MACo Backs Program to Compensate Counties for Open Spaces

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, testified in support of Senate Bill 273, “State Forest, State Park, and Wildlife Management Area Revenue Equity Program,” before the Senate Budget and Taxation and Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committees on February 15, 2017.

The bill would establish a State Forest, State Park, and Wildlife Management Area Revenue Equity Program which would provide counties an annual payment of $250,000 for each unit of open space attributed to State forests, State parks, and wildlife management areas. One unit of open space is the equivalent of 10,000 acres. The payments that counties currently receive from a portion of revenues generated from State forests and parks are eliminated.

From MACo testimony:

A program has existed to provide some level of payment to counties with State forest and park lands through revenues derived from these areas – including net revenues from concession operations – but these payments have been reduced significantly in recent years to balance the State’s budget. SB 273 would provide a consistent revenue stream to offset losses in property tax revenues and fund the public services provided in these areas.

Several local government officials testified in support of the bill, including MACo board members Charles Fisher, Commissioner, Somerset County and William “Bill” Valentine, Commissioner, Allegany County.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.