Grants Workshop in Washington, DC – February 6-7, 2017

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and Grant Writing USA will present a two-day grants workshop in Washington, February 6-7, 2017.  This training is for grant seekers across all disciplines.  Attend this class and you’ll learn how to find grants and write winning grant proposals.

Click here for full event details.

Beginning and experienced grant writers from city, county and state agencies as well as nonprofits, K-12, colleges and universities are encouraged to attend.

They are excited to offer MACo members and their staff a special tuition rate of $425 which includes everything: two days of terrific instruction, workbook, and access to our Alumni Forum that’s packed full of tools, helpful discussions and more than 200 sample grant proposals.  Please use discount code “MDASSN” to receive this $30 discount off full price at registration.

Multi-enrollment discounts and discounts for Grant Writing USA returning alumni are also available.  Tuition payment is not required at the time of enrollment.

Complete event details including learning objectives, class location, graduate testimonials and online registration are available here.

Contacts:

Janet Darling
at Grant Writing USA
888.290.6237
janet@grantwritingusa.com

More than 10,000 agencies across North America have turned to Grant Writing USA for grant writing and grant management training.

Procurement Commission Issues Final Recommendations (…And There’s 57!!)

The Commission to Modernize State Procurement, created by Governor Larry Hogan in February and chaired by Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, has released its final Report including more than 200 pages and 57 recommendations for streamlining procurement efforts, expanding small and minority-owned business opportunities, promoting efficiencies through automation and technology upgrades, and removing redundant and unnecessary procurement processes. It is divided into five major sections:

  • Enhancing the Procurement Process to Attract More Participation;
  • Streamlining Architectural/Engineering Services Procurements;
  • Expanding Small and Minority Business Opportunities;
  • Developing Quality Procurement Personnel; and
  • Updating Procurement Oversight Structure.

While it is not yet clear whether any legislation will come from the Commission’s recommendations, implementation of some recommendations has already begun. For one, the State has started by creating procurement.maryland.gov, which it calls “a singular procurement communications portal providing online access to Maryland procurement information” – checking Recommendation 1.6 off the list.

Recommendations of particular noteworthiness to local governments are highlighted below.

 

eMaryland Marketplace

Recommendation 1.7 centers around re-launching eMaryland Marketplace, the principal location for posting notices of State procurement opportunities and contract awards. The Department of Information Technology is in the process of re-launching eMaryland Marketplace to “provide a shared service for local governments,” as well as to improve its functionality, streamline processes for vendors, facilitate solicitation development, and improve transparency and accountability. In Recommendation 1.9, the Commission suggested that the State perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether to replace eMaryland Marketplace and FMIS, the State’s financial management information system. The Commission also suggested that the State procure a contract management system for use by all State agencies.

Cooperative Purchasing

The Commission addressed cooperative purchasing agreements in Recommendation 1.10. While finding that “when used correctly, … Cooperative Purchasing Agreements are a useful procurement tool,” the Commission recommended that:

Before sponsoring, entering, renewing, or modifying an Intergovernmental Cooperative Purchasing Agreement, the procurement officer must make a written determination that it is in the best interest of the State to do so and, specifically, that it will provide cost benefits to the State.

The Maryland Associaton of Boards of Education (MABE) and other stakeholders testified last June before the Commission in support of allowing the continued use of cooperative purchasing. From their testimony:

In 2015, MABE joined the Baltimore County Board of Education in opposing a local bill to prohibit the purchase of roofing repair services for public schools through an intergovernmental purchasing cooperative. The Maryland Court of Appeals had already ruled in favor of the Baltimore County Board, finding that a local board of education may purchase roofing repair services for public schools through an intergovernmental purchasing cooperative when it acts pursuant to authority granted by Board of Public Works regulations. As the Court of Appeals recognized, regulations adopted by the Board of Public Works clearly allow school systems to utilize “intergovernmental cooperative purchasing” and “piggybacking” to provide cost benefits, administrative efficiencies, and promote governmental cooperation (COMAR 23.03.03.12).

Most recently, in 2016 legislation was introduced, but not enacted, which would have impeded the ability of local school systems to use cooperative purchasing for school facility projects (HB 330/SB 515). MABE’s opposition to this legislation was grounded in the association’s support for the continued use of cooperative purchasing, or piggybacking on other government contracts, for the purchase of materials related to school construction or repair projects.

MABE respectfully requests that this Commission not pursue or adopt any recommendations regarding amendments to school system procurement law to redress the Building Materials Corp. case; or recommendations consistent with the legislation rejected in 2016 which could have impeded school system efforts to achieve the cost savings and efficiencies the General Assembly has consistently encouraged school systems to employ through cooperative purchasing.

