Calvert County Times September 07, 2017 - Page 5

Thursday, September 7, 2017 The Calvert County Times Local News 5 Budget Process Aired at Town Hall Meeting Director of Parks and Recreation Shannon Nazzal By Dick Myers Editor Even though the Calvert County budget for Fiscal Year 2018 is only two months old, having started on July 1, there are people already thinking about next year’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget. The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) will have their first budget work session at their September 19 meeting. County staff also wanted to know how the public felt about the budget process. So, on the day before the La- bor Day weekend began (Aug. 31) they held a public “Town Hall Meeting” on that topic and quire surpris- ingly there was a good attendance at Calvert Pines Se- nior Center. And, county staff did receive some feed- back. It showed the public interest in learning about the often-complex process. After introductions from County Administrator Terry Shannon and Deputy County Administrator Wilson Par- ran, the budget process was explained by director of Fi- nance and Budget Tim Hayden and Deputy Director Joan Thorpe. They explained that the operating budget funds county services and operations and the capital budget pri- oritizes current and future capital needs. The four phases of the budget process are: requested, recommended, commissioners’ and adopted. Each has its own life cycle. County staff make recommendations which are pared down for the staff recommended bud- get released in February for a March public hearing. The BOCC provides input and guidance during that step. After the first public hearing, the commissioners go over the budget again and come up with their draft which goes to the public again before the final decision in June. Eight people spoke and many of the commenters asked for clarification of parts of the process. For instance, Mar- garet Dunkle, who heads the Harriet Elizabeth Brown Commemorative Task Force, wanted to know the process for the creation of a permanent community center to be named after the county’s famed civil rights leader. The planning commission recently approved five par- cels off Fairground Road for the community center and an option on the parcels is expected to be executed later this year. Dunkle was told that the community center project needs to get into the county’s capital plan and that decision rested with the BOCC. New Director of Parks and Recreation Shannon Naz- zal said planning for the new building would take about a year to 18 months followed by a similar timetable for construction. Dunkle said she concluded that he commissioners needed to be reminded about the importance of the proj- ect so that it will be included in the capital plan. Other speakers had similar concerns about the Armory Square Project. Shannon said the proposed county office building there was in the six-year plan. She said there have been some negotiations with a developer about the rest of the project but nothing had been decided. “We would like to see a development in some form like the charrette,” Shannon said, referring to the public meet- ing several years ago in which a preferred development scheme was developed. Several speakers were curious about how the annual infusion of $40 million from the Cove Point LNG plant would be used. They were told by Hayden that it wasn’t specifically earmarked for particular projects though Shannon noted that the county was able for place more monies in this year’s budget for OPEB (Other Post-Em- ployment Benefits) to fund future retiree health costs. One speaker did have a specific recommendation for the budget process. Trish Powell suggested that the BOCC establish a community advisory board to help pri- oritize capital projects. “I think there needs to be more transparency,” Powell said. dickmyers@countytimes.net