documents and only recently updated to better handle static electronic records. However, the PIA still does not address the practical, technical, and privacy challenges facing a local government from potential requests of hundreds of hours of accumulated body camera video, all of which must be subjected to attorney review and redaction where appropriate. In light of such challenges, MACo supports legislation to strike a reasonable balance between affected people having proper access to the footage while preventing overbroad, abusive, or invasive requests.

Governor Hogan Announces $14.9 Million in Grants For Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Multi-use Trails

Governor Hogan recently announced $14.9 million in grants for bicycle, pedestrian, and multi-use trails across the State. These grants are being provided to counties, municipalities, and nonprofit organizations.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun,

The 63 grants will go to counties, municipalities and nonprofit groups for projects extending from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore. The largest grants, totaling $7 million, will go to the C&O Canal Aqueduct at Williamsport in Washington County. The money will go to the National Park Service and its C&O Canal National Historic Park for repairing a wall of the historic aqueduct to let it hold water again as well as other improvements.

The Maryland Department of Transportation press release specifies that the grants are allocated across three programs.

The $2.77 million in Bikeways Program Grants funds 17 projects including projects that will:

  • construct a combined 1.05 miles of cycle track connecting Baltimore City’s Jones Falls Trail through McKeldin Square and East and West Pratt Street;
  • deliver on-street bicycle improvements along Fitzwater Street in the City of Salisbury connecting across the Wicomico River; and
  • expand Capitol Bikeshare in Wheaton and Takoma Park.

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) focuses on trail investments that close missing links in the statewide trail network.  The $1.03 million in RTP Grants funds 38 projects including projects that will:

  • complete phase one of the Patuxent River State Park Trail Project in Howard and Montgomery Counties;
  • extend the Union Bridge Wetlands Park Trail in Carroll County; and
  • publish a visitor’s guide and repair a bridge deck for the Adkins Arboretum in Caroline County.

The Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program provides funding for on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, environmental mitigation, safe routes to school projects and planning, designing or constructing boulevards.  The $11.1 million in TA Program Grants funds eight projects including projects that will:

  • construct 500 feet of sidewalk in the Town of Federalsburg allowing students to safety travel
  • 1.24 miles to Federalsburg Elementary School;
  • design and develop a 1.2-mile extension of a shared use path in Queen Anne’s County; and
  • design a trail connection to fill a missing link in the City of Hagerstown (also funded in part by the Bikeways Program).


NACo and eConnectDirect Celebrate Anniversary of Exclusive Partnership

Two hundred and sixty-nine U.S. government entities – of which 85 are counties – are now enjoying the benefits of eConnectDirect®, a NACo Financial Services Center-endorsed program initiated one year ago after an extensive, county-driven due diligence process.

eConnectDirect is a no-cost, online investment information tool that supports county financial officers as they manage excess funds. The tool was developed by Michigan-based Multi-Bank Securities, Inc., (MBS), a broker-dealer with which NACo FSC has developed a long-term partnership. MBS currently serves a total of 719 local government accounts, of which 187 are counties.

David Thompson, President and Managing Director of NACo FSC, has focused this first year on bringing state associations on board as co-sponsors of the program.

“We now have 11 states helping to promote the program and are expecting to add several more in 2015,” Thompson said. “In each case, the associations have sought and received feedback from in-state professionals who have reviewed the system and recognized its value for them and their colleagues.”

In addition, the National Association of County Collectors, Treasurers and Financial Officers board of directors voted to support, through their membership, NACo’s endorsement of eConnectDirect.

“I have been very comfortable talking to county financial officers about the platform,” said MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson. “It’s easy to use, and can save a county money on outside consultants or advisor fees.”

David T. Maccagnone, CEO of MBS, has been on the road all year promoting eConnectDirect, including visiting potential clients in the courthouse and attending state association meetings.