In Section V, Updating Procurement Oversight Structure, the Commission recommends that the Governor hire a Chief Procurement Policy Officer, who would replace the Board of Public Works Executive Secretary as Chair of the Procurement Advisory Council (to be renamed the Procurement Improvement Council), and would implement a number of the Commission’s 57 recommendations and “coordinate government entities and local entities to maximize use of intergovernmental purchasing.”

Statewide Versus Regional Procurement

Through Recommendation 1.11, the Commission advised the Board of Public Works to issue an advisory informing about the pros and cons of procuring goods and services on a county or regional basis versus on a Statewide basis:

A Statewide contract typically requires a bigger vendor to meet the capacity demands of the entire State government, while regional contracting – by county or by geographic region … – provides opportunities for smaller vendors. The Advisory should inform State procurement officers as to the advantages and disadvantages of each as well as the appropriateness for different procurement scenarios.

Staff Retention

In Section IV, Developing Quality Procurement Personnel, the Commission addresses the challenges the State has in maintaining a trained and capable procurement workforce. Of note, the Report states,

[T]urnover of procurement staff occurs not only because of experienced staff retirements, but also through attrition due to insufficient compensation and inadequate career tracks within the State system. Compensation provided to most State procurement staff is not competitive with the federal government, private sector, or local governments.

To address workforce retention challenges, the Commission recommended changes to personnel classification series. A number of other suggestions address training and hiring considerations.

Political Contribution Disclosure Reporting

Recommendation 5.9 addresses compliance with political contribution disclosure reporting. From the report:

…[A] person “doing public business”, i.e. a procurement contract worth at least $200,000, must file a statement with the State Board of Elections that names political candidates to which the contractor has made a contribution of at least $500. …

According to the State Board of Elections…, fewer than 700 businesses file the political contribution disclosures, which is a small fraction of those to which the Elections Law likely applies. The Elections Law directs procurement agencies to require contractors to certify filing the statement and to notify the Elections Board when contractors fail to do so. The Commission recommends that procurement staff include notice of the Elections Law political contribution disclosure requirements in solicitation documents and again with award notices.

It deserves noting that the above requirements not only apply to State procurement officers, but county procurement personnel and contracts, as well. 

Other recommendations of note include:

The full report is available here.

IMLA 2017 Mid-Year Seminar Offers Variety of Municipal Law Topics

IMLA logo

 

Registration is now open for the International Municipal Lawyers Association’s (IMLA) 2017 Mid-Year Seminar. The Seminar will be held from April 21-24, 2017, in Washington, DC. CLE credits are offered. From an IMLA email notice (2016-12-26):

Building off of last year’s success, IMLA will have a full Section 1983 track at the seminar as well as a “regular” seminar track, with municipal law staples.  We have a great program lined up and you really cannot beat the value we offer for the amount of high caliber CLE credits attendees will receive. Topics include:

Section 1983: Defending the Local Government

  • General Principles
  • Qualified Immunity Update
  • Understanding Taser Use of Force
  • Trial Practice
  • Wrongful Convictions
  • Constitutional Implications of Crowd Control
  • Fourth Amendment Update
  • Defending Officers in Use of Force Cases
  • Specific Focus: First Amendment
  • Dealing with the Press and Legal Issues in the Aftermath of the Pulse Shooting

Regular Programming

  • Employment Law – FLSA
  • Supreme Court Update
  • Criminalizing Poverty: The Intersection of Homelessness and the Constitution
  • Telecommunications
  • Municipal Finance
  • P3s
  • Land Use
  • Employment Law – Fitness for Duty Exams / ADA
  • Case Law Update
  • Ethics and Governmental Practice

Useful Links

Register for the Conference

View the Tentative Schedule

IMLA Website

Anne Arundel Forms Government Innovation Commission

Anne Arundel County wants to make government more efficient – which could mean privatizing more government services. On Wednesday, December 28, County Executive Steve Schuh announced the creation of the Commission on Government Innovation and Effectiveness, which, according to the County’s press release:

…will examine certain functions currently handled by County agencies that could be successfully handled through public-private partnerships and private sector contracts, resulting in better service to constituents as well as cost savings. The Commission will also examine how to best deploy technology to enhance services.

The Commission will hold public meetings monthly and issue an initial report this April.

