Commission to Advance #NG911 Holds First Meeting

The Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) Across Maryland, a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative that will help Maryland prepare for the deployment of a statewide Next Generation 9-1-1 system that our residents expect and deserve, held its first meeting today in Annapolis.

Maryland residents demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows.

The Commission will examine the strategic aspects of NG9-1-1 implementation in coordination with the existing efforts of the Emergency Number Systems Board (ENSB), with a particular emphasis on addressing areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB. The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of NG9-1-1 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly.

The Commission wasted no time getting to work. Senator Cheryl Kagan, Senate sponsor of the MACo legislation to establish the Commission, was elected Chair. Steve Souder, former Director of the Department of Public Safety Communications in Fairfax, Virginia, was elected Vice Chair.

In order to meet the initial reporting deadline of December 1, 2018, the Commission established four subcommittees – Funding, Staffing, Technology & Cybersecurity, & Oversight and Accountability. Each subcommittee will work to draft preliminary recommendations. Once the subcommittees have completed their work, they will present their recommendations to the full Commission.

Because county governments are at the heart of 9-1-1 service delivery, MACo prepared and submitted to the Commission a Next Generation 9-1-1 White Paper. MACo hopes to continue to serve as a resource for additional information from county governments throughout the Commission’s deliberations.

MACo’s Legislative Committee voted at their September 12, 2018 meeting to adopt the Association’s four priorities for the 2019 Session. Updating state laws, and the 9-1-1 financing system, to provide the flexibility and resources needed for the transition to NG9-1-1, will again be a top priority for county governments.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

MACo NG9-1-1 White Paper

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Commission to Advance #NG9-1-1 Set to Convene

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Hogan Signs MACo’s 9-1-1 Initiative Bill

Healthy Food Procurement Options Explored at 2018 Summer #MACoCon

County attendees to the 2018 MACo Summer Conference learned how to incorporate healthy, sustainable food products into to their procurement processes at the “Putting Our Best Food Forward: A Sea of Possibilities” panel on August 16, 2018.

From L to R: Chloe Waterman, Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes, Elizabeth Marchetta, & Council Member Dannielle Glaros

Friends of the Earth Senior Food Campaigner Chloe Waterman stated that public procurement is one of the few leverages local governments have over a globalized food system. Waterman explained how values based procurement can align policy with purchasing in a beneficial and cost effective manner. “Plant Forward” is the policy of reducing (not eliminating) meat and dairy purchases while increasing plant-based food purchases in order to reduce both carbon emissions and health issues. Waterman discussed several examples of “Plant Forward” programs including Sweden’s Eat SMART program and San Diego’s Live Well program. Finally, Waterman outlined how a county can implement a Plant Forward policy.

Baltimore City Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services Executive Director Elizabeth Marchetta cited the importance that diet plays on children both physically and academically. (Maryland ranks 9th among states for schools that purchase locally produced food.) Marchetta noted that within Baltimore City, there are adjacent neighborhoods with a 19-year difference in life expectancy. Marchetta described different actions taken by the City’s school system: (1) using local vendors where possible; (2) removing pork from the school diet, serving better quality chicken, and promoting fresh fruits and vegetables; (3) promoting farm and culinary arts field trips and experiences; (4) offering free breakfast and lunch to all students; and (5) eliminating polystyrene trays in favor of compostable ones. Any county can piggyback on the school system’s contracts, which are made affordable through group purchasing.

Prince George’s County Council Chair Dannielle Glaros noted that the County has urban, suburban, and rural districts, and has taken several actions to combat resident health and social issues caused by lack of access to nutritious foods. Glaros described how the County has done a food systems map to determine where there are “food deserts” in the County. Using this information, the County has taken or is contemplating several actions, including: (1) providing healthy options in vending machines located on county property (enacted); (2) providing food desert areas with healthy food options through food trucks (in concept phase); (3) targeted funding to promote healthy food options, such as helping farmers markets accept federal SNAP benefits (ongoing); and (4) utilizing the County’s economic development corporation to address food deserts (ongoing).

Maryland Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes moderated the panel.

Conduit Street Podcast: Live at #MACoCon with Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally are joined by Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger for a live recording at MACo’s Summer Conference in Ocean City, Maryland. Listen in to hear about how Congressman Ruppersberger’s experience in local government affect his decision-making on Capitol Hill, the importance of municipal bonds, an update on election security, and more!

Listen here:

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger is serving his eighth term in the United States House of Representatives for the citizens of Maryland’s 2nd District. Maryland’s 2nd District includes parts of Baltimore City as well as Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard Counties.

