St. Mary’s Parks Director Brian Loewe Resigns

 

 

 

 

 

St. Mary’s County news release (2017-04-19) announced the immediate resignation of the County’s Recreation and Parks Director, Brian Loewe. From the release:

Brian Loewe, Director of St. Mary’s County Recreation and Parks, has resigned his position effective immediately.

Loewe headed the department since April 23, 2012 after arriving from Charles County, where he served in various positions, including Sports Program Coordinator and Parks Manager.

“I would like to thank St. Mary’s County Government for the opportunities that were provided to me over the past five years as director of Recreation and Parks,” said Loewe. “I’d like to thank the Recreation and Parks staff for their hard work and dedication during our time together.”

“I’m saddened to learn of Brian’s decision to resign as head of our Recreation and Parks department,” said Commissioner President Randy Guy. “Brian brought a number of innovative programs to the department and was a champion of recreation programs throughout the county. I join my fellow commissioners in thanking him for his service to St. Mary’s County and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Former Recreation and Parks Manager Arthur Sheppard has agreed to serve as interim Recreation and Parks director effective April 24.

 

DLS 90 Day Report: Local Aid

The Department of Legislative Services (DLS) has released its annual summary of the legislative session, The 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2017 Legislative SessionThe report is divided into 12 parts, each dealing with a major policy area. It also includes information relating to the final operating and capital budgets, including aid to local governments – and a breakdown of aid to each county. 

County level detail of state aid is available here.

DLS lists “Direct Aid” to counties in two groups: Primary and Secondary Education, and all other aid programs. A full breakdown of all programs is available here: Total State Aid to Local Governments (Exhibit A-3.5)

This blog post directs readers to sections of the 90 Day Report which describe all other aid programs.

Libraries

This item includes the Library Formula and Library Network programs. The Report discusses funding for Local Libraries, including the Library Aid Program, for which the State funds 40 percent and counties fund 60 percent:

The State/local share of the minimum program varies by county depending on local wealth. The per resident amount is set at $15.00 for fiscal 2018 and is scheduled to increase to $16.70 annually, beginning in fiscal 2022. Fiscal 2018 funding totals $37.7 million, a $1.3 million increase compared to fiscal 2017. In addition, Baltimore City will receive $3.0 million to support expanded operations throughout the library system.

The State also provides funds through the Library Network program to libraries designated as resource centers and regional resource centers.

Community Colleges

This item includes the Community College Formula (Cade), Grants for English as a Second Language (ESOL) Programs, Optional Retirement, Small College Grants, and Other Community College Aid.

The Report discusses community colleges, which receive $235.2 million in fiscal 2018 through the Senator John A. Cade Formula, an increase of $779,600 over fiscal 2017 funding. In addition, the budget includes $4 million for one-time supplemental grants, to be divided among all 16 community colleges based on Cade funding formula-eligible enrollment. Also,

State funding in fiscal 2018 will total $4.1 million for the small college grants and $600,000 for the Allegany/Garrett counties unrestricted grants. Senate Bill 521 (passed) increases unrestricted grants to small colleges by approximately $1.7 million annually, beginning in fiscal 2019. Funding for statewide and regional programs will total $6.4 million. The English as a Second Language Program will receive $5.5 million, nearly level with the prior year.

Health Formula Grant

Local health departments receive $51.1 million, which level-funds the departments at fiscal 2017 levels, and provides an additional $1.6 million for increases in contractual health insurance costs in certain counties.

Transportation

Transportation aid listed in DLS’ county breakdowns includes highway user revenues to both the county and its municipalities, special transportation grants to both the county and its municipalities, elderly /disabled transportation grants, and paratransit grants.

In highway user revenues (HUR), $140.8 million (7.7% of HUR) is distributed to Baltimore City; $27.4 million (1.5%) is distributed to counties; and $7.3 million (0.4%) is distributed to municipalities, for a total of $175.5 million. The budget also provides special transportation grants to counties and municipalities of $38.4 million – $5.5 million for Baltimore City, $12.8 million for counties, and $20.1 million for municipalities. In addition, local governments receive $4.3 million in elderly /disabled transportation grants, and $1.7 million in paratransit grants.

Additional information on local transportation aid is available within the Report here.

