2017 Aspire Awards from NACo & Nationwide – Submissions Due May 26

The National Association of Counties (NACo) and Nationwide Retirement Solutions are excited to launch the 2017 Aspire Awards which honors and recognizes counties for innovative solutions and promoting employee retirement savings. Submissions are due May 26, 2017.

Are you aware that over 350,000 county employees from more than 3,000 county agencies are saving for retirement with the NACo Deferred Compensation program? That’s 350,000 citizens who were given the opportunity to take an active role in planning for their future – 350,000 community members who, in the face of numerous and competing financial demands, took that opportunity, and decided to utilize a trusted program to save. In a day and age when individuals and organizations alike are pushed to do more with less, NACo is eager to recognize the monumental contribution from NACo’s county plan sponsors in marketing this cornerstone program successfully and helping that number of participants reach new heights.

Please review the guidelines here for further information. Please address questions to Carlos Greene at NACo at cgreene@naco.org or 404-263-3656.

Baltimore County School Board to Start Search for Interim Superintendent

The Baltimore County school board is planning to begin the search soon for an interim superintendent to replace Dallas Dance, who abruptly announced Tuesday that he will leave his job at the end of June.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

Board President Edward Gilliss said he believes the board must select an interim superintendent to serve for at least a year because there isn’t enough time to find a permanent replacement.

“The two choices are either an internal candidate or someone from the outside,” he said. “Our objective is to identify a person to serve for a 12-month period.”

Dance, who is in his fifth year as superintendent in the sprawling suburban county, is stepping aside after the first year of a four year contract.

He said he does not have another job but is considering offers. He said he was leaving for family reasons, and because working 18-hour days had become taxing.

Board member Marisol Johnson said the board is planning to have an emergency meeting in about a week to begin the search process.

She believes the board should look at internal candidates before beginning a national search. She said there are administrators inside the system who are qualified to do the job. She declined to identify them.

Dance has two top lieutenants. Verletta White, the chief academic officer for the 112,000 student school system, and Kevin Smith, the chief administrative operations officer, who oversees the district’s $1.4 billion budget.

Dance’s resignation gives the board just 10 weeks to find a replacement — an uncommonly short period, according to John Woolums, director of governmental relations for the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.

Maryland school systems, particularly those in urban areas, tend to take more time to choose a superintendent, Woolums said, because the jobs are so big.

“So it is quite often the case that an interim is selected to allow the board to engage in a more thorough process,” Woolums said. “Given the short time line, it is predictable that they would look in-house.”

The school system faces the likelihood of substantial change in 2018, when the board goes from an entirely appointed body to one that is mostly elected. For that reason, some board members suggested an interim might be brought in to serve two years.

Under a new state law, county voters will elect seven school board members in November 2018, and four members will be appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan the following month.

Board members will have to decide whether they want to hire a new superintendent just months before a turnover of the majority of the board.

It’s uncommon for a superintendent to leave in the first year of a multiyear contract, and to announce the departure so late in a school year. But it does happen.

The superintendent in Washington County, Woolums noted, announced in January that he would be leaving in March. The school board chose a top administrator as an interim and then named him the permanent replacement.

Read the full article for more information.

Anne Arundel Board Redistricts Annapolis Schools

Anne Arundel County Board of Education voted Wednesday night to change school boundaries for nearly 400 students on the Annapolis Peninsula, shifting students to reduce crowding and bring students closer to their neighborhood schools.

According to The Capital Gazette,

County leaders and some parents have advocated for reducing crowding at Tyler Heights Elementary School in past years. The school has 13 portable classrooms and sends its pre-kindergarten students to Georgetown East Elementary School.

Under the plan, Tyler Heights would go from 133 percent over state-rated capacity to 99.5 percent capacity, according to the redistricting report.

Monarch Academy in Annapolis will draw students from the Tyler Heights area when it opens in the fall. Tyler Heights Elementary will also get a construction upgrade, which would expand school space.