William J. Westervelt, Jr., founder of private equity firm Ashby Point Capital and co-founder of First Annapolis Consulting, will chair the Commission. Former West County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Claire C. Louder will serve as Executive Director for the Commission.

Including the chair, the Commission will have six members. Three of the members have public sector experience, including the Honorable Ronald C. Dillon, Jr., former member of the Anne Arundel County Council; Frances B. Phillips, RN, MHA, former Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and Anne Arundel County Health Officer and Interim County Fire Chief; and Nelson J. Sabatini, who served as DHMH Secretary under two separate administrations and as the Deputy Commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration.

Said County Executive Schuh:

We are committed to providing the best government we can to the citizens of Anne Arundel County. We need a wholesale review of every department and operation to understand how we can make government work more effectively for the people.

 

Harford’s Upcoming $55M Bond Sale to Fund Construction, Repairs & Projects

Harford County will hold a $55 million bond sale on February 14, 2017, in hopes to fund school construction, repairs & other projects from both the old and current administration.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

The bond sale is set for Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 and will be conducted through electronic bids, according to a resolution approved by the County Council on Dec. 6.

Harford’s previous two bond sales carried a top AAA credit rating and received what county officials said were historically low interest rates.

Many of the projects to be funded by the sale of the 20-year consolidated public improvement bonds are either completed or in progress, according to County Treasurer Robert Sandlass.

Sandlass said the majority of the projects being funded from the upcoming bond sale were authorized and begun during the previous county administration.

Of the $55 million total to be borrowed, he said, $39 million was encumbered during the last administration and $16 million during County Executive Barry Glassman’s administration, which began in December 2014.

The largest single allotment of funds from the upcoming sale is $20.4 million for the new Youth’s Benefit Elementary School building in Fallston, a $48.4 million project in its final phase of construction. The county previously borrowed $13 million for the project, when it last sold bonds in February 2016.

Other projects underway or completed slated to receive funding from the planned sale include the Humane Society of Harford County’s new building in Fallston, $2.5 million; Edgewood Hall at Harford Community College renovation, $3 million; Havre de Grace Library replacement, $2.9 million; Churchville Recreation Complex building, $3.2 million and repairs to the circuit courthouse, $1.3 million.

Maryland Counties Support Green Energy PACE Program

A Baltimore Sun article (2016-12-18) reported that 11 Maryland counties now support the Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program. The program allows commercial properties to pay more in local property taxes to finance green energy and energy efficiency projects. The local government than sends the additional payment to lenders that provided the costs for the energy improvements. The program allows projects that might not otherwise be fiscally feasible, provides added security to lenders, and allows lenders to charge lower interest rates over a longer period of time. The risk of default (and potential foreclosure) remains with the property owner and there is no additional exposure for a participating local government. The article noted that Maryland, the District of Columbia, and 18 other states have ongoing PACE programs. From the article:

Maryland passed laws in 2009 and 2014 that enabled counties and Baltimore City to adopt ordinances for PACE lending in their jurisdictions.

A year ago, only a handful of counties had gone through that effort, but in 2016, the program has grown to cover nearly half the state.

Anne Arundel, Garrett, Howard, Kent, Montgomery and Queen Anne’s counties are now ready to accept PACE loan applications. Baltimore City and Baltimore, Charles, Frederick and Harford counties have passed legislation authorizing the program but still are developing the administrative processes to handle it.

Of other local jurisdictions, Prince George’s County is exploring its own legislation, but Carroll County officials are not considering joining the program.

Local government leaders say the program is a low-risk, low-cost way for jurisdictions to promote energy efficiency — and potentially generate new tax revenue. The building improvements can raise property values permanently, at least in theory.

Useful Links

MD-PACE Website

 

Clean Energy Loan Programs Popular Throughout The State

Several Maryland counties are creating financing programs to enable installation of green energy projects on commercial properties – known as Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs.

PACE programs provide financing for improvements that improve properties’ energy efficiency, and counties collect the payments for the loans on behalf of the lender through a surcharge on the property owner’s property tax bill. This unpaid surcharge is considered a lien on the real property on which it is imposed and is given first priority for repayment in the same manner as the local property tax. The State passed legislation authorizing counties to enact these programs in 2009 and revised it in 2014.

According to The Baltimore SunBaltimore City and Baltimore, Charles, Frederick and Harford counties have passed legislation authorizing the program, and Anne Arundel, Garrett, Howard, Kent, Montgomery and Queen Anne’s counties are already accepting PACE loan applications. Such programs have spurred $280 million in clean and efficient energy improvement projects across the country.  From The Sun: 

Anne Arundel County was among the first of what are now 11 Maryland jurisdictions that have authorized PACE, and Maryland is among 19 states and the District of Columbia that have active PACE lending programs.