Police and Public Safety

Police and public safety aid listed in DLS’ county breakdowns includes aid provided to municipalities, as well as the county.

The State fiscal 2018 budget level funds the police aid formula at the fiscal 2017 level of $73.7 million. In addition, State funding for targeted public safety grants will total $26.6 million in fiscal 2018. The Report details a handful of public safety grant programs available to local governments, including:

  • The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Fund, which funds grants for investigating Internet crimes against children ($2 million);
  • The Community Program Fund, which funds local government community and violence intervention programs ($500,000); and
  • The Vehicle Theft Prevention Fund, which enhances the prosecution and adjudication of vehicle theft crimes ($1.9 million).

This item may also include other grants, State’s Attorney’s Grants, and 9-1-1 Grants. 9-1-1 Emergency Systems Grants reimburse counties for improvements and enhancements to their 9-1-1 systems and are funded at $14.4 million.

Fire and Rescue Aid

Fire and rescue aid listed in DLS’ county breakdowns includes aid provided to municipalities, as well as the county. The Senator William H. Amoss Fire, Rescue, and Ambulance Fund, for local and volunteer fire, rescue, and ambulance services, is funded at $15 million.

Recreation and Natural Resources

According to the Report, the local share of Program Open Space (POS) funding changes in fiscal 2018:

Chapter 10 of 2016 altered the local share of POS funding beginning in fiscal 2018. The legislation allocated an additional $11.0 million to local funding for fiscal 2018. In future years, local funding through fiscal 2029 increases overall due to general fund appropriations to the transfer tax special fund (from which the local share of POS receives funding) representing reimbursement for prior transfers from the fund. In fiscal 2018, the POS formula allocates $37.2 million to the counties, which is an increase of $15.5 million over the fiscal 2017 amount. In addition, Baltimore City will receive $3.5 million in special POS funding.

The Report further details Program Open Space funding here.

Also, $7 million is included for the Department of the Environment to provide grants to local governments to provide enhanced nutrient removal at wastewater treatment facilities.

Disparity Grants

Disparity grants were level-funded by the Governor, then partially restored for some counties by the General Assembly. From the Report:

Disparity grants were initiated to address the differences in the abilities of counties to raise revenues from the local income tax, which is one of the larger revenue sources for counties. Counties with per capita local income tax revenues less than 75.0% of the statewide average receive grants, assuming that all counties impose a 2.54% local tax rate. Chapter 487 of 2009 capped each county’s funding under the program at the fiscal 2010 level. Chapter 425 further modified the program in order to provide a floor funding level in conjunction with the fiscal 2010 cap for an eligible county based on the income tax rate of that county. Beginning in fiscal 2014, an eligible county or Baltimore City may receive no more than the amount distributed in fiscal 2010 or a minimum of (1) 20.0% of the total grant if the local income tax rate is at least 2.8% but less than 3.0%; (2) 40.0% of the total grant if the rate is at least 3.0% but less than 3.2%; or (3) 60.0% of the total grant if the rate is set at 3.2%. The fiscal 2017 budget included $136.7 million in disparity grant funding; however, the Board of Public Works reduced total disparity grant funding to $132.8 million for fiscal 2017.

… Chapter 738 of 2016 altered the calculation of the Disparity Grant program for counties with a local income tax rate of 3.2% by increasing the minimum grant amount (funding floor) to 67.5% of the formula calculation in both fiscal 2018 and 2019. However, House Bill 152, modifies the formula by lowering the minimum grant amount (funding floor) from 67.5% to 63.75% of the formula calculation for fiscal 2018. Due to this action, funding for disparity grants will total $138.8 million in fiscal 2018.

Teachers Retirement Supplemental Grant

Grants totalling $27.7 million are distributed annually to nine counties to help offset the impact of sharing teachers’ retirement costs with the counties.

Gaming Impact Aid

From the proceeds generated by video lottery terminals at video lottery facilities in the State, generally 5.5% is distributed to local governments in which a video lottery facility is operating. … In addition, 5.0% of table game revenues are distributed to local jurisdictions where a video lottery facility is located. Gaming impact grants total $91.4 million in fiscal 2018, an increase of $24.6 million, or 36.9%, over fiscal 2017 levels, due to the opening of a casino in Prince George’s County in December 2016.