The redistricting plan moves students from Tyler Heights Elementary to Eastport and Georgetown East elementary schools, as well as shift graduates of Walter S. Mills-Parole Elementary School from Wiley H. Bates Middle School to Annapolis Middle School. Hillsmere Elementary is the only elementary school in the Annapolis feeder system whose boundaries will remain unchanged.

Some students living north of the Severn River would move from Annapolis Elementary School to Arnold Elementary School in the 2019-20 school year. And some students would move from Germantown Elementary School to Annapolis Elementary School in that school year as well.

Fourth-grade students affected by the plan have the option of remaining at their school the next school year. Students living in the Mills-Parole Elementary attendance zone and going to school at Bates Middle can also remain next school year.

The proposal to graduate Mills-Parole Elementary students from one middle school to another had raised some concerns among parents because the shift will concentrate minority students in Annapolis Middle. Mills-Parole Elementary has a student body with 59 percent Hispanic students and 36 percent African-American students.

School board president Stacy Korbelak said parents have the option of choosing a middle school because both Annapolis Middle and Bates Middle are magnet schools.

Seven board members voted unanimously to approve the plan. Board member Eric Grannon was absent. And board member Tom Frank resigned earlier in the year.

Read the full article for more information.

Legislators & Environmental Advocates Urge Trump to Fund Bay Restoration

A Capital Gazette article (2017-04-17) reported that a coalition of environmental advocates and predominantly Democratic legislators urged President Donald Trump to provide $100 million in funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. Trump’s proposed budget is provides $0 for the Bay clean up, representing a $73 million reduction.

From the article:

“The federal partner must not quit now,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation president William Baker said. “It’s critical for human health, and it’s central to our economy.” …

By highlighting two Eastern Shore leaders — Salisbury’s Democratic Mayor Jake Day and Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, D-Salisbury — the group focused much of the Monday press conference on the poultry industry’s effect on the Bay with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge’s shadow at their backs. …

Sen. Ben Cardin said the repeal of federal money threatens to undermine progress made to bring back the waterman and crabbing industries. …

Cardin also highlighted Republican Rep. Andy Harris and his support for restoring the federal funding, saying the issue of Bay cleanup is “bi-partisan.” …

While five House Republicans joined 12 Democrats in writing a letter urging Trump to maintain the Bay cleanup budget, it’s unclear what level a GOP-led Congress would attempt to restore the money.

 

Unfinished Business Over Medical Cannabis, Parental Rights Push Calls for Special Session

A Baltimore Sun article (2017-04-18) reported that the late-Session failure of two bills have prompted calls for the Maryland General Assembly to reconvene in a special session. The two bills dealt with issuing licenses to minority-owned medical cannabis firms and removing the parental rights of alleged rapists. From the article:

In the final hours of this year’s session, lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have let rape victims who become pregnant during the assault terminate parental rights of their alleged attackers. …

The other [failed bill] would have expanded the medical marijuana industry to specifically include minority-owned firms, and the Legislative Black Caucus has demanded the governor and presiding officers recall lawmakers to Annapolis to pass it.

On Tuesday, [Senate President Thomas V. “Mike”] Miller acknowledged that no conversations have taken place to reach a deal on calling a special session. Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch remain divided on whether the medical marijuana expansion should automatically award licenses to two specific companies.

“We haven’t talked about it,” Miller told reporters after a bill signing in Annapolis.

But Miller said that if a special session is called, he wants to revisit the proposed law about parental rights of alleged rapists.

 

 

Rainy Day Funds: What Counts As Rain?

When it comes to tapping into rainy day funds, how much rain makes a day rainy? What justifies tapping into reserves? That’s the question the Pew Charitable Trusts seeks to address in its latest report, When to Use State Rainy Day Funds.

