Anne Arundel Councilman Jerry Walker was recently featured on Comcast Newsmakers, a short-form news platform where leaders and innovators exchange ideas and tackle the issues facing communities across Maryland.
Councilman Walker discussed the role of MACo in Annapolis, his role within the organization, and a variety of issues affecting county governments.
Walker currently serves as First Vice President on the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) Board of Directors and serves on MACo’s Legislative Committee.
Click on the image above to view the video.
From Calvert County, Maryland:
The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved a $282.8 million Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 general fund operating budget by a vote of 4 to 1. It is a balanced budget with no tax rate increase and no use of fund balance.
The county expects to receive the first payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) payment from the Dominion Energy Cove Point LNG Terminal in FY 2018, which will add approximately $25 million to general fund revenues.
“This budget clearly reflects our priorities while addressing the issues facing Calvert County,” said board President Tom Hejl. “In FY 2018, we will continue to exercise conservative financial management for the good of our citizens. This budget puts Calvert County in a strong fiscal position.”
The FY 2018 budget features an additional $36 million more for the operating budget than in the prior fiscal year. This increased spending is largely due to the fact that staffing needs, equipment purchases, pay increases and payments toward retiree benefits were deferred during the recession years. Some of the specifics are:
- $1.4 million more for health insurance
- $2 million more for county road paving
- $2 million more for vehicles and equipment
- $2.5 million for employee salary increases
- $3.4 million more for new staffing, new equipment and new initiatives
- $6 million additional for Calvert County Public Schools
- $17.9 million for Other Post Employment Benefit costs (OPEB)
About 49.9 percent, or $141 million, of the county’s general operating budget is committed to public school operations, infrastructure costs and the schools’ OPEB, which represents an increase of 16.3 percent, or $19.8 million.
In addition, the six-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) lays out the county’s capital program for FY 2018-2023, totaling $273.7 million. School construction and renovations account for $103.6 million of the CIP budget, with significant resources focused on the replacements of Northern High and Beach Elementary schools.
Review the budget in its entirety online
To provide you with the latest information on activity in the Senate, NACo will host a national conference call:
Monday, June 26
NACo’s Annual Conference is coming up!
The NACo Annual Conference & Exposition is the only meeting that draws a cross section of elected officials and county staff from across the country. Attendees from rural and urban counties, large and small budgets and staff – all come together for four days of education, networking and sessions aimed to help improve residents’ lives and the efficiency of county government.
Anne Arundel County has signed a memorandum of agreement with the federal government making it the latest county in Maryland to join the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program. Under the program counties help screen inmates in jail for immigration violations using federal databases.
As reported in The Capital Gazette:
Federal officials finalized a 287(g) contract with the county on Monday, according to a memorandum of agreement released by County Executive Steve Schuh’s office.
Under the deal, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, will train county correctional officers to use federal databases that screen new inmates for immigration violations, warrants and prior crimes.
A Schuh spokesman framed the agreement earlier this year as part of a “moderate and measured approach” to immigration enforcement.
“We’re here to help the federal government enforce federal law,” spokesman Owen McEvoy reiterated Thursday. “That’s an appropriate role for the county.”
Anne Arundel joins two other Maryland counties, Frederick and Harford, that signed 287(g) agreements last year. Nationwide, 42 jurisdictions in 17 states have joined the program, according to ICE’s website.
Though the deal takes effect immediately, county officials predicted it would take months to train corrections officers and install new technology necessary for the screening.
The contract, which lasts through June 30, 2019, and is eligible for renewal, can be terminated at any time by either ICE or Anne Arundel County.
Read the full article in The Capital Gazette to learn more.
The social media site Twitter has become a fast-moving setting for news, information, and advocacy on public affairs. We welcome followers of MACo’s own Twitter feed for updates from the Conduit Street blog and other MACo hot topics, and often use Twitter to reach our own audience, and to hear from others following the same issues as county leaders.
Here are some tweets that caught our eye this week:
For more news and information:
A recent op-ed penned by National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew D. Chase for The Hill, urges focusing the Medicaid debate on improving health care rather than just budget impacts and cost shifts.
