Counties Make The Case For Funding IT

 

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Ben Birge, CountyStat Manager for Prince George’s engages attendees in prioritizing IT

Good governance requires good technology. Powerful databases, analytical instruments, geographic systems, and public portals can all improve customer service and accountability — but invariably come at a cost, and technology maintenance is not always an easy sell in the budgeting process. At the MACo Summer Conference session, “Live Long and Prosper: Maintaining and Funding Modern Technology,” county tech experts emphasized the importance of prioritizing and managing investments in technology.

Jim McCormick, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Caroline County discussed making the pitch for information technology to managers and elected officials by showing them how it proactively serves taxpayers, rather than just telling them. McCormick has consulted for NGOs and OGAs in the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa. In 1998, he designed and built the first 100 percent county-owned fiber optic infrastructure on the Eastern seaboard to support county departments and associated county, State and Federal applications. It was designed with extra conduit capacity which proved instrumental in extending broadband access to the Mid-Shore of Maryland as part of the NetworkMD and Maryland Broadband Cooperative infrastructure.

Prince George’s CountyStat Manager Ben Birge highlighted how the County’s well-designed 311 system elevates its customer service to the next level. CountyStat is responsible for providing analysis and oversight to ensure County services are operating in an efficient, productive and cost-effective manner, and for the performance data analysis in support of the operating budget. Prior to managing CountyStat, Birge served as deputy director for the County’s Office of Management and Budget.

James Ewing, Account Manager with Presidio Networked Solutions rounded out the panel by recommending that county leadership elevate IT professionals by bringing them to the table with decision-makers, budget officials and high-level administrators early on, rather than leaving them behind the scenes. Ewing has more than 20 years of experience helping organizations identify, adopt and manage complex IT solutions across the globe.

“Live Long and Prosper: Maintaining and Funding Modern Technology” took place at MACo’s Summer Conference on Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 3:30 pm. Delegate Tawanna Gaines moderated the panel and engaged attendees in the lively discussion.

 

 

Broadband for Everyone

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Montgomery County’s Mitsuko Herrera discusses delivering broadband to under-served communities

It’s no secret that access to high speed internet can be extremely important for  businesses and education – and it has become a major quality of life issue all across the state. At “Broadband – the Forward Connection For Your Citizens and Businesses,” county technology leaders how they are getting some of Maryland’s tougher-to-reach communities linked up.

Scott Boone, IT Director for Kent County and former chair of the Kent County Broadband Task Force explained how Kent prioritized broadband installation in rural areas, procured delivery experts, used data to strategically map out a robust network using 55 anchor institutions as end points, and delivered service to nearly all parts of the county.

Christopher Merdon, Chief Information Officer for Howard County, discussed how Howard and Carroll counties, Mount Airy, and Freedom Broadband leveraged their resources in a unique public-private partnership to deliver broadband to western Howard’s more rural areas. Public sector facilities, private sector industry knowledge and resident sweat equity all brought the broadband deployment to fruition. Merdon served as a Howard County Councilman from 1998-2006, serving as the Chairman of the Council, Chair of the Board of Licensed Commissioners and Vice-Chair of the Zoning Board. Previously he held high levels in the private sector with JP Morgan, Computer Sciences Corporation and Xerox.

Mitzi Herrera, Montgomery County’s top technology and telecommunications official showed how her county brought broadband to about 2,200 homes in rural areas designated as agricultural reserve by leveraging residents’ community outreach to make the case to existing cable franchisees that there was sufficient demand. She emphasized that broadband deployment is not simply an issue of infrastructure, but also demand – and making the case that high speed internet aids everyone helped propel its deployment.

“Broadband – the Forward Connection For Your Citizens and Businesses” took place on August 18, 2016 at 2 pm at MACo’s Summer Conference at the Ocean City Convention Center. It was moderated by Senator Stephen Hershey, Minority Whip of the Maryland Senate and representative of District 36.

 

Save the Date for MACo’s Administrators & Attorneys Conference – October 9, 2014

MACo will host its Administrators and Attorneys Conference on Thursday, October 9, 2014 at the Newton White Mansion in Mitchelllville, MD (a Prince George’s County Park and Planning Commission facility).

The date and location are as follows:

Thursday, October 9, 2014
10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Newton White Mansion
2708 Enterprise Road, Mitchellville, MD  20721

This annual one-day event is free for county government staff members, with content designed for those who guide county management, administrative, and legal policies. This is a member-only event and is only available to Maryland county officials and staff members.

Details on the program will be available shortly. Online registration is currently open for this event.

Article Highlights Local Struggles in Maintaining and Upgrading Water Mains

An article in the Washington Post highlights the struggles of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) in maintaining and upgrading water mains in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has 350 miles of concrete mains that have been prone to exploding without warning. The particularly large mains are designed to carry high volumes of pressurized water. Utilities around the world have struggled with this type of pipe since the 1980s, when they began bursting decades before their 100-year life expectancy was up.

The WSSC’s inventory of large concrete pipe is second only to Detroit’s and two to three times that of many other U.S. cities and suburbs, according to a Washington Post survey of 21 large utilities.

While local officials work to protect residents who live in areas prone to water main breaks, they must also balance the costs of upgrades.

The scope of the problem has been a key question among local officials wrestling with how to best protect people who live, work, attend school and drive within what the utility has declared an 80-foot danger zone of the massive mains’ potentially explosive forces.