Representative Ruppersberger, who served as MACo President in 1996 while in office as Baltimore County Executive, has served in public office for more than 30 years. He was elected to the Baltimore County Council in 1985 and again in 1989, chosen twice as council chairman. He was elected Baltimore County Executive in 1994 and 1998, and, under his leadership, the county was named one of the nation’s four best-managed counties by Governing Magazine.

Known as a consensus builder on Capitol Hill, Ruppersberger has led the fight to protect tax-exempt municipal bonds, the most important tool in the United States for financing state and local infrastructure including schools, hospitals, water, sewer facilities, public power utilities, roads, and mass transit.

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:

Conduit Street Podcast: Introducing the DLS Podcast

The Conduit Street Podcast is pleased to announce that our friends at the Maryland Department of Legislative Services (DLS) have launched a podcast. In this week’s premiere episode, Matthew Bennett and Patrick Frank discuss bond sales in Maryland:

-Why does the state government borrow money, through bonds, to pay for capital projects?

-What does the state’s Triple-A bond rating mean for taxpayers?

-How does the state actually sell bonds? Who can buy them?

The nationally-regarded Department of Legislative Services staff walks you through these nuts and bolts, and explains a little-understood but important part of government finance in their debut podcast.

A link to the podcast can be found on the DLS website.

The Conduit Street Podcast will be back later this week with an episode on Maryland’s opioid crisis.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About…

…tax liens!

Learn it, right here in Maryland, this fall!

The National Tax Lien Association (NTLA) is holding its annual conference for tax collectors, lien purchasers, and mere lien aficionados at the The Gaylord Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor on Wednesday, October 24 and Thursday, October 25, 2018.

And, since this target audience likely minds their wallets, there is an early bird discount for those who register before the end of August.

Click here to register.

Not yet a tax lien aficionado, but would like to be? NTLA hosts its National Tax Lien Association Academy right before the conference gets into gear, on Monday, October 22 and Tuesday, October 23, also at National Harbor. ntla

Click here to learn everything you ever wanted to know about tax sales and tax lien investing.

NTLA was founded in 1997 as a non-profit professional trade organization for the tax lien industry. It represents investors, lenders, service providers, and government officials in regards to tax lien sales, as well as promoting the benefit of those sales as reliable income for county budgets. NTLA provides networking and training opportunities for professionals and novices in the tax lien and tax sale industry.

The process used by counties to collect overdue taxes by sending properties to tax sale has received a lot of attention in the General Assembly of late – particularly as it relates to collection of overdue water bills. The flurry of legislative activity followed the completion of the report of the Task Force to Study Tax Sales in Maryland. Brad Westover, NLTA Executive Director participated actively as a member the task force: providing input that, especially when compared to those in other states, Maryland counties already get this right.

State Proposes Volkswagen Remediation Spending Plan, $12M for Counties

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has a plan to spend an additional $76 million on specific projects to reduce diesel emissions from the transportation sector – and it plans to make about $12 million of those funds available to counties.

In 2015, the federal government found Volkswagen AG liable for violations of the Clean cars and air pollutionAir Act, because from 2009 to 2016, the company sold diesel vehicles with devices installed that allowed for illegal amounts of nitrogen oxide emissions. The resulting settlement agreement with the automobile manufacturer created the Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund, which includes $2.7 billion earmarked for projects that remediate excess nitrogen oxide emissions from the air.

Maryland is eligible to receive about $75.7 million of that money – but first it must complete and have approved a plan for how it will allocate the funds. After consulting with the Maryland Departments of Energy and Transportation, MDE released its draft plan this week outlining how it plans to spend the money.

The draft includes spending 15.8 percent of the funds – about $12 million – on projects proposed by local governments and communities:

Local Governments and Communities and Environmental Justice (15.8%): Local governments and communities will be given a chance to submit project ideas for funding. Funding will be awarded on a competitive basis based on the primary goals of this spending plan. Proposals from highly affected communities (communities with heightened levels of ground-level ozone) will be weighted. A portion of the funds will be set aside specifically for transit bus and school bus replacements.

MDE will be accepting comments on the proposed Mitigation Plan until close of business on August 31, 2018. Comments can be emailed to mde.vw@maryland.gov.

MDE is also already accepting proposals from counties and others for eligible mitigation projects that can potentially be incorporated into future versions of Maryland’s Mitigation Plan. Those wishing to propose a project for inclusion in the plan may complete and submit this form by close of business on December 31, 2018.

