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Hot Topics: Highway User Revenues & (LIFT4MD) | Justice Reforms | County Budgets | Education | Land Use | Transportation | Next Generation 9-1-1 | Opioids | Pensions | OPEB & Retiree Health Care

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FY2019 Budget/Fiscal Links: County Effects | Fiscal Briefing | Two Year Charts | Overview of State Aid | County Revenue Outlook Local Government Finances & Demographics

Pensions Board Presents 2019 Legislative Proposals

At its October meeting, the Joint Committee on Pensions heard a presentation of the legislative proposals submitted by the Maryland State Pension Board of Trustees (BoT) for the 2019 session.

The BoT representatives presented 14 proposals for the Joint Committee’s consideration. The proposals were described as mostly administrative in nature and intended to clarify or correct inconsistencies, remove obsolete provisions, or increase efficiencies. The proposals address:

  1. Notarization
  2. Certification of Payment of Member Contributions
  3. Alternative Contributory Pension Selection – Vesting
  4. Workers’ Compensation Offset
  5. Purchase of Eligibility Service by EPS Members
  6. Optional Retirement Program – Regulations
  7. State Police Retirement System – Reemployment
  8. Local Employers Cash Outs
  9. Preserving Unused Sick Leave for EPS Members Required to Join the Correctional Officers’ Retirement System
  10. Rescission of Designated Beneficiary Change
  11. Employee’s, Teachers’, and Correctional Officers’ Active Death Benefit
  12. Modification of Municipal Pension Surcharges
  13. Reopening of Disability Claims
  14. Queen Anne’s County Joining the CORS

In particular, the Modification of Municipal Pension Surcharges proposal is a correction to rates that went into effect following major pension reforms of 2011. This proposal has been put forth as legislation before, and failed to reach passage in the General Assembly.

This proposal could increase by approximately 2.1% the employer contribution rates that Prince George’s County and several municipalities pay into the State Retirement System as members. Based on the 2016 version of this legislation, those municipalities affected may include Crisfield, Emmitsburg, Frostburg, Middleton, North Beach, and Taneytown.

For more information, see 2018 Board Requested Legislation for the 2019 Session.

Frederick Council Passes Bill to Adjust School Construction Fees

The Frederick County Council yesterday approved a bill to adjust school construction fees assessed on developers whose projects fail the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) Schools test. APFOs are used to slow or restrict growth until adequate infrastructure or public services are in place to serve the new population of residents.

According to WFMD:

These builders can either build the new school capacity and let their projects go forward, or they could stop building homes until the schools are adequate. A law enacted by the last Board of County Commissioners lets developers pay a certain amount toward school construction, and their project is allowed to continue.

This legislation adjusts the fees annually, starting in January 1st, 2019 to January 1st, 2026, without any action by the Council, and are based on the recent school construction cost data from the state, plus two-percent. The annual increase will be no more than six-percent.

Supporters of the legislation pointed to the fact that while school construction costs have steadily increased, developer fees have not been adjusted since 2014. Opponents of the bill argued that increasing developer fees will inevitably drive up housing costs.

Rising school construction costs are a concern for county government officials across Maryland, and ensuring a continued state commitment to education is a MACo Legislative Initiative for the 2019 General Assembly Session.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education will recommend major shifts in the relative role of state and local funding in each of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions. At the same time, the 21st Century School Facilities Commission and its legislative outcomes recommended an increased annual State contribution for capital projects, and required ongoing study of school construction project funding and priorities.

MACo advocates for a partnership approach to meeting the education and facility needs of Maryland’s students that fairly balances state responsibilities with local obligations, and seeks equitable and efficient solutions to meet current expenses and future goals.

Useful Links

Read the full article from WFMD

Conduit Street Podcast: Split the Check for School Construction? Not So Fast…

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: It’s Not Apples-to-Apples in School Construction Funding

Carroll Earns Three AAA Bond Ratings

Carroll County recently received the highly coveted AAA bond rating from all three of the major credit rating agencies. Moody’s granted the county the highest possible rating, following the lead of FitchRatings and Standard & Poor’s (S&P). The rating upgrade translates into a lower interest rate and reduced fees, saving valuable taxpayer dollars.

According to a press release:

The county will immediately feel the improved rating as it readies to finance a new $25M bond sale this week.