The National Association of Counties and county elected leaders are keenly focused on improving efficiencies and lowering costs in healthcare. We understand from personal experience — counties invest more than $80 billion in residents’ health services and another $25 billion for our 3.6 million employees’ health insurance each year — the current path is unsustainable.
Yet, we remain frustrated that the debate in Congress is fixated almost exclusively on federal budget impacts and cost shifts to state and local governments, rather than on improving people’s well-being and quality of care.
As a primary safety net provider at the community level, county leaders know all too well that someone always pays at the end of the day, and, increasingly, it is local taxpayers through county health, human and public safety services. From experience, we can predict with certainty that the proposed $830 billion reduction in federal Medicaid support will drive our residents back to high cost providers such as emergency rooms, homeless shelters and jails — or worse, the county morgue.
In response, NACo has spearheaded two signature initiatives related to healthcare in recent years. One is our partnership with the National League of Cities to address the opioid and heroin epidemic, which now kills more people than car crashes. Another initiative is a collaboration with the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation to reverse the disturbing trend of using our jails as warehouses for people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance abuse disorders rather than treat them with professional medical care.
These county lessons are significant because Medicaid is the largest funder of preventive health, births/pregnancy, drug recovery and mental health treatment services. When we talk about the growing costs of Medicaid, it is prudent to remember the population being served. Of the 80 million individuals covered by Medicaid today, more than 34 million are children under 18 years old, 7.3 million are low-income elderly and 11 million are disabled. Approximately one-third are very low-income adults between ages 19 and 64, yet these same adults account for less than 16 percent of Medicaid costs. By comparison, the elderly and disabled represent 61 percent of Medicaid costs, with children at around 20 percent. In fact, 50 percent of all U.S. births are covered by Medicaid.
These numbers are sobering and represent profound challenges with real faces and families, not just numbers on a Congressional Budget Office spreadsheet.
Read the full op-ed on The Hill to learn more.
Healthcare reform will be discussed at the 2017 MACo Summer Conference session “ABCs of ACA, AHCA and Healthcare in Maryland“.
The MACo summer conference is August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year’s theme is “You’re Hired!”.
Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:
- Attendee Registration Brochure (with full schedule & session descriptions)
- Attendee Online Registration
- Exhibitor Brochure
- Exhibitor Online Registration
- SPLASH DASH 5K (your county could win $5000 for charity)
- Tech Expo Brochure
- Tech Expo Exhibitor Registration
- Sponsorship Brochure
- Golf Tournament Registration
- Discounted Hotel Room Rates
- Conduit Street Blog Coverage
- #MACoCon on Twitter
- Questions? firstname.lastname@example.org
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot warned about a new federal tax scam involving the use of prepaid debit cards in a recent news release (2017-06-15). From the news release:
Comptroller Peter Franchot is warning taxpayers about a new scam linked to the Internal Revenue Services’ Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) in which fraudsters call to demand immediate tax payment through a prepaid debit card. The scam is being reported throughout the country.In this latest scheme, a caller claims to be from the IRS and tells the victim about two certified letters purportedly sent to the taxpayer in the mail but returned as undeliverable.
The scam artist then threatens arrest if a payment is not made through a prepaid debit card. The scammer also tells the victim that the card is linked to the EFTPS system when it is actually entirely controlled by the scammer. The victim also is warned not to contact their tax preparer, an attorney or their local IRS office until after the tax payment is made.
“If you get a call like this, the best thing is to simply hang up. Do not share your personal or identifying information and do not send a prepaid debit card,” Comptroller Peter Franchot said. “My agency stands ready to help any Maryland taxpayer who gets a call like this. My agents are united in our goal to protect our citizens from con artists who want to steal your money and your private financial information.”
The EFTPS is an automated system for paying federal taxes electronically using the Internet or via phone and does not require the purchase of a prepaid debit card. Since it is an automated system, taxpayers won’t receive a call from the IRS. Taxpayers also have several options for paying a real tax bill – not just a specific one.
“This is a new twist to an old scam,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Just because tax season is over, scams and schemes do not take the summer off. People should stay vigilant against IRS impersonation scams. People should remember that the first contact they receive from IRS will not be through a random, threatening phone call.”