Despite most states experiencing strong revenue growth from fiscal 2003 to 2007, 22 states made withdrawals from their reserves at least once. Then when the Great Recession took a brutal toll on state coffers from 2008 to 2010, eight states did not tap into the rainy day funds at all.

Flawed withdrawal policies may be to blame, Pew opines. Pew examined 47 states’ withdrawal policies, and found that a significant number of states have unclear policies for when to make withdrawals. Six states, including Maryland, have no policies governing when to make withdrawals at all. Most states – 29 – do not have policies which allow for consideration of revenue or economic fluctuations when tapping into their rainy day funds.

At any given time, a number of considerations may factor into policy makers’ decisions over whether to tap into rainy day funds. The report cites Maryland lawmakers’ fear of a credit downgrade:

Lawmakers often cite their state’s creditworthiness as a reason for not withdrawing from their budget stabilization funds. During the Great Recession, Maryland’s stabilization fund stayed at about 5 percent of general fund revenue. As former Maryland Senator Barbara Hoffman noted, the state uses its Revenue Stabilization Account as more of a fail-safe, in part out of a desire to maintain its credit rating. “We don’t spend it, and that’s one of the reasons we have a triple-A bond rating in this state.”

In Maryland, the Governor may transfer funds from the Revenue Stabilization Account to the general fund “as necessary to support the operation of State government on a temporary basis,” so long as the General Assembly blesses the transfer, and it does not cause the account balance to drop below 5.0 percent of the estimated general fund revenues for that fiscal year.

Rather than focusing on withdrawal policies, Maryland has taken steps this past session to address budgeting around economic volatility by saving more conservatively. On March 31, Governor Larry Hogan signed into law House Bill 503, which codifies an approach recommended by The Department of Budget and Management, the Comptroller, and the Department of Legislative Services in their November 2016 report, Report on Revenue Volatility and Approaches to Reduce Risk to the State Budget.

The new law requires that the Revenue Stabilization Account or the newly established Fiscal Responsibility Fund receive a share of nonwithholding general funds above a cap that is based on the 10-year average nonwithholding revenues’ share of total general funds. Revenues from the Fiscal Responsibility Fund may only be appropriated in the second following fiscal year to PAYGO capital projects for public school construction, public school capital improvement projects, capital projects at public community colleges, and capital projects at four-year public institutions of higher education. The bill also specifies it is the State’s goal that 10.0 percent of estimated general fund revenues in each fiscal year be retained in the Revenue Stabilization Account.

Helpful Links

Pew: When to Use State Rainy Day Funds

Link to the Pew report

Report on Revenue Volatility and Approaches to Reduce Risk to the State Budget

Prior Conduit Street coverage on Maryland’s efforts to address economic volatility

House Bill 503: State Budget – Appropriations – Income Tax Revenue Estimate Cap and Revenue Stabilization Account

Montgomery Passes Bill to Enforce Foreclosed Property Registry

The Montgomery County Council has unanimously passed a bill imposing a civil penalty on property owners that do not register a foreclosed property purchase as required under state law.

As announced in a county council press release:

“This bill will address the ongoing problems many of our neighborhoods confront from foreclosed and neglected properties that are often in persistent disrepair, hurt home values, attract crime and force the County to expend limited resources to enforce code violations,” said Councilmember Hucker. “Bill 38-16 provides the County with new tools to enforce current law, ensure homes are properly maintained and taxes are paid, and encourage delinquent or absentee owners to rent, occupy or sell the property.”

The bill will impose a civil penalty for the failure to register a property that is purchased by foreclosure. By Maryland law since 2012, the purchaser of a foreclosed property must register the property with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLRR) and the Maryland Foreclosure Task Force within 30 days of the property’s foreclosure sale. The law authorizes local jurisdictions to enact legislation to impose a fine of $1,000 for failing to register.