The pipes span up to eight feet in diameter, big enough to hold a minivan. Because they carry so much pressurized water, they can blow like a bomb, leaving 50-foot craters in roads and hurling rocks and other debris “like shrapnel,” said Gary Gumm, the WSSC’s chief engineer.

The 350 miles of large concrete pipe — technically called prestressed concrete cylinder pipe — form the backbone of the 5,600-mile water distribution system for 1.8 million people in Montgomery’s and Prince George’s counties. The large transmission mains carry water from the treatment plants to the smaller pipes that reach into neighborhoods. After decades of development, some of the mains, buried in what was once the countryside, now sit just beyond back fences and alongside or beneath major roads.

In the densely populated Washington suburbs, they’re too big to move, WSSC officials say, and replacing all of them would cost a prohibitive $2.9 billion. Doing so also wouldn’t be cost-effective because inspections have shown that only 1.5 percent of concrete pipe sections need to be repaired or replaced, WSSC officials said.

Caroline County Commissioners Approve Budget For Fiscal 2014

Caroline County Commissioners approved their fiscal year budget on June 4, increasing property and income tax rates.  As reported on MyEasternShoreMD.com:

The budget includes a 5-cent property tax increase, approved at the commissioners’ May 28 meeting, including a 3-cent increase to produce constant yield following an $800,000 decrease in tax assessments in the northern part of the county, and an additional 2-cent increase, largely to cover the increase in the county’s portion of teacher pension costs, said Finance Director Margaret Roe in a statement.

The budget also includes an increase in the income tax rate, from 2.63 percent to 2.73 percent, but Roe said that extra income will not be seen until the county’s 2015 fiscal year, and will go toward capital improvements.

Additional information can be found in the County’s FY 14 Budget Message.

…the County Commissioners required every department and allied agency to submit a flat budget request.  Commissioners made across the board cuts to the departments where they had authority to reduce spending…

For the first time since 2007, the Commissioner granted a very modest (one-percent) increase for all County employees, except senior management.

Kent County Commissioners Approve Fiscal 2014 Budget Totaling Almost $45 Million

Kent County Commissioner’s approved a fiscal 2014 budget of almost $45 million on June 11, providing a $2,000 across the board raise for employees and retaining property and income tax rates.  Other highlights from the approved budget are listed below.

  • Retires over $4 million of debt in the county general and water and sewer funds
  • Reduces water and sewer rates by 4%
  • Funds the schools at Maintenance of Effort
  • Maintains a 10% fund balance

More specifics on the county budget can be found in a PowerPoint  summarizing the county’s budget presentation.

Wicomico County Council Approves $127 Million Budget for Fiscal 2014

As reported by the Daily Times,

Wicomico County’s $127 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year was approved by the county council this morning.

The budget includes about $10 million more in spending than last year and increases the property tax rate to about $9 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

The county press release summarizes changes made to the budget by Council.

Significant changes to the proposed budget include:

A reduction of the Executive’s proposed allocation of $1 million above Maintenance of Effort for the Board of Education to $629,000

County Executive Pollitt accepted the following recommendations made by the Council:

  • An appropriation of $1 million in additional funds to accelerate the Roads Division’s maintenance program
  • A 1.7% increase for county employees who were not otherwise receiving an increase. The 1.7% is the allowable inflation adjustment under the revenue cap.

MACo 2013 Summer Conference Session – Integrated Stormwater & Wastewater Plans

Description:  Everyone wants clean waterways, but fiscal constraints can make it difficult to put the infrastructure in place to get there. Through working with states and localities, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has developed an “integrated approach” for achieving stormwater and wastewater plans. This comprehensive approach will provide localities with the opportunity for identifying cost-effective and protective solutions and implementing the most important projects first. This session will discuss this framework and how to apply it to your jurisdiction.

Speaker:  Connie Bosma, Municipal Branch Chief, Office of Wastewater Management, Environmental Protection Agency

Moderator:  TBD

Date & Time:  Wednesday, August 14, 2013; 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm

MACo’s 2013 Summer Conference will be held from August 14 – 17 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

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More information about MACo’s 2013 Summer Conference:

NACo Releases Presentation on Immigration Reform

The National Association of Counties (NACo) just released a legislative presentation on the topic of immigration reform and the outlook for counties. The NACo’s electronic message:

The presentation highlights issues including:

  • Why immigration reform matters to counties
  • Context to the immigration reform debate
  • Outlook for legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate
  • Key provisions in the Senate immigration bill (S. 744) and the potential impact on counties

The U.S. Senate is planning to begin floor consideration of their comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 744), next Monday, June 10. Floor consideration is expected to last until the July 4th recess. In the U.S. House of Representatives, several Members are working on their own comprehensive reform measures. We will update the presentation as more details of the House package emerge.

Frederick County Commissioners Approve Operating and Capital Budgets for Fiscal 2014

Frederick County Commissioners approved the county’s fiscal 2014 operating and capital budgets during their commission meeting on June 6. Although the $516 million operating budget doesn’t increase property tax rates, it does make an adjustment to the rate through changes to the fire tax fund.  It also provides a 1% cost-living allowance and a merit increase for employees. From the Commissioners press release:

A key element of the approved budget is that the board addressed the catastrophic issues in the fire tax fund by consolidating the Fire Tax District expenses into the General Fund.  The result was a recalibrated property tax rate of $1.064, which is the sum of the $.936 property tax rate and the $.128 Urban Fire Tax Rate.

The capital budget totals approximately $69 million for fiscal 2014 and $555 million over the span of the Capital Improvement Program.

An overview of the operating and capital budget can be found in the Commissioner’s press release.