The Comptroller’s Office advises taxpayers not to reply to phone calls or emails asking for confidential information, most especially Social Security numbers, birth dates, salary information or home addresses. Maryland taxpayers may call 1-800-MD-TAXES or send an email to email@example.com to report a problem.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is considering adopting a resolution at their annual conference to oppose cuts to the federal Community Service Block Grant (CDBG) program.
Route Fifty reports:
Local leaders have been pushing back hard against a proposal in President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget plan to ax the grants. The block grant program, commonly called CDBG, was allotted about $3 billion in a bipartisan budget deal for the current fiscal year.
Members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors will consider adopting the resolution as the group convenes for its annual meeting this Friday through Monday.
They’ll also consider a resolution opposing the elimination of funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides local governments with grants meant to support affordable housing. HOME was allotted about $950 million in the current budget cycle.
Both HOME and CDBG are administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
CDBG is an important source of funding for many counties as well. In March, the U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO & Executive Director Tom Cochran, National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase, and National League of Cities CEO and Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony released a joint statement condemning the cuts:
“Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds are the heart, lungs and backbone of cities and counties, small, medium and large. By eliminating or cutting them, the administration mortally wounds the places where the majority of Americans live, work and play. Such a move risks ending or harming programs that keep Americans safe, help them find better-paying jobs, improve their health and keep public facilities in good shape. It is an attack on places the president said he wanted to help.
“The National Association of Counties and The United States Conference of Mayors visited Congress last week and solidified support for CDBG. The National League of Cities will follow next week. Together, strongly united with the full force of our organizations, we will demand from Congress, representing the people that sent them to Washington, that they take action to speak and vote against any proposal to cut or eliminate this vital and successful federal program.”
The National Association of Counties (NACo) has been urging counties to contact their members of Congress to support $3.3 billion in funding for CDBG in the FY 2018 appropriations process and it will likely be a topic of conversation at the 2017 NACo Annual Conference.
For more information:
Trumps Proposed Budget Eliminates 66 Programs, Including “CDBG” (Conduit Street)
A Sustainable Cities Network article (2017-06-17) reported that more than 1,000 jurisdictions in the United States have committed to the “Complete Streets” initiative at the end of 2016. The Complete Streets program is designed to make streets safe and accessible to everyone regardless of “age, income, race, ethnicity, physical ability, or how they choose to travel.” The findings are based on a report by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition. From the article:
Communities adopted a total of 222 new complete streets policies that year. Nationwide, a total of 1,232 policies are now in place, in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, including 33 state governments, 77 regional planning organizations, and 955 individual municipalities.
These policies are the strongest ever passed. When the National Complete Streets Coalition first evaluated complete streets policies in 2006, the median score was 34 and by 2015 the median score had risen to 68.4. In 2016, the median score leapt to 80.8. Before 2012, no policy had scored higher than 90. And it wasn’t until 2015 that any policy scored a perfect 100. In 2016, 51 policies scored a 90 or higher, including 3 policies that scored a perfect 100. These gains are a testament to communities’ commitment to passing strong, impactful policies.
By passing strong complete streets policies these communities are making a clear commitment to streets that are safe and convenient for everyone. And they do so at a time when our country desperately needs safer options for biking and walking. …
Complete streets is more than a checklist. It’s a frame of mind. A complete streets approach integrates the needs of people and place in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of transportation networks. Complete streets redefines what a transportation network looks like, which goals a transportation agency is going to meet, and how a community prioritizes its transportation spending. It breaks down the traditional separation in planning for different modes of travel, and emphasizes context-sensitive, multimodal project planning, design, and implementation. In doing so, a complete streets approach can make streets safer and more convenient for everyone.
The article also explained the need for programs such as Complete Streets:
As a nation we face an epidemic of obesity and its related illnesses. The U.S. Surgeon General has recommended making biking and walking a routine part of daily life to help address this health crisis, yet in too many communities streets are not built to safely accommodate these activities. Smart Growth America’s recent report Dangerous by Design 2016 outlined the enduring problem of pedestrian fatalities in the United States, and highlighted the 46,149 people who were struck and killed by cars while walking between 2005 and 2014. Over that period Americans were seven times as likely to be killed as a pedestrian than by a natural disaster. During the same period, more than 7,000 people were killed while biking.