 

Other Direct Aid

Other direct aid may include aid from other programs such as those listed below, which are described in the Report:

Through the Maryland Forest Service and Maryland Park Service – Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) Program, counties receive 15 percent of the net revenues derived from their state forest or park land – in fiscal 2018, Forest Service payments to local governments total $282,900 and Park Service payments to local governments total $2.6 million.

The Senior Citizen Activities Center Operating Fund, a grant program through the Department of Aging for senior citizen activities centers, receives $764,000.

The Strategic Demolition Fund provides funding to assist with demolition, land assembly, housing development or redevelopment, and revitalization. Funding is awarded on a competitive basis to local governments and community development organizations. It receives $25.6 million, but $22.1 million is targeted for Baltimore City.

2017 End of Session Wrap Up: Parks & Recreation

This post summarizes the status of various parks and recreation bills that MACo took a position on for the 2017 Regular Session.

Program Open Space – Apportionment Committee: HB 105 would have reconstituted a local Program Open Space (POS) advisory committee that has not met in decades, specified that committee serves in an advisory capacity to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), required that the committee meet before the end of 2017 and then at least every five years thereafter, and clarified the factors and criteria the committee must consider when reviewing the local POS apportionment formula. The bill was the result of committee narrative found in the 2015 Joint Chairman’s Report.

Push Icons-NOT IDEALMACo Position: MACo supported HB 105, noting that the bill updates essentially obsolete sections of Maryland’s Code and creates an improved mechanism to review the local POS apportionment formula.

FINAL STATUS: HB 105 passed the House of Delegates but was given an unfavorable report by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

MACo Testimony on HB 105

Program Open Space – Local Fund Use Flexibility: HB 1438 / SB 896 would have allowed counties to shift local POS funding between land acquisition and facility projects if: (1) the project is consistent with and supports the goals, objectives, and priorities of a local governing body’s land preservation and recreation plan (LLPRP) and annual program; and (2) the plan determines that additional land acquisition is not merited. The bill also makes several corrective changes to the local POS statute.

As introduced SB 116 would have altered a provision of current law which allows a local jurisdiction that has met its POS land acquisition target to use 75 percent of its future POS apportionment for development projects for a period of 5 years after attainment (up to 20 percent of the authorized development funds may be used for capital renewal). SB 116 provided that 100 percent of funds may be used for development projects and capital renewal going forward.

Push Icons-NOT IDEALMACo Position: MACo supported HB 1438 / SB 896 for establishing a reasonable framework to provide greater flexibility on the use of POS funds while still supporting both land acquisition and recreational facilities development through the LPPRP, which establishes recreational goals and requirements similar to land use goals and requirements in a comprehensive plan. The bill would allow counties to maximize their funding effectiveness by adjusting projects based on current economic conditions and being better able to assist municipalities with their priority projects.

MACo also initially supported SB 116 as a different way to provide needed flexibility regarding local POS funding. MACo changed to a “no position” when the bill was amended to only affect Allegany and Garrett Counties.

FINAL STATUS: HB 1438 was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee gave SB 896 an unfavorable report.

The General Assembly passed SB 116 with amendments narrowing the bill to Allegany and Garrett Counties. As amended, the bill provides that a local jurisdiction may use up to 100 percent of its future annual POS apportionment for development projects and capital renewal if: (1) DNR and the Maryland Department of Planning certify that the acquisition goals in the jurisdiction’s approved LPPRP and the Maryland Land Preservation and Recreation Plan have been met; and (2) the jurisdiction has more than 65,000 acres of land within its boundaries consisting of State forests, parks, or wildlife management areas. The bill also requires the Joint Subcommittee on Program Open Space and Agricultural Land Preservation to create recommendations by October 1, 2018, on whether the State’s standard for land acquisition of 30 acres per 1,000 people should be adjusted to encourage the additional acquisition of land under POS.

MACo Testimony on HB 1438

MACo Testimony on SB 896

NOTE: There is no MACo written testimony for SB 116.

State Forests, Parks, and Wildlife Management Areas – Revenue Equity Program: As introduced, SB 273 would establish a Revenue Equity Program, which starting in FY 2019 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 replace monies that a county currently receives from a portion of revenues generated from State forests and parks. For FY 2019, a county must have a least seven units of open space to receive a payment. That drops to five units in FY 2020 and 3 units for FY 2021 and each fiscal year thereafter.

