Corvias at #MACoCon for the Governor’s Cabinet Reception!

The Maryland Association of Counties would like to thank Corvias for their sponsorship of the Governor’s Cabinet Reception. MACo will host the Governor’s Cabinet Reception on August 17, 2018, followed by the Crab Feast.

download (1).pngCorvias [kore-vee-us] is rooted in the Latin phrase “by way of the heart.” It represents the commitment we make to our partners. The passion we bring to making a real difference in the world. And serves as our daily reminder to lead with our hearts, speak from our conscience, and improve local communities — and society at large — through every one of our partnerships. We take our work personally because, just like our partners, we’re engaged citizens and community members with a vision for a better tomorrow. And a plan to make our vision a reality.

Thank you, Corvias, for supporting the Maryland Association of Counties!

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

You Get a Tote Bag, You Get a Tote Bag, You All Get a Tote Bag

MACo would like to recognize the sponsor of this year’s conference tote bags, The NorthEast Maglev!

MACo’s 2018 Summer Conference will be held Aug. 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center, in Ocean City, MD.

tnem.pngTNEM is an American company committed to bringing the revolutionary SCMAGLEV to the Northeast Corridor, the most congested transportation region in the country.

Thank you, The NorthEast Maglev, a Bronze Corporate Partner, for your support of Maryland Counties!

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

It Wouldn’t Be a Crab Feast Without the Feast?!

The Maryland Association of Counties would like to thank Miles & Stockbridge for sponsoring the Main Buffet at the Crab Feast!

MACo’s 2018 Summer Conference will be held Aug. 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center, in Ocean City, MD.

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Miles & Stockbridge is a leading law firm with 250 lawyers and seven offices across Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. The firm’s lawyers help global, national, local and emerging business clients preserve and create value by helping them solve their most challenging problems.

Thank you, Miles & Stockbridge, for your support of Maryland Counties!

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Don’t Let a Dead Battery Ruin #MACoCon

The Maryland Association of Counties would like to thank SLAIT Consulting and Nutanix for sponsoring the Cell Phone Charging Station.

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SLAIT Consulting is an information technology company that specializes in cyber-security and data center solutions. SLAIT holds top partner status and certifications with leading technology organizations which enables us to help businesses, government and educational institutions develop comprehensive plans to build and maintain their IT infrastructure. SLAIT will work with you to develop strategies around IT business transformation, conduct IT Risk Analysis and Mitigation, and develop out-of-the-box thinking around your IT architecture, design, and implementation. Visit slaitconsulting.com to learn more.

NutanixNutanix enables IT teams to build and operate powerful multi-cloud architectures. Our Enterprise Cloud OS software melds private, public and distributed cloud operating environments and provides a single point of control to manage IT infrastructure and applications at any scale.

Thank you, SLAIT Consulting and Nutanix, for your support of Maryland Counties!

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings #MACoCom

MACo hosts a series of meetings at the annual summer conference for members belonging to affiliates and special groups. We would like to recognize the 2018 sponsors of those meetings.

MACo’s 2018 Summer Conference will be held Aug. 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center, in Ocean City, MD.

Davenport & Company – Budget & Finance Meeting
MidAtlantic Farm Credit – Large and Rural County Coalition Breakfasts
U.S. Communities – Emergency Managers, Human Resources, Information Technology, and Procurement Meetings
Wetlands Studies and Solutions – County Engineers Meeting
Zelenkofske Axelrod – Budget & Finance Meeting

Davenport & Company

Davenport

Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia and founded in 1863, Davenport & Company LLC is an independent financial advisory firm specializing in the area of investments, research, asset management, investment banking, and advisory services. Member: NYSE FINRA SIPC. Address: 8600 La Salle Road, Suite 324, Towson, MD 21286

MidAtlantic Farm Credit

MidAtlantic Farm Credit

The Farm Credit System was founded in 1916 to provide America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities with access to reliable and consistent credit. Today, there are approximately 65 independently operated Farm Credit organizations across the country and Puerto Rico – each providing financial assistance to their local communities.

U.S. Communities

US CommU.S. Communities is the leading national government purchasing cooperative that reduces the cost of goods and services by aggregating the purchasing power of public agencies nationwide. U.S. Communities provides participants with access to a broad line of competitively solicited contracts with national suppliers that have committed to providing their lowest overall public agency pricing. Each month more than 500 new public agencies register to participate. This continuing rapid growth is fueled by the program’s proven track record of providing public agencies unparalleled value and the best government pricing available.

Wetlands Studies and Solutions

WetlandsWetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI), a Davey Tree Company, is one of the leading natural and cultural resource consulting firms in the Mid‐Atlantic, and the largest in our local niche. Our staff assists both public and private sector clients with Clean Water Act permitting and develops innovative solutions to water quality issues. We have worked on over 7,900 projects in the region, encompassing more than 298,000 acres.
These projects include stream restoration for TMDL credit and mitigation, federal and state Clean Water Act permitting, wetland delineations, natural resource inventories, forest stand delineations, critical area studies, RTE species studies, and tree preservation plans. Our ongoing partnerships with counties and cities have fine‐tuned our understanding of the issues facing local jurisdictions – and the need to strike a balance between tight budgets, necessary projects and upgrades, and permit compliance requirements.