The arrangement aims to encourage energy-saving investments that otherwise wouldn’t happen because the loans are considered too risky by lenders or charge interest rates too high for borrowers to handle. Folding project costs into property tax bills gives lenders much stronger legal footing to go after delinquent borrowers, and that security allows them to charge lower interest rates over longer periods — about 6 percent over 20 years, for example. …

PACE financing is paying for about 800 projects in commercial buildings around the country, all launched since the program began seven years ago, according to PACENation, a national industry group.

The state’s first PACE-funded project is located at a Comfort Inn in Gaithersburg, funding a $1.4 million energy efficiency project. That project will be finished soon, reports The Sun. 

Pursuant to  House Bill 387 (Chapter 593), Clean Energy Loan Program – Residential Property – Study, passed last session, MACo participated in a work group over the interim that was convened and chaired by the Maryland Clean Energy Center which reviewed “optimal design and implementation strategies for a residential clean energy program in the State” – i.e., expanding the PACE program to residential properties. The Sun points out:

Residential projects have been more difficult to launch because so much of the market for home loans is controlled by the federal government. Federal housing regulators have raised concern that because PACE loans are given a higher legal priority than mortgage liens, they could limit the government’s ability to collect if a home is sold in foreclosure.

That has been less of a concern with commercial mortgages, but advocates for commercial building owners still encourage caution.

The Maryland Clean Energy Center’s report can be viewed here.

Click here for the full Baltimore Sun article. 

Campaign Trail Tax Plans – What About Your County?

A Governing magazine column discusses the major party presidential candidates’ proposed changes to tax systems, and what they might mean to state and local governments:

So when a new president comes into office in January, how might campaign tax reform promises affect the ability of states and local governments to make critical investments?

Apart from the muni tax exemption — which helps states and localities to borrow money for infrastructure — eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes is one campaign promise that could most directly impact those governments. It would mean that Americans pay federal taxes on their state and local taxes. So it is that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proposed limits on high earners’ deductions, and candidate Donald Trump said he would cap the value of individual deductions. He also promised to “reduce or eliminate some corporate loopholes” and cap the deductibility of business interest expense.

The target of their proposed changes involve deductions that currently serve to ensure the federal government does not, in effect, impose federal taxes on state property and sales and use taxes. If implemented, they would undo and reverse important provisions in our federal tax code.

For earlier coverage of the long-standing municipal bonds issue, see Conduit Street coverage.

City Council Considers Lobbying & Procurement Transparency Bill

A Baltimore Sun article (2016-10-29) reported that the Baltimore City Council is considering legislation to require the City’s finance department and ethics board to post searchable lists of all entities that have done business with the City during the last calendar year and all registered lobbyists. According to the article, the lists already exist but residents must request them. From the article:

“These are things I feel the public should have access to,” [bill sponsor and City County President Bernard “Jack”] Young said. “People can see the big picture of what’s going on.” …

The bill gained the unanimous approval of the council’s Judiciary and Legislative Investigations committee this week. It will go to the full City Council for a vote next month. …

The city finance department testified in favor of the legislation.

In the article, Young asserted that there was widespread support on the Council for the bill.

Commission Holds Hearings on Proposed Delmarva Power Rate Increase

The Public Service Commission (PSC) held three public hearings last week on Delmarva Power & Light Company’s proposal to raise electricity rates on its Eastern Shore customers by 12.5 percent.  The utility initially made the request to the Commission in July. If approved, the increase will provide Delmarva Power with an additional $57 million, reports Delmarvanow – needed to recoup $330 million in upgrades made from 2012 to 2015, according to the utility.

Delmarva Power & Light Company delivers electricity to about 203,000 customers in Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Harford, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester counties in Maryland, according to the PSC.

Reports Delmarvnow: 

The increase would raise the typical customer’s bill monthly by $18.38, assuming a consumption of 1,000 kilowatt hours. The new total bill would be about $165, according to Delmarva Power’s estimates.

Tammy Truitt said Thursday that electricity accounts for about 21 percent of the expenses at her Somerset County chicken farm …

The company’s current price of power — 8.38 cents per kilowatt hour — ranks third highest among the state’s four electricity providers. If the 12.5 percent boost is applied, the rate rises to 9.42 cents per hour, 43 cents more than what’s charged by the most expensive supplier, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

The PSC plans to make a final ruling on the request by February 17, 2017.