The law was meant to address the period of nine to 18 months that frequently occurs between the date of a foreclosure and the date that the property title is transferred. During this time, local jurisdictions have a hard time identifying the party responsible for maintenance, security and taxes. To date, Montgomery County has not enacted any punitive fine and hundreds of foreclosed properties have gone unregistered since the General Assembly approved the law.

Read the full press release to learn more.

St. Mary’s County Proposed Budget Aligns With Revenues

The proposal for St. Mary’s County reflects a slight decrease in revenues to apply to the 2018 fiscal year.

1200px-Map_of_Maryland_highlighting_Saint_Mary's_County.svg
The St. Mary’s County operating budget recommendation totals about $220 million.

The St. Mary’s County operating budget recommendation totals about $220 million, a slight decrease from last year’s final appropriation. Decreased revenues are related to non-recurring grant revenues that were in the FY2017 Budget – approximately $6.5 million.

The budget proposal includes $102,189,940 recurring funds for the Board of Education – 46% of the County’s Budget. Other Funds in the Board of Education’s Budget are:

  • $108,088,153 is in their budget as operating – primarily unrestricted State funds
  • $21,340,757 restricted funds – grants
  • $7,880,420 in their revolving fund

For more information, see the Proposed Budget for St. Mary’s County.

Sustainable Growth Commission Updating Reinvest Maryland Policy

A workgroup within the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission is working to update and refine Commission’s Reinvest Maryland Report, which made State and local government recommendations regarding infill, redevelopment, and revitalization. While in development, Reinvest Maryland was originally known as Infill, Redevelopment, and Revitalization (IRR).

The original report, released in October of 2014, included over 60 recommendations broken down into 8 categories:

  1. Establish a Vision for Reinvestment
  2. Create and Better Fund Innovative, Effective Reinvestment Programs
  3. Identify and Address Regulations and Policies That May Impede Reinvestment
  4. Deploy Targeted Financial Tools
  5. Promote Equitable Development
  6. Encourage Excellence in Community Design and Preservation
  7. Use Metrics to Gauge Success and Provide Accountability
  8. Accelerate Transit-Oriented Development

The original report was supported by MACo.

The workgroup is updating the report to reflect current programs, land use practices, and economic development needs. The updated report will also better highlight programs and recommendations applicable to urban, suburban, and rural growth areas. County representatives on the workgroup include MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp and Garrett County Planning and Land Management Director Deborah Carpenter.

Currently, workgroup meetings are occurring every two weeks prior to the Commission’s full meeting on May 22 in Frederick, MD. For further information, please contact Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or lknapp@mdcounties.org.

Useful Links

Sustainable Growth Commission Webpage

Former Reinvest Maryland Report – Fast Download Version (4 MB)

Former Reinvest Maryland Report – Full Resolution Version (22 MB)

Former Reinvest Maryland Report Appendices

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Reinvest Maryland/IRR

DLS 90 Day Report: Education Funding

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 the education programs.

From Part L, Education of the Report:

State aid for primary and secondary education increases by $61.1 million in fiscal 2018 to $6.4 billion, 1.0 % more than fiscal 2017 aid. State aid provided directly to the local boards of education increases by $113.6 million, or 2.1%, while retirement aid decreases by $52.5 million, or 6.7%. Fiscal 2017 to 2018 changes in major State education aid programs are shown in Exhibit L-1.

The foundation program totals $3.0 billion in fiscal 2018, an increase of $43.3 million over fiscal 2017, or 1.5%. This increase is attributable to enrollment growth of 0.8% (6,658 full-time equivalent (FTE) students) and a 0.7% increase in the per pupil foundation amount due to inflation. The increase in the per pupil foundation amount brought it from $6,964 per pupil in fiscal 2017 to $7,012 per pupil in fiscal 2018.

Aside from the foundation program, the largest single increase is $21.7 million for Limited English Proficiency.