Zelenkofske Axelrod

ZA

Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC (ZA) is a Pennsylvania based regional CPA firm employing over 45 professionals, with offices in Harrisburg, Greensburg, Pittsburgh, and Greater Philadelphia; Dover, Delaware, and expanding into Maryland, that specializes in providing auditing, accounting and consulting services to governmental entities. ZA’s growth over the years has been through specialization in the governmental industry. They are leaders in providing accounting, auditing, and consulting services to governmental entities of all types – that’s why so many of these entities, large and small, engage in their services. Their clients include counties, component units of the state, townships, boroughs, authorities, cities, and school districts. Not all CPA firms specialize in the complexity of accounting and auditing standards which govern these entities. They do! Their partners and directors have worked in the Big 4 accounting firms and have brought their experience to Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC to grow their governmental practice to where it is today. The quality of their work is second to non, particularly in the Government Industry. This fact is evident in many ways, but independently supported through their most recent Peer Review which included review of specific governmental engagements, resulting in an unqualified opinion with no Letter of Comment.

Thank you for your support of Maryland Counties!

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Baltimore City Mayor, Council Agree to Fund Affordable Housing Trust

Baltimore City’s Mayor Catherine Pugh and City Council Members have agreed on a plan that would generate approximately $20 million for the City’s  affordable housing trust fund.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Pugh and City Council leaders agreed to levy two excise taxes on certain real estate transactions and other allocations to fund a trust to create, rehabilitate and preserve more than 4,100 affordable housing units in the next decade.

The agreement calls for excise taxes on the transfer and the recording taxes on real estate sales exceeding $1 million. The excise taxes are estimated to generate $13 million a year. On top of that, the mayor has agreed to allocate $2 million to $7 million annually that, by fiscal 2023, would provide a total of $20 million a year to the trust.

As previously covered on Conduit Street, the affordable housing trust fund was approved in 2016 but had no designated source of funding. Council Member John Bullock introduced a bill earlier this year proposing to raise taxes on certain property sales to help fund the trust.

The Sun article notes that parts of the agreement reached between city officials are likely to be amended into Bullock’s bill. Council President Jack Young intends to pass the bill by the end of the year with an expectation that it would go into effect January 1 following the Mayor’s signature. Additional details will be worked out in the meantime.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more

Prior coverage from Conduit Street:

City Council Introduces Bill to Fund Affordable Housing

Median Home Values Surge Throughout Maryland

Median home values are on the rise – and, in fact, are at their highest levels in 10 years, according to The Daily Record’s real estate blog, Ground Up.

For counties, which depend on property taxes more than any other revenue stream, this is a big deal.

When looking at median sales price increases this July as compared to July 2017, Prince George’s County’s increased by 1.1 percent, the Baltimore metro area’s increased by 2.6 percent, Montgomery’s increased by 6 percent, and Harford County’s increased the most, by 8.1 percent.

Howard’s was the only that fell, by 2.3 percent. Howard still maintains the highest home money-2724241__340values in the Baltimore metro area, however.

Anne Arundel saw the greatest surge in sales, which increased by 13.4 percent over the prior year.

The increases in sales activity and purchases prices is potentially attributable to tighter supply and uncertainty as to if and when interest rates will increase.

Curious how counties project property tax revenue increases? Join expert finance officers at the MACo Summer Conference session, Navigating Murky Waters: Predicting Unpredictable Revenue Streams.

MACo’s 2018 Summer Conference will be held this week, Aug. 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center, in Ocean City, MD. This year’s conference is projected to have its highest attendance, ever!

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

State Board of Elections Aims to Boost Election Cyber Security

The Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) will spend about $7.4 million to improve election security. Although there won’t be any substantive changes before November’s gubernatorial election, SBE plans to upgrade its systems and software in time for elections in 2020.

Federal officials warned earlier this year that Russia remains interested in disrupting elections after a multipronged effort to interfere two years ago. Although United States Department of Homeland Security notified Maryland that is was one of 21 states with suspicious online activities before the election, there’s no evidence that Maryland’s election systems or voter data were breached or compromised.

According to the Frederick News-Post:

After questions arose in April about the 2016 election and whether Maryland’s election systems were hacked, the Board of Elections received approximately $7 million in federal funds to make election security improvements. The state was required to match 5 percent of those funds, bringing the total to slightly more than $7.4 million to be spread across categories including voting equipment, election auditing, voter registration and management systems, cyber vulnerabilities, training and communication.

In a report from the Board of Elections to state lawmakers, the board said it has earmarked about $3.5 million, nearly half of the federal funds, to identify and mitigate cyber vulnerabilities. The funds will be used to hire an information security expert, upgrade equipment and software, implement two-factor authentication on workstations and automate the state’s patch management process, according to the report.

SBE has also earmarked $1 million for upgrading voter registration equipment and software and $1.5 million for cybersecurity upgrades and training for election security personnel.