Push Icons-WONMACo Position: MACo supported the bill as a means to assist counties with large amounts of State land that is not subject to property taxes by creating an analog to a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program. The existing revenue sharing system, which includes net revenues from concession operations, has been reduced significantly in recent years to balance the State’s budget.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed SB 273 with amendments limiting the scope and payment system in the bill. As amended the bill would establish a Revenue Equity Program for counties that: (1) have at least 65,000 acres of State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas; or (2) have at least 40,000 acres of State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas and a real property tax rate of at least $1.00 for each $100 of assessment.

Beginning in FY 2019, the State shall annually pay each qualifying county an amount equal to the county property tax rate multiplied by the assessed value, as determined by the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, of the State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas exempt from the county’s property tax. The bill further specifies what State properties are not included in the calculation and how the payment systems shall work.

MACo Testimony on SB 273

Three Counties To Receive State Funds For Open Spaces

During the evening on Sine Die, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 273, which provides State funding for counties with large amounts of tax-exempt State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas, beginning in fiscal 2019 – a bill MACo avidly supported. As frequently is the case, there is a caveat:

The House amended the bill on Sine Die to further restrict funding to counties which either have at least 65,000 acres of qualifying State-owned land, or 40,000 acres and have a county property tax rate of at least one dollar per $100 of assessed value: namely, Allegany, Garrett, and Somerset. 

SB 273 establishes an Open Space Incentive Program which, as originally introduced, would have provided counties an annual payment of $250,000 for every 10,000 acres attributed to State forests, State parks, and wildlife management areas. As amended in the Senate, however, it would have required the state to only pay those counties with at least 40,000 acres of qualifying open space (Allegany, Dorchester, Garrett, Somerset, and Worcester), and pay them the equivalent of property taxes for the land. The payments are allocated through an analog to a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program, in fairly wide use across Maryland. Beginning in Fiscal 2019, the State would pay the qualifying counties the amount they would receive in property taxes if the land were not government-owned.

As passed, according the fiscal note, the bill provides the following counties the listed estimated annual payments, beginning in fiscal 2019:

  • Allegany: $820,680
  • Garrett: $1,158,300
  • Somerset: $490,000

In addition, Worcester and Dorchester would receive funds if they raised their property tax rates to at least one dollar per $100 of assessed value.

Governor Larry Hogan supported the bill and is anticipated to sign it.

 

 

MACo Advocates for Revenue Equity for State Forests & Parks

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick recently testified in support of Senate Bill 273, which addresses a longstanding funding shortfall to counties for their acreage of State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas.

MACo’s testimony states,

As amended, the bill would establish a Revenue Equity Program which would provide counties with at least 40,000 acres of State forests, State parks and wildlife management areas with State funding, allocated through an analog to a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program, in fairly wide use across Maryland. Beginning in Fiscal 2019, the State would pay the qualifying counties the amount they would receive in property taxes if the land were not government-owned. Five counties currently have at least 40,000 acres of applicable land and qualify for the benefits provided by the bill: Allegany, Dorchester, Garrett, Somerset, and Worcester.

SB 273 will serve as an appropriate incentive to counties to preserve their State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas. As State lands or designated wildlife areas, these properties are exempt from the local property tax, which is the counties’ top revenue source. These State lands comprise as much as 20% of the total land mass in some counties. Property revenues fund a large portion of county expenditures from which these lands benefit, including law enforcement, emergency management services, stormwater infrastructure, and roadways. Providing services to these areas without revenues for this specific purpose draws funds away from other parts of the county budget.

The following county members joined Zektick to testify in favor of this bill:

  • Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine
  • Somerset County Commissioner Charlie Fisher
  • Executive Assistant to the Dorchester County Manager, Rebecca White

After a detailed introduction from bill sponsors Senators George Edwards and James Mathias, Governor Hogan’s Chief Legislative Officer and former Senator Chris Shank stressed the Governor’s support for the bill. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources also testified in support of the bill, clarifying that its passage would relieve any tension between the State and local governments concerning the purchase and development of additional State forest and park land.