The Moody’s ratings rationale “is based on the ongoing expansion of the county’s large tax base and growing revenue streams, resulting in a consistently healthy and stable financial position. The Aaa rating also incorporates the county’s beneficial location near the Baltimore-Washington metro area, above-average resident wealth levels, comprehensive fiscal polies and planning and manageable debt and pension burdens.”

In early October, County Commissioners Dennis Frazier and Stephen Wantz, County Administrator Roberta Windham, Comptroller Robert Burk and Economic Development Director Jack Lyburn travelled to New York City’s financial district to present the county’s case for top ratings to the three rating agencies.

Commissioner Frazier, District 3, said, “This is very exciting as for the first time in history, Carroll County receives the highest rating across the board. This is a win for the county as the ratings will lower our cost of borrowing in the future. This is a great compliment to the county and the reward for its healthy financial position and consistent, conservative fiscal management.”

Read the full press release for more information.

Baltimore City Council Advances “Complete Streets” Legislation

The Baltimore City Council on Monday gave preliminary approval to “complete streets” legislation aimed at improving safety and accessibility on roadways for pedestrians and cyclists.

According to The Baltimore Sun:

In a city where one in three households lacks access to a car, the legislation states that the Baltimore City Department of Transportation must “to the greatest extent possible, promote walking, biking, and public transit” and “ensure equity by actively pursuing the elimination of health, economic, and access disparities.”

The legislation would create a “Complete Streets Coordinating Council” to oversee the bill’s mandates. It also requires the city to track whether officials are adequately addressing the transportation needs of Baltimoreans of all races and income levels.

The bill still needs final approval before being sent to the desk of Mayor Catherine Pugh.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, The General Assembly earlier this year approved legislation to create a competitive grant program making Transportation Trust Fund dollars available to local governments for the planning and design of Complete Streets projects.

Local governments own and maintain 83 percent of the roads in the State of Maryland, making them the best catalyst for incorporating Complete Streets principles into Maryland’s transportation network. However, with the decimation of highway user revenues resulting in over $3 billion diverted from local roads funding, counties struggle to accomplish meaningful preventive maintenance on their roads, much less dedicate resources to redesigning streets with all users in mind.

Given this reality, it will take a significant dedication of funding to local roads to transform our state’s transportation network into one which prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists, and transit passengers as highly as it prioritizes cars. MACo supported the bill because it provides a step in the right direction toward that end.

Useful Links

Read the full article from The Baltimore Sun

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Complete Streets Funding Brings Roads Up to Speed

New NACo Report on Community Engagement and Affordable Housing Development

The National Association of Counties (NACo) has released a report, Housing Connections: Promoting Affordability Through Community Engagement, to help counties improve community participation in shaping affordable housing programs.

The report features three case studies of counties implementing innovative strategies to engage their communities: Nassau County, N.Y; Orleans Parish/New Orleans, La. and Tillamook County, Ore., It also showcases several community engagement resources for affordable housing programs.

For more information:

Housing Connections: Promoting Affordability Through Community Engagement (NACo)

 

MACo’s Annapolis Immersion Training – Your Key to MD’s Legislative Session

MACo’s 2018 Annapolis Immersion Training will be held on Monday, December 10 at the MACo office (169 Conduit Street, Annapolis, MD) from 10:00 am – 2:30 pm.

AnnapolisStateHouseEvery year, MACo offers an Annapolis Immersion training program to help county officials and professionals navigate the Maryland General Assembly Session. This training is perfect as a primer for new officials and new legislative staff, or as a refresher for returning officials and staff.

The training features segments on the following topics:

  • Overview of the Maryland General Assembly Session and the Legislative Process
  • MACo’s 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. Lunch and a walking tour of the State Capitol, Senate, and House buildings are also included.

Registrations Details:

  • Registration is FREE for MACo Members (county elected officials and professionals).  Register today!
  • Non-members will be invited to attend with a $75 registration fee if the training is not full by December 1. Non-members may email Allison Valliant to be put on the waitlist.
  • Space is limited and the deadline is December 1, 2018, so please register today!

 

Frederick Launches Website to Highlight Local Opportunity Zones

Frederick County, in collaboration with the City of Frederick and City of Brunswick, recently launched a website to help connect investors with existing local ventures eligible for the Opportunity Zone incentive program.