Dangerous by Design 2016 also showed that people of color and older adults are over-represented among pedestrian deaths, and that pedestrian risk is correlated with median household income as well as rates of uninsured individuals. That means people of color most likely face disproportionately unsafe conditions for walking, and low-income metro areas are predictably more dangerous than higher-income ones.
Because of this context, for the first time this year the study looked at the income and racial demographics of the communities included in its analysis. The data showed that communities passing or updating a complete streets policy in 2016 were, on average, slightly more white and more wealthy than the United States as a whole. The average racial makeup of these communities was 76.3 percent white, 10.3 percent black or African American, 0.8 percent American Indian, 5.3 percent Asian, 0.1 percent Pacific Islander, 4.1 percent other, and 3.1 percent two or more races. In all, 77 percent of localities that passed policies in 2016 had white populations greater than the national average of 73.6 percent. The median household income of communities who passed or updated a policy in 2016 was $59,347, about 10 percent above the national average of $53,889.
Taken together, it is clear that communities are consistently passing stronger and more effective complete streets policies, a significant accomplishment. It is also clear that the challenge now is to help communities of all income levels and ethnicities benefit from this progress equitably.
The article noted that the top three scoring jurisdictions with perfect scores of 100 were: (1) Brockton, Massachusetts; (2) Missoula, Montana; and (3) Wenatchee, Washington. In Maryland, jurisdictions or agencies with Complete Streets initiatives include: (1) the State; (2) State Highway Administration; (3) Baltimore City; (4) Baltimore County; (5) Montgomery County; (6) Prince George’s County; (7) Annapolis; (8) the City of Frederick; (9) Rockville; and (10) Salisbury.
A Baltimore Sun article (2017-06-14) reported that the Baltimore County Council is currently considering four pieces of legislation addressing transparency and open government. According to the article, the legislation includes:
- requiring the Council to hold evening meetings (sponsored by Council Member Wade Kach);
- requiring one additional public hearing on the county’s annual budget (sponsored by Council Member Wade Kach);
- requiring ethics training for certain county officials (sponsored by Council Member Vicki Almond); and
- prohibiting campaign contributions during the county’s rezoning process (sponsored by Council Member Vicki Almond).
From the article:
Common Cause Maryland, a government watchdog group, lauded the efforts.
“We’re glad to see the county taking ethical concerns in the community seriously and looking to address them,” said Damon Effingham, the group’s legal and policy director. …
One of Kach’s bills would put an end to the council practice of discussing bills and taking public testimony during weekday afternoon work sessions. County residents rarely attend those sessions, and often no one from the public testifies on the bills.
Kach wants those work sessions to be held at 6 p.m. or later, like the council’s voting sessions on Monday nights in Towson.
He has proposed a requirement that the county executive hold at least two public meetings before introducing the budget.
Currently, only the council holds a public hearing on the budget. This year, no one testified at that hearing.
“One of the reasons that the [Baltimore County] council hearing may have received little engagement in the past could be because, at that point, many priorities of the budget are already basically decided on,” Effingham said.
The article also discussed Almond’s rezoning and training bills:
Rezoning, one of the major powers held by council members in Baltimore County, is an area of intense lobbying and community input. Council members already have an unofficial agreement against accepting campaign donations during the yearlong process. Almond’s bill would turn that into a requirement. …
“With the zoning issues, we deal so much with the developers and the attorneys. There’s a perception that if we take money from somebody that we’ll do what they want us to do,” said Almond, of Reisterstown. “It’s totally not true. This bill helps to say we’re not doing anything wrong.” …
Almond’s other bill would require annual training in ethics laws for county elected officials, top aides, top county officials, members of certain boards and commissions and registered lobbyists. The course would be provided by the county’s Ethics Commission.
Almond said county officials get only cursory training in ethics, or pick up their ethics knowledge on the fly.
The article noted that the bills will be discussed during a June 27 work session and possibly voted on July 3.