Counties Struggle With Budget & Special Session Uncertainty

A May 2 Frederick News-Post article examines how Frederick and other counties are struggling to draft their budgets while the State considers whether to hold a special session to address the teacher pension shift and revenue proposals that died on the last day of the 2012 Session when the General Assembly was unable to reach a consensus on those issues and the expansion of gaming in the State.  If a special session were held, it would significantly affect county budget decisions.  In the meantime, counties must continue to prepare their budgets in spite of the uncertainty.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. No one else has either,” said [Frederick County] Commissioners President Blaine Young in a Tuesday phone interview.  …

Lori Depies, the county’s director of finance, said staff in her division will face a challenge trying to pull everything together by June 7, when commissioners are scheduled to adopt the budget.

MACo hasn’t lobbied for a special session, since many counties would prefer the cuts-based budget that will exist without intervention from state lawmakers, [MACo Associate Director Leslie] Knapp said. He indicated, however, that his organization has pushed the state to offer locals more clarity.

“What we wouldn’t want to see is a special session held in late June. By then, most counties will have to have their budgets enacted,” Knapp said.

A May 2 Delmarva Now!.com article echoes similar uncertainty in Wicomico County’s budget process and also discusses a Wicomico County Board of Education amended budget request that County officials say was offered too late to be considered as part of the County Executive’s budget.

It’s no fluke that recent weeks have seen a string of sometimes confusing articles on local budgets.

Director of Administration for Wicomico County Wayne Strausburg said colleagues with four decades of experience have been calling this “the most unusual budget cycle seen in Annapolis and here locally.”

In one of the most recent examples of this, on Tuesday afternoon the county Board of Education submitted to the County Executive’s Office an amended budget request for a $38,700,000 county appropriation for education, but county officials said the nearly $2 million increase over the previous proposal of $36,920,830 came in too late.  …

[County spokesperson Tamara Lee-Brooks] said the county had not received formal communication that the school board would be revising its proposal, and “it would take yet another extension to rework the numbers. I doubt the council would be willing to do that. Therefore, the county executive’s proposed budget stands.”

The school board stated the amended school board budget request was an attempt to work with the County on seeking a waiver to its Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirements.  However, the General Assembly could remove the need for the county to seek a waiver for the upcoming fiscal year as part of its potential special session deliberations.

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