The Opportunity Zone program is a nationwide initiative administered by the U.S. Treasury. The program encourages long-term investment of unrealized capital gains into select communities (Opportunity Zones) via a special investment vehicle called Opportunity Funds.

Investors may receive increasing discounts on any capital gains taxes due on that money. If an investment is left in the Opportunity Fund for 10 years, any new gains are free of capital gains taxes.

The program is designed to be flexible, allowing a wide range of investments, and unlike other federal tax programs, there is no authorized cap on the amount of capital that could be made available through Opportunity Zone investments.

According to a press release:

“Frederick County is a great place to do business,” said Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner. “We want to provide investors with a range of opportunities. These new Opportunity Zones provide another reason companies and businesses should locate and expand in Frederick County.”

The Frederick County map-based, interactive platform highlights potential projects throughout the five designated Opportunity Zone Census tracts in Frederick County. The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development announced Governor Larry Hogan’s approval in April 2018 of 149 zones in Maryland. Zones were selected based on low-tomoderate income eligible census tracts at the Governor’s discretion.

The five zones in Frederick County have been identified on the website into three areas:

  •  The City of Frederick Opportunity Zone
  • Frederick County RT 355/85 Corridor Opportunity Zone
  • City of Brunswick Opportunity Zone

The County’s Opportunity Zone is centered on the growing RT355/85 Corridor and includes the office, industrial and retail areas of Westview and the FSK Mall. The Frederick County RT 355/85 Opportunity Zone is central to the I-270/I-70 Interchange and the Frederick MARC Station.

Read the full press release for more information.

Cecil Council Going Digital, Will Live-Stream Meetings

Cecil County Council meetings will be live-streamed on the Council’s webpage starting Tuesday, October 16, 2018.

According to a press release:

“By clicking on the link, you will be redirected to our provider, Zoom Video Communications. On your first visit, you will be prompted to ‘download & run Zoom.’ After the brief download, you will then be instructed to provide your email address and name, and that’s it. The livestream will start as soon as the meeting begins.”

Tome added that a separate download will be required for each electronic device.

“It is exciting to offer innovative technologies within the county that will not only benefit government efficiencies but will also help citizens stay engaged and have more awareness,” said Brian Miller, Director of Information Technology.

“The application also enables county employees to meet virtually with other counties, state agencies and businesses via audio and video teleconferences which will helps reduce travel costs.”

The live internet streaming source is included in the audio-video (AV) system upgrades recently completed in the Elk Room at the Cecil County Administration Building. The AV upgrades were part of the approved FY18 budget.

Links to the live-streaming service can be found on the Council’s webpage located at http://www.ccgov.org/government/county-council.

Virus Shuts Down Anne Arundel County Public Library Computers

Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) officials recently announced that its public computers were exposed to the Emotet virus, an especially deleterious program that spreads via infected email attachments. As a result, some 600 computers are expected to be offline for at least two weeks as officials work to eradicate the virus and scrub the network.

According to a press release:

On October 11, officials discovered that a database of customers who used library computers or the business services kiosk for copying, faxing printing was exposed to the virus. This database, dating back to November 2015, contains library card numbers, customer names and birthdates. No other information, including social security or credit card number, is stored on library servers or is at risk for exposure. However, customers should remain vigilant about their personal information and change any account passwords if they used AACPL computers or the library’s copying, faxing or printing business services kiosk.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this attack may have caused our customers,” said AACPL CEO Hampton “Skip” Auld. “Along with many organizations, we’ve discovered vulnerabilities through this breach and are taking comprehensive steps to prevent any future incidents. The library is committed to protecting customers against the misuse of their personal information and we take security issues very seriously.”

If you believe you’ve been affected by this breach, visit the consumer page of the library’s website at www.aacpl.net/consumer for more information.

NACo to Host Webinar on Federal Opioid Package

NACo will hold a webinar on Friday, October 19 at 1:30pm ET to discuss the recent House and Senate-passed opioid legislative package — the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6) which awaits the president’s signature.

To help county officials understand this legislation, NACo has created a legislative analysis of the bills, outlining major provisions that could impact counties if enacted. Additional information about the opioid response package can be found on the NACo website.

The webinar will discuss how this legislation could support local efforts to combat addiction in our communities and to preview next steps for opioid legislation in Congress and the administration.

To register for the webinar, click here.

For more information:

House and Senate reach agreement on comprehensive opioid response package (NACo)

Opioid Legislative Analysis (NACo)