Delegate Stephen Lafferty asked White about the income potential of State land primarily covered in marsh, where housing could not be developed. White and Commissioner Valentine testified that just because it could not house development did not mean that counties did not have to pay for services supporting the land. Delegate Andrew Cassilly followed up with a friendly question concerning the land value, and Delegate William Wivell drove home the point that any concerns about the value of the land would be addressed through the property assessment process.

Previous Conduit Street coverage can be found here. Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

DNR, U.S. Navy Partner with St. Mary’s County to Develop New Waterfront Park

The Board of Public Works (BPW) recently unanimously approved a program open space acquisition on 163 acres in St. Mary’s County to provide for the development of both active and passive recreational opportunities, and important water access to the Patuxent River.

According to DNR’s press release,

The property, known as the Snow Hill Farm, will be owned and managed by St. Mary’s County.

“This partnership among local, state and national entities translates to an extraordinary opportunity to help develop a new waterfront park in Southern Maryland,” Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “The property will provide expansive and extensive shoreline and beach areas, a protected cove, a motorized boat launch and plenty of open space for more passive recreational pursuits. It will be ideal for canoeing, fishing, hiking, kayaking, picnicking and more.”

The Program Open Space acquisition was leveraged with funding from the Department of Natural Resources, St. Mary’s County and the U.S. Navy. The $1.5 million acquisition is being shared among the partners with the Navy contributing $383,553 through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program in exchange for a conservation easement on the property.

Program Open Space is a nationally-recognized program that symbolizes Maryland’s long term commitment to conserving the state’s natural resources while providing exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities for citizens and visitors alike. Since 1969, the program has provided funding for acquisition of 378,731 acres for open space.

CBC Releases 2016 Annual Report – Program Open Space, Conowingo Dam Among Key Issues

The Chesapeake Bay Commission (CBC) released its annul report for 2016. The report offered a short appraisal of the CBC’s work on Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts in each member state, an assessment on overall Bay restoration progress, and a critique of ongoing challenges. Program Open Space (POS) was highlighted as a key issue in Maryland while the Susquehanna River/Conowingo Dam nutrient and sediment trapping problem was noted as a key challenge.

The CBC is a partnership between Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia to advise and address issues that affect the entirety of the Chesapeake Bay. Members include legislators and cabinet secretaries from each state, as well as a United States Navy liaison. Each member state is represented among three leadership positions – including a chair and two vice-chairs. Maryland Senator Thomas McLain “Mac” Middleton served as the CBC Chair for 2016. For 2017, Maryland Delegate Tawanna Gaines is serving in a Vice-Chair capacity.

From the report’s summary of CBC activities in Maryland:

With Maryland on-track to meet its 2017 water quality goals under the TMDL, Commission members focused on maintaining that progress by supporting land conservation. Maryland’s Program Open Space (POS) preserves natural areas, protects historic places, and develops parks. Full funding of POS and other land conservation programs is critical to achieving the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goal to preserve an additional 2 million acres by 2025. Unfortunately, recent state budgets have diverted funding from POS to Maryland’s General Fund.

After working with a broad group of stakeholders, Commission members effectively sponsored legislation to repay $90 million in previous POS diversions. The bill also requires repayment of any future diversions.

In other budget-related matters, the Commission worked to fully fund the state Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund, which supports agricultural and other nonpoint source best management practices, a first in the Fund’s ten-year history.

Despite noting favorable progress on Bay restoration efforts, including having no anoxic (without oxygen) Bay areas for the first time in 30 years, the report stressed that ongoing challenges continue to exist, including population growth, agricultural pollution, and climate change. Also noted was the disappearing capacity of various Susquehanna River dams to trap nutrients and sediment:

But perhaps the largest threat lies in the nutrients and sediment accumulating behind three large hydroelectric dams on the Lower Susquehanna. Each dam has created a giant settling pond upstream, storing sediment and associated nutrients. Over decades, the reservoir behind each dam has filled with this material, first at Safe Harbor, then Holtwood and now Conowingo.

The loss of trapping capacity at Conowingo, the final dam in the sequence, has caused the entire Lower Susquehanna to be in a state of “dynamic equilibrium.” The loads-in now equal the loads-out.

The sediment and phosphorus that previously were trapped are now flowing downstream unimpeded. Therefore, despite reductions upstream, the loads at Conowingo have increased, at least temporarily.