“Multi-Bank Securities, Inc. has re-built its business around eConnectDirect, without changing our personal service model. We call it high-tech, high-touch,” Maccagnone said. “In this day and age, you don’t gain new customers on the telephone. Clients are busy. They appreciate meeting you in person and they find comfort that their association, or an association they know has credibility, has looked at and endorsed your service.”

The next phase of the program roll-out will build on its base of new customers. MBS offers a combination of personalized, group and skills-specific webinar opportunities to an expanding audience of financial officers. This past year, MBS found that after 30 to 40 percent of potential clients experience the system’s features in a short webinar, they then open an account with MBS, thereby attaining eConnectDirect log-in access.

In the present, uncertain investment environment, MBS is a resource for both general and specific investment information.

“Our professionals have access to live webinars and a growing library of product and skills information to help treasurers,” Maccagnone said. “We can spend as much time as they need to better understand the risks and opportunities this market will present.”

Year two of the program promises to be challenging but rewarding as this revolutionary service is offered to counties, districts, cities, school boards, state governments and others. According to Thompson, the NACo endorsement will lead the charge.

“This program represents the mission of the Financial Services Center,” Thompson said. “Above all, it is good for government. It is innovative, economical and, in the end, helps stretch scarce county resources a little further.”

For information about how your county can participate in the eConnectDirect® program, contact:

Peter Torvik
Senior Vice President
Multi-Bank Securities, Inc.

Multi-Bank Securities, Inc. Member of FINRA & SIPC; MSRB Registered.

Six Maryland Public Schools Earn National Blue Ribbons

The U.S. Department of Education has named six public and two parochial Maryland schools as 2015 National Blue Ribbon schools.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

The designation given to the most successful schools in the country went to schools in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Frederick and Washington counties.

In the Baltimore region, the schools named were Lake Shore Elementary School and Severna Park Elementary in Anne Arundel County; Pine Grove Elementary in Baltimore County; and Fountain Green Elementary in Harford County.

Kemptown Elementary School in Frederick County and Smithsburg High School in Washington County were also named Blue Ribbon Schools.

The two parochial schools named are Cardinal Hickey Academy in Calvert County and Our Lady of Lourdes School in Bethesda.

Maryland gave the six public schools state blue ribbon status last December and nominated them for the national status.

“These six schools proudly represent the outstanding education taking place in schools and classrooms throughout Maryland,” interim state schools Superintendent Jack R. Smith said. “We congratulate everyone involved, from the students to the teachers, to the administrators, to the parents and communities.”

To read more about the schools awarded with National Blue Ribbons, please visit The Baltimore Sun online.

Website Launched to Assist Taxpayers Who May Be Eligible For Local Income Tax Refunds

Governor Hogan and Comptroller Franchot launched a new website yesterday designed to assist taxpayers who may be eligible for a tax refund as a result of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning the local income tax. The case, Comptroller v. Wynne, was decided this past May.

As reported by the Washington Post,

The taxpayer windfall is the result of a 5-to-4 decision in which the high court ruled that Maryland’s practice of withholding a credit on the county segment of the state income tax wrongly exposed residents with out-of-state income to illegal double taxation. The case was brought in 2006 by a Howard County couple, Brian and Karen Wynne, who owned a stake in a medical staffing company that did business in more than three dozen states.

Baltimore City Health Department to Launch New Youth Violence Initiative

The Baltimore City Health Department is launching a new initiative in partnership with area hospitals to help reach out to youth victims and perpetrators of violence. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

The campaign, called “Words Not Weapons,” will remind the hospital workers who often come in contact with the same troubled youths to get their facilities’ social workers in involved.

Those professionals can connect with existing resources in the community that can help the youths get back into school, or to work or just somewhere safe and learn about non-violent conflict resolution, said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s health commissioner, and a former emergency room physician.

“In the ER you often see victims of violence; maybe they came in with a superficial stab wound, or they punched a wall or someone else and broke their hand,” she said. “So often providers don’t feel like they have a way to help break the cycle of violence.”

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun.