Letter to the Editor: Commissioner Eric Colvin/2020 St. Mary’s Budget

This week the Commissioners approved the FY2020 budget for St. Mary’s County. The approved General Operating budget of $253,113,474 will provide $106,242,921 to the Board of Education. This does not provide all of the funding requested by the BoE, but it does provide sufficient funding in order to receive a state matching grant that will allow the BoE to meet their negotiated agreement and fully fund teachers’ salaries. Through partnership with the local Health Department, the BoE will fund school safety needs through some important grants that will ensure counseling services are available for our children with a focus on prevention and intervention services.

The approved budget also provides salary increases to county employees and Sheriff’s Office personnel in order to work toward making their salaries competitive with neighboring counties. One interesting addition to the budget this year is a Chemist position through the State’s Attorney Office. This Forensic Scientist Chemist is planned to be a shared position with Calvert County and will work to aid in Opioid Epidemic cases, reducing the time needed to process evidence by 50% and thereby helping to make our communities safer.

In order to fund this budget the Commissioners were required to increase our local Income Tax from 3.00% to 3.17%.  This means that if you have $100,000 of Taxable Income, you will pay $170 more per year. While this is a very small increase in taxes, it was not a decision that was made lightly, but it was necessary in order to fund the Commissioners’ priorities of education and public safety. There will be no increase in Property Taxes—in fact, we voted this year to increase the Homestead Property Tax Credit to help protect property owners from excessive fluctuations in property values. Unlike with Federal and State taxes, every dollar paid in local taxes stays in our local community and impacts our lives. There is no raise for the commissioners in this budget and we did cut the baseline by $2.2 million in order to save costs.

The approval of this budget was not unanimous, but every commissioner had ideas and beneficial contributions that were incorporated into this budget.  We also approved the Capital Projects budget, which includes road improvements, school repairs, and other important infrastructure needs. Part of the budget includes three synthetic turf fields at local parks—these fields are needed to address the growing number of children playing youth sports and will allow for safer play and increased scheduling. We were able to use Fund Balance to pay for these fields—the tax increase is not being used to pay for the fields.

I encourage you to view the budget in its entirety on the county website at www.StMarysMD.com. Thank you to everyone throughout county government who was involved in the months-long process of building this budget and all of the citizens who provided input throughout the process. And thank you for the opportunity to serve—we live in an amazing place and I am proud to be a part of St. Mary’s County.

Eric Colvin

County Commissioner, District 1