Kent County Commissioners Approve Final Fiscal 2014 Budget Report

October 22, 2014

As reported by MyEasternShore.com, Kent County’s Chief Finance Officer Pat Merritt presented the final fiscal 2014 budget to county commissioner’s during their regularly scheduled meeting this week.

From the article,

The annual budget showed an increase of more than $2.8 million, due largely to an increase of more than $3 million in revenue from state income taxes.

Merritt said the most significant increases in expenditures in the fourth quarter were a transfer of $201,444 of Program Open Space funding to the reforestation program and $33,000 for equipment for water and sewer.

The Commissioner’s approved the report, which can be found on the county website.


Carroll County Commissioners Seek Long Term Solid Waste Disposal Options As Part of Study

October 22, 2014

An October 21 Carroll County Times article reported that the Carroll County Board of Commissioners provided input to KCI Technologies regarding a solid waste review that KCI was performing for the County.  The Commissioners requested KCI to focus on long-term solid waste disposal trends and options.  From the article:

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said he would like a projection of where the waste disposal industry is headed.

“Instead of paying millions to get rid of waste, can we end up selling it as fuel down the road?” Rothschild asked at Thursday’s meeting. “I’d like to see that in the study.”

Commissioner Dave Roush, R-District 3, said he doesn’t want KCI to include or create methods of disposal; he wants the group to gather data so the board can make an informed decision and create its own methods.  …

“My concern before the conversation [on Thursday] was KCI was trying to capture what was going on currently, just short-term solutions,” [Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5,] said. “Long-term solutions will be much more important. The study needs a precise analysis of what industry trends are.”

The article indicated that the study should be finished in December 2014 or January 2015.


Baltimore County To Acquire Contested 258 Acre Megachurch Property For Open Space

October 22, 2014

An October 20 Baltimore Sun article reported that Baltimore County has approved a $3 million to purchase a 258 acre tract of undeveloped land in the rural community of Granite from the Bethel AME Church.  The article noted that Bethel had wanted to use the site for a new megachurch but was challenged by rural neighbors who claimed a megachurch was not in keeping with Granite’s rural character.  Both the State and the County are contributing to the $3 million purchase price.  From the article:

The state’s portion, which comes from Program Open Space, will be $1,882,500, the average of the two appraisals. The county’s portion, $1,117,500, will be used to release a lien on the property.  …

Democratic Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, who represents the area, said the sale of the property works out well for all parties: the church, the neighbors and the county.  …

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz backed the purchase of the property, funds for which were included in this year’s county budget.

“From an environmental perspective, this parcel is particularly beneficial to preserve as open space due to its large size and varied terrain featuring steep slopes, forest and streams,” Kamenetz said in a statement.

The property will be used as “passive recreation,” which may include activities such as walking and bird-watching. After the purchase is finalized, the county plans to seek feedback on how to use the property.

The article also noted that the purchase price was approximately $1 million more than the appraised value of the land but that all involved parties felt that the final negotiated price represented a fair deal to the County.


Advocates Seek Doubling of Maryland’s Renewable Energy Goal to 40% By 2025

October 22, 2014

An October 17 Baltimore Sun article reported that a coalition of environmental, labor, and other groups want the Maryland General Assembly to double the state’s mandated renewable energy goal of 20% by 2022 to 40% by 2025.  From the article:

Speakers argued that increasing the state’s share of electricity from wind, solar and other non-fossil fuel sources will reduce harmful air pollution and produce jobs.  …

Even though Maryland is less than halfway toward its 20 percent renewable-power goal, [Chesapeake Climate Action Network's James] McGarry said advocates are confident the state can do much better. Costs of wind and solar energy generation have fallen sharply, he said, and projects are being built at a pace that assures the state will exceed its current target.

An O’Malley administration plan to reduce Maryland’s climate-altering emissions of carbon dioxide already calls for an increase in the renewable power goal to 25 percent by 2020, McGarry pointed out. The 40 percent target advocates now seek is a “reasonable extension” of that goal, he added.


Opinion Piece Urges Support For Transportation “Lockbox” and Executive Special Election

October 22, 2014

In an opinion piece for MyEasternShoreMD, the author encourages voters to support both constitutional amendments on the ballot this November.  Question 1 will create a “lockbox” for State transportation funds and question 2 authorizes charter counties to fill  a vacancy in the office of county executive through a special election.

From the opinion piece,

The proposed constitutional amendment would limit “the use of Transportation Trust Funds to payment of principal and interest on transportation bonds and for constructing and maintaining an adequate highway system or any other transportation-related purpose.”

It also would prohibit “the transfer of Transportation Trust Funds into the General Fund or a special fund of the State, except for: (1) an allocation or use of highway user revenues for local governments or (2) a transfer of funds to the Maryland Transportation Authority or the Maryland Transportation Authority Fund.”

To transfer funds into the General Fund or special fund, the governor must declare a fiscal emergency and state lawmakers must approve the use or transfer by a three-fifths vote of both chambers.  These protections do not apply to local highway user revenues, but the measure would add additional protections for state projects being constructed in local jurisdictions.

Question 2 would amend the state constitution to allow, but not require, charter counties to fill vacancies in the office of county executive or chief executive officer (Baltimore City mayor) by holding a special election.

If approved, the constitutional amendment will allow, but does not require, charter counties to hold special elections to fill a vacancy in the office of county executive. The same authority has already been granted to charter counties to hold special elections for a vacancy on the county council.


Opinion Piece Cites Student Innovation as Solution to American Education System

October 22, 2014

In an opinion piece for Wired, Harvard Professor David Edwards describes the importance of discovery-oriented programs to help prepare children for the modern world.  Remarking on the current education system, he writes,

Our math skills are falling. Our reading skills are weakening. Our children have become less literate than children in many developed countries. But the crisis in American education may be more than a matter of sliding rankings on world educational performance scales.

What we need, according to Edwards, is programs that encourage students to embark on a personal process of discovery,

Learning by an original and personal process of discovery is a trend on many US university campuses, like Stanford University, MIT, and Arizona State University. It also shows up in middle school, high school and after school programs, as in the programs supported by the ArtScience Prize, a more curricular intensive version of the plethora of innovation prizes that have sprung up in the last years around the world. Students and participants in these kinds of programs learn something even more valuable than discovering a fact for themselves, a common goal of “learning discovery” programs; they learn the thrill of discovering the undiscovered. Success brings not just a good grade, or the financial reward of a prize. It brings the satisfaction that one can realize dreams, and thrive, in a world framed by major dramatic questions. And this fans the kind of passion that propels an innovator along a long creative career.

In Maryland, the Maryland Innovation Initiative intends to foster the commercialization of technologies through technology validation, market assessment, and the creation of start-up companies in Maryland with several hundred thousand dollar awards. The Initiative is administered by TEDCO, an entity created by the Maryland State Legislature in 1998 to facilitate the transfer and commercialization of technology from Maryland’s research universities and federal labs into the marketplace and to assist in the creation and growth of technology-based businesses in all regions of the State.

The ArtScience Prize awards $100,000 annually to high school student groups to realize innovative project ideas generated in the classroom. Student projects focus on concepts in the arts and design fused with cutting-edge areas of study in the sciences. These project concepts start as “seed ideas” proposed by artists, designers, scientists, and entrepreneurs that evolve in collaborative classes lead by skilled adult Program Mentors into innovative project ideas. The ArtScience Prize currently operates sites in Boston, Massachusetts (U.S.A.), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (U.S.A.), Twin Cities, Minnesota (U.S.A.).  For more information, see the video above or ArtSciencePrize.org.


Charles County Commissioners Table Report Recommending New Resources For School Facilities

October 22, 2014

At a recent meeting, Charles County Commissioners tabled discussion on a report of the School Adequate Public Facilities Program and Funding Review Committee, which recommended new resources to address a lack of funding for the public school system and a need to build and expand schools.

From The Charles County Independent article,

The report, nearly 80 pages, contains charts comparing taxes of Maryland’s jurisdictions and maps that identify hot spots of expansion in the county and subsequent overcrowding in the schools. It pinpoints issues and offers sometimes multiple solutions.

Jason Groth, chief of resource and infrastructure management in the county’s Department of Planning and Growth Management, another member of the committee, spoke last week to only one section of the report…

Groth spoke about possible tax increases the committee had explored, which could potentially be funneled to the school system, like a utility tax. Anne Arundel County imposes an 8 percent tax on residential phone landlines, which could yield $1.5 million in annual revenue if Charles County instituted a similar tax. If Charles adopted a Prince George’s County’s policy, in which the government taxes nonresidential, residential and wireless lines, a theoretical 8 percent tax could result in $6.3 million in revenue, the committee found.

St. Mary’s County also has instituted a 1.5 percent tax on electricity, which if enacted by Charles County could reap $1.2 million.

The Commissioners tabled the report following this discussion and there is no indication whether it will be revisited. The Committee, formed by the county commissioners, includes commission members and representatives from the Board of Education, Southern Maryland Board of Realtors and the Education Association of Charles County.


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