So long as the inputs upstream of the Conowingo Dam continue to decrease, the Susquehanna’s loads to the Bay will ultimately decrease. But this will take expanded efforts, new funding and time. In the meantime, who will take responsibility for the pollutant loads no longer captured by the dam?

Useful Links

CBC 2016 annual report

CBC Website

Senator Middleton Webpage

Delegate Gaines Webpage

Senate Passes Open Space Funding Bill With Significant Amendments

Today Senate Bill 273, State Forest, State Park, and Wildlife Management Area Revenue Equity Program passed second reading in the Senate with significant amendments, with little discussion on the floor.

This bill addresses a longstanding funding shortfall to counties for their acreage of State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas.

It establishes an Open Space Incentive Program which, as introduced, would have provided counties an annual payment of $250,000 for every 10,000 acres attributed to State forests, State parks, and wildlife management areas. As amended, however, it requires the state to pay those counties with at least 40,000 acres of qualifying open space (Allegany, Dorchester, Garrett, Somerset, and Worcester) the equivalent of property taxes for the land.

MACo supported the bill. From MACo’s written testimony:

MACo believes SB 273 will serve as an appropriate incentive to counties to preserve their State forests, parks, and wildlife management areas. As State lands or designated wildlife areas, these properties are exempt from the local property tax, which is the counties’ top revenue source. These revenues fund a large portion of county expenditures from which these lands benefit, including law enforcement, emergency management services, stormwater infrastructure, and roadways. Providing services to these areas without revenues for this specific purpose draws funds away from other parts of the county budget.

Last year, both the Senate and House passed versions of Senate Bill 263, which closely resembled Senate Bill 273 as it was introduced. That bill passed out of both chambers but did not survive conference committee. MACo also supported that bill.

MACo Opposes Open-Ended Synthetic Turf Liability Bill

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel, Les Knapp, testified in opposition to legislation (HB 1353) that would exempt injury claims caused by artificial or synthetic turf playing fields from the 1-year notice requirement and damage under the Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA). The bill would create an unwarranted legal exception for these playing fields and increase litigation and liability exposure for local governments. Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher is the sponsor of this bill.

MACo’s testimony states,

HB1353 would hinder the ability of a local government to properly conduct investigations in its defense. For most claims, a lack of timely notice would impede a local government’s ability to collect information about the alleged injury, putting the local government at an evidentiary disadvantage.

By creating a unique exception to the LGTCA’s provisions, the bill establishes a precedent that would invite the creation of additional exceptions in the future. Such a “slippery slope” undermines the entire purpose of the LGTCA.

The bill also exposes a local government to increased financial risk and uncertainty by excepting artificial and synthetic turf field injury claims from both the notice requirement and the damage caps.

Bill Jorch from the Maryland Municipal League also testified in opposition alongside Mr. Knapp.

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

MACo Supports Program Open Space Funding Flexibility

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel, Les Knapp, testified in support of SB 896 which would allow counties greater flexibility to move local Program Open Space (POS) funding between land acquisition and facilities projects. The bill was sponsored by Senator John Astle.

MACo’s testimony states,

The bill would allow counties to shift POS funding between land acquisition and facility projects if: (1) the project is consistent with and supports the goals, objectives, and priorities of a local governing body’s land preservation and recreation plan and annual program; and (2) the plan determines that additional land acquisition is not merited. The bill also makes several corrective changes to the local POS statute.

MACo has consistently supported local POS as a two-pronged program that funds both: (1) land acquisition; and (2) recreational facilities. SB 896 would retain this duality by incorporating local POS funding decisions more closely with a county’s 5-year land preservation and recreation plan. The plan would require counties to clearly specify their recreational goals, objectives, and priorities – much as a comprehensive plan includes a county’s land use goals, objectives, and priorities. The bill’s requirement that all projects must be consistent with the recreation plan mirrors the requirement that zoning must be consistent with a comprehensive plan.

The benefits of SB 896 include allowing counties to maximize their funding effectiveness by adjusting projects based on current economic conditions and being better able to assist municipalities with their priority projects.

Supporting Mr. Knapp before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee were representatives from the Maryland Municipal League (MML) and the Maryland Association of County Parks and Recreation Administrators (MACPRA).

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