Those sending comments or proposals by mail may use this address:

Mobile Sources Control Program
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Blvd. Ste. 705
Baltimore, MD 21230

Helpful Links

Whose Water Bill Is It, Anyway?

Baltimore Sun reporters Ian Duncan and Pamela Wood are digging into an issue that has plagued Baltimore City and Baltimore County for years: who owes what for the ages-old water delivery system that serves the region.

The County is refusing to pay the City’s bill of $23 million – money allegedly owed by the County for the difference between the actual cost to the City to provide water to County residents, and the cost the County bills its residents for that water. The County underbills it residents for the water, and then pays the difference to the City – and currently contests the amount the City is charging.

This issue has been going on for years. From the Sun’s coverage:

In the financial year that ended in summer 2014, the city issued the county a bill of about $4.8 million to make up for customers’ underpayment. Another for just under $15.5 million followed in 2015, and a bill for $2.4 million was issued in 2016. The figure for 2017 was still being calculated at the time the consultants finished writing their report.

The county hasn’t paid any of those bills, the [City’s] consultants reported.

Duncan followed the article with a tweet referencing Moody’s recent rating downgrade of the water system:

Sure enough, last December, Moody’s Investors Services downgraded the City’s senior lien water revenue bonds to Aa3 from Aa2, and its subordinate revenue bonds to A1 from Aa3. This affects nearly $1 billion in rated debt, according to the release. It cites the following reasons:

narrowing coverage levels due to recent revenue losses that breached the total debt service coverage rate covenant in fiscal 2016 and 2017, decreased liquidity to cover revenue shortfalls, and an elevated debt position that will increase given additional capital funding plans.

Moody’s cites as a potential reason to downgrade the ratings further:

Lack of reconciliation with Baltimore County on year-end true up payments[.]

Last session, MACo supported Senate Bill 709/House Bill 923, which helps homeowners avoid going to tax sale over unpaid water bills by giving counties the tools to address the problem long before those bills become overdue. The bill passed both house and was signed by the Governor.

The previous session and over the interim, MACo worked hard to stave off legislation which would have prevented counties from collecting overdue water bills – a move which, without a doubt, would have further undermined billing systems’ bond ratings.

Learn about the flood of water billing legislation and related issues at this year’s MACo Summer Conference, “Water, Water Everywhere,” at the session, Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water: Know Your Water Law.

The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18, 2018 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

 

 

Putting Our Best Food Forward: A Sea of Possibilities at #MACoCon

Maryland counties purchase billions of dollars of food each year for hospitals, jails, schools, senior programs, cafeterias, and other county-owned or -operated facilities. At this year’s MACo Summer Conference, attend this session to learn how to leverage this purchasing power to promote food that aligns with your county’s values of health, local economic vitality, and sustainability.

Putting Our Best Food Forward: A Sea of Possibilities

Description: Maryland counties purchase billions of dollars of food each year for hospitals, jails, schools, senior programs, cafeterias, and other county-owned or -operated facilities. Hear from panelists who have leveraged this purchasing power to promote food that aligns with their counties’ values of health, local economic vitality, and sustainability. Panelists will share concrete, cost-effective strategies to develop and implement food procurement practices that improve health outcomes for residents while supporting our state’s agriculture (and water!) system.

Speakers:

  • The Honorable Danielle Glaros, Council Chair, Prince George’s County Council
  • Chloe Waterman, Senior Food Campaigner, Friends of the Earth
  • Elizabeth Marchetta, Director, Food and Nutrition Services, Baltimore City Public Schools

Moderator: The Honorable Sheree Sample-Hughes, Maryland House of Delegates

Date/Time: Thursday, August 16, 2018; 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

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

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Finance, Infrastructure Among Local Priorities

In a survey of county and municipal local government officials, 181 elected, appointed an high-level career local government civil servants ranked “Taxation, Finance, and Budget” as their highest priority for the future success of their jurisdictions, followed by “Economic Development” and “Infrastructure/Transportation.”

The survey was conducted by Route Fifty. About 35 percent of respondents worked for county governments (or their states’ equivalent), and 63 percent of respondents worked for municipalities.

The survey acknowledged differing priorities among smaller and larger jurisdictions, as well as career service officials versus elected ones. From Route Fifty:

The type of jurisdiction that respondents served, as well as their career paths into public service, appeared to influence individuals’ priorities.

Career government officials, for instance, prioritized infrastructure and transportation more than their political counterparts did. They were also more likely to prioritize diversity, inclusion and citizen engagement than elected officials and political appointees.

Find the survey results here.