At the February 28 county council meeting we were advised of Maryland Department of the Environment’s role in sponsoring the Midshore Regional Landfill. A cost-effective solution to requirements of the Clean Water Act. Talbot’s landfill would serve four counties until 2010, when it closed and became a transfer station.
The Mid Shore landfill will remain in Caroline County until 2031, when it will likely be moved to a location near Centerville. But in this case counties bear no expense for the services provided by MDE. It could help that agriculture is our county’s largest industry and we must take care of our land.
The council might also have been reminded of the possibility of finding solutions to worthy causes during their closed session with Easton Utilities. Community-owned and working with the county, the utility received $13 million from USDA ReConnect in 2020. This good fortune was followed by American Rescue Plan contributions from the Town of Easton and Talbot County. A $3.5 million grant from the state cinched the deal, and Talbot could very well become the first county in Maryland to extend broadband to all its underserved areas.
The March 7 council meeting began with the FY 2024 budget presentation of Talbot County Public Schools. At 48.9 percent of the the county’s current budget, education comes first.
Acknowledging that schools are half of the county’s budget, Superintendent Sharon Pepukayi trusted that this presentation might reflect a strong partnership, as we’re “all on the same page when it comes to educating our future leaders.”
Student enrollment of 4,524 students in Talbot’s eight public schools is down 10 this year. (That’s 4,514 every day in eight facilities with how many buses?) Talbot schools have the highest graduation rate and lowest dropout rate in Maryland, but test scores for grades three through eight for English and mathematics are below average. Reasons include disabilities, languag
e barriers, and families qualifying for free student meals.
Pillars of the Blueprint are early childhood learning, quality teaching with competitive salaries, college and career readiness, resources for student success, and governance and accountability.
Budget priorities include competitive salaries, factors of class size and mental health issues. Other priorities mentioned during this presentation include advocating for students and staff, honoring collective bargaining agreements, and establishing community support.
The bottom line? The education budget is up $7.8 million, $4.2 million due to Blueprint. That is a lot of money. The health department asked for just six figures, but is funded primarily by the state. And as testified, that can get confusing.
The cost for providing facilities, transportation, education, and frequently food on a daily basis at eight locations for the county’s single largest population requiring this level of assistance has hovered at 50 percent of the county’s budget.
And now thanks to state funding, the revenue being requested may actually be a smaller share of the budget than the expenditure allotted for this task in FY 2023. (48.9 percent of $112,607,379 is larger than the amount requested, $52,040,078.)
The March 14 budget hearing included budget presentations from departments and agencies including the states attorney, county circuit court, public works, planning and zoning, volunteer fire department, department of emergency services, our library and more.
Our sheriff requested more school resource officers at his March 8 budget presentation. Requests have seemed reasonable overall, but as one council member concluded, “We’re in the throes of budget season, and I see the amount of work that goes into this.”
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.
Write a Letter to the Editor on this Article
We encourage readers to offer their point of view on this article by submitting the following form. Editing is sometimes necessary and is done at the discretion of the editorial staff.