Counties administer and fund elections at the local level, overseeing polling places and coordinating poll workers every two years.

MACo has partnered with the SBE and local boards of elections to maintain the integrity of state and local election systems and data. This collaborative effort will promote best practices and information sharing to protect the systems and data we use to conduct elections.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo Partners with State & Local Boards of Elections to Improve Election Security

Read the Full Article from the Frederick News-Post

Howard County Announces Trade Apprenticeship Program

Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman today announced plans for an apprenticeship program, starting in 2019, to fill electrical, plumbing and HVAC-R jobs in Howard County. Howard County is among a handful of jurisdictions that recently earned approval from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) to use registered apprenticeships to attract skilled workers in needed employment areas.

According to a press release:

“Howard County, among other jurisdictions, is losing some of its best tradespeople in the workforce to attrition and retirement,” said Kittleman.  “Before those skills and expertise are gone, we hope to help transfer those abilities to a new generation of electricians, plumbers and HVAC-R technicians. These are solid career paths that will always be needed in the government sector.”

DLLR Secretary Kelly M. Schulz shared that, “Maryland’s local governments are discovering what many of our businesses have known for decades. Registered apprenticeship is a great way to build your workforce, whether you are in the private or public sector.”

The three apprenticeships being developed in Howard County for July of 2019 are full-time, paid positions with benefits. Candidates in the 4-year program also will attend trade school for free with 144 classroom hours per year, as well as complete 2,000 on-the-job training hours, in exchange for a commitment to remain employed with the county for at least two years after the program.

“It is increasingly difficult to compete with the private sector for skilled tradespeople and the technology and energy-efficiency standards are constantly evolving and improving,” said Jim Irvin, Director of the Department of Public Works. “We are looking to develop our own talent to help us keep county facilities operating safely and effectively for our residents, visitors and co-workers.”

Apprentices will mainly work for the Bureaus of Facilities, Utilities and Environmental Services within the Department of Public Works to maintain more than 2.5 million square feet of county government facilities among 172 buildings. Assignments will span residential maintenance at county-owned properties, commercial operations at county office buildings and industrial settings like wastewater treatment facilities and the landfill. The candidates will be overseen and trained by master tradespeople associated with AFSCME 3085, the local Howard County trade union for public employees of the Department of Public Works.

The positions are included in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget and are expected to be filled in July of 2019.  Details of the policies and procedures for the program are expected to be finalized prior to the end of 2018.

Read the full press release for more information.

Maryland Bests Goal, Bucks Trend with Pensions Performance

The State Pension System’s fiscal year 2018 returns were higher than the assumed rate of return, and its overall funding ratio continues to improve. 

The Maryland State Pension System has beat its goal for investment returns, earning 8.06% against a 7.50% target, according to a press release from the State Pension System. The System also continues to shrink its unfunded liability, counter to a national trend in the opposite direction.

The Maryland Reporter puts this year’s investment returns in context of the System’s historical gains and the size of its remaining funding gap, stating that in the long-term, Maryland still falls below its investment target and that the System is underfunded by $19 billion.

According to the Maryland State Retirement Agency, the System has earned an average of 8.07% since 1986. And, while the System is not yet fully-funded, positive returns like this year’s help reduce its unfunded liability.

Through a combination of investment performance improvements, and benefit reforms made over several years, the System’s health is improving. From the State Pension System Press Release:

“Investment returns this past year are consistent with the long term expectations for our diversified asset allocation and the Board is pleased that, as a result of its oversight and the diligent work of the System’s Investment Division, this asset growth helps to ensure the sustainability of our Plan.” – State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, Chair of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System Board of Trustees.

About half of Maryland counties participate in the State pension system to provide pensions to county government employees. As members of the System, those counties have a particular interest in the System’s investment returns.

In Maryland, the General Assembly has also acted to reduce the Pension System’s unfunded liability through benefit reforms. Reforms enacted by the Legislature in 2011 continue to show positive results:

  • Contribution rates are lower for the coming fiscal year (17.42%) than had been projected (18.70%) in the June 30, 2010 valuation, and the Maryland Pension System’s funded ratio (71.8%) is higher than had been projected (64.5%) at that time
  • The System is on track to be:
    • 80% funded by 2026, and
    • 100% funded by 2039

This positive progress is the inverse of an identified national trend in pensions, as the funding ratios of many public pensions have recently declined. Maryland has made progress surmounting the hurdles experienced by public pensions across the country, including a growing number of retirees, and reduced anticipated investment returns. The increase in Maryland’s Pension funding level is largely due to benefit reforms enacted by the General Assembly, including more restrictive criteria for cost-of-living increases.

The ability of county governments and many municipalities to participate in the State Pension System allows them to provide a certain level of benefit to their employees that might not be otherwise sustainable. MACo will continue to track the System’s progress toward its goal of 100% funded status on behalf of county stakeholders.

The Chair of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System Board of Trustees, Treasurer Nancy Kopp, will be speaking at this year’s MACo Conference. The Treasurer will be a special guest at the Women of MACo Lunch, on Friday, August 17, 2018.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

 

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