The County level detail begins with a list of aid provided through primary and secondary education programs. The Primary and Secondary Education section of Part A provides detailed descriptions, history and funding amounts for public school programs, of which there are many:

  • Foundation Program ($3.0 billion),
  • Net Taxable Income Grants ($49.2 million),
  • Declining Enrollment and Tax Increment Financing Grants ($17.6 million),
  • Geographic Cost of Education Index ($139.1 million),
  • Compensatory Education Program ($1.3 billion),
  • public special education programs ($284.9 million),
  • funding for nonpublic special education placements ($123.6 million),
  • regular student transportation services ($250.6 million),
  • special student transportation services ($25.7 million),
  • limited English proficiency grants ($248.7 million),
  • Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act Guaranteed Tax Base Program ($50.3 million),
  • Public School Opportunities Enhancement Program ($2.5 million),*
  • Robotics Grant Program ($250,000),*
  • Next Generation Scholars of Maryland Program ($4.7 million),*
  • Early College Innovative Fund ($300,000),*
  • Aging Schools Program ($6.1 million),
  • Judy Hoyer and Head Start Programs ($12.4 million),
  • Infants and Toddlers Program ($10.4 million),
  • Teacher Induction, Retention, and Advancement Pilot Program ($2.1 million),
  • Governor’s Teacher Excellence Award Program ($96,000),
  • Food and Nutrition Services ($11.2 million),
  • Adult Education Programs ($8 million),
  • School-based Health Centers ($2.6 million),
  • Healthy Families/Home Visits Program ($4.6 million),
  • Prekindergarten funding ($8.0 million),
  • Prekindergarten supplemental grants ($10.9 million), and
  • Teachers’ retirement payments ($734.5 million).

*Governor’s proposed budget did not fund these programs, but the General Assembly restored them.

Governor Hogan provided a supplemental budget which provided additional education aid to school systems experiencing declining enrollment, and those providing prekindergarten. From page A-22:

On March 27, 2017, Governor Hogan provided a supplemental budget that included $28.2 million in education aid to provide grants to certain [local education agencies, or] LEAs, all of which was contingent on the enactment of House Bill 684. As directed under the bill, this funding is provided in two parts: (1) enrollment based supplemental grants and (2) prekindergarten supplemental grants.

An LEA is eligible for an enrollment based supplemental grant if it has declining enrollment, as determined by the LEA’s most recent prior three-year moving average FTE exceeding its FTE in the previous school year. In fiscal 2018, the eligible LEAs include Baltimore City and Allegany, Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Garrett, Harford, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties. The supplemental budget provides $17.2 million for these grants.

An LEA is eligible for a prekindergarten supplemental grant based on it offering a full-day public prekindergarten program for all four-year olds whose parents enroll them. In fiscal 2018, the eligible LEAs include Baltimore City and Garrett, Kent, and Somerset counties. The supplemental budget includes $10.9 million for these grants.

From page A-79 on Teacher Retirement:

House Bill 152 (Ch. 23), the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA) of 2017, repeals the requirement, for fiscal 2018 only, that the Governor include an appropriation to the State Retirement and Pension System trust fund equal to one-half of the amount by which the unappropriated general fund surplus exceeds $10.0 million in the second preceding fiscal year, up to a maximum of $50.0 million. State retirement aid to local jurisdictions is reduced by a total of $37.7 million in fiscal 2018: $35.6 million for public schools; $1.5 million for community colleges; and $0.6 million for libraries. These differences are shown by county in Exhibit A-3.2.

Also, House Bill 1109 (Ch. 5) relieves county boards of education from their fiscal 2017 obligation to pay $19.7 million of their share of the employer normal cost for their employees who are members of the Teachers’ Retirement System or Teachers’ Pension System. This measure, which is accounted for in the budget, effectively increases State retirement aid by $19.7 million in fiscal 2017.

 

Deeper in the Report, DLS further discusses House Bill 1109Exhibit C-1 shows the amount that each local school system is relieved of paying in fiscal 2017.

 

More information on Education funding is available in Part L, Education.