Those many hours of open presentations and deliberations over the FY 2024 budget couldn’t help but remind us of what it takes to keep a beautiful county with 600 miles of shoreline and the lowest property taxes and second lowest income taxes in Maryland running smoothly.
Talbot County’s offices, agencies and courts employ over 300. Requests for upgraded technology, additional personnel and wage increases were heard regularly; and a “4% COLA with one step” seems likely. We also learned that equipment can be purchased using surplus funds from the previous year.
Having lost employees, at the March 28 council meeting County Manager Clay Stamp shared his office phone number (410 770 8010) for anyone who might be interested in serving on a board or filling a county vacancy. Several counties are experiencing these problems, but Talbot remains competitive with Caroline County.
We were informed of Public Works projects including sewer extensions and improvements to county roads and intersections at US Route 50. The county will apply to the Maryland Transportation Administration for grant funding from the Federal Transportation Act. Grants were mentioned frequently.
With 500 teachers and nearly as many additional employees providing support for 4,524 students at the county’s 8 public schools, Education is 49% of the county’s general fund expenditures and remains the county’s largest expense.
Counties will become responsible for either Maintenance Of Effort (MOE) or the Kirwan Commission’s level of funding, whichever is higher, for FY 2024. Talbot’s number is $50.2 million, the cost estimated in the county’s FY 2023 budget. With additional funding for education available, an opportunity to move our schools above MOE was taken.
With over 180 full-time county employees, Public Safety is our county’s largest employer and second largest expense. A new headquarters is nearing completion; and with safety as our sheriff’s highest priority, additional personnel for our schools has been requested.
With over 1,500 employees, University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is the largest employer in Talbot County. The state pays most of these expenses. Healthcare expenditures are less than 3% of the county’s budget; but additional school nurses were requested.
Parks and Recreation remains a relatively small share of the county’s general fund expenditures, but a new and improved ice rink, basketball courts and a possible new activity at Hog Neck Golf Course are welcomed additions to the community.
The county’s current budget is $112,607,379. $119 million has been mentioned as a target; and $123 million, an amount approximately 10% larger than our current budget, has also been mentioned. An approved budget for FY 2024 will likely fall somewhere in between.
With relatively high inflation and interest rates, we cannot help but appreciate budgeting that provides a cushion when our largest source of revenue is capped at 2% (with a $.01 per $100 value option).
As County Manager Stamp advised during the March 30 deliberation, “All we’re approving tonight is leaving money in the capital plan. All projects require enabling legislation.”
In other words, it’s up to our council; and we may know more by May 1.
Carol Voyles is a graphic designer/illustrator who retired to the Eastern Shore and became interested in politics. She serves as communications chair for the Talbot County Democratic Forum and lives in Easton.
With 20 hours of video at talbotcountymd.gov/ there’s much more.
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