St. Mary's County weighs future spending direction -- Gazette.Net


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Last year, an audit of St. Mary’s County government finances tallied a surplus of $30.1 million. A new audit of what the county spent and the revenue it took in last fiscal year is scheduled to be presented to the county commissioners next Tuesday.

An additional $4.8 million is available for the county’s building budget, unspent funds from other closed out capital projects. That money could be used to fund the jail expansion project — the bids for which were higher than expected. Or it could be used to expand and improve the county’s emergency communications system or to reduce future debt.

This week, the commissioners shared their general outlooks on future spending.

Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R) said economic times are tough and there is the prospect of federal spending cuts via sequestration, which could affect work at Patuxent River Naval Air Station — part of the fiscal cliff looming if Congress doesn’t act this month.

He again suggested downsizing the project to complete FDR Boulevard from California to Lexington Park, which is budgeted at $19.7 million from fiscal 2013 to 2018.

Jarboe voted against the entire fiscal 2013 county budget because it included FDR Boulevard, which he said should be built parallel to Route 235 by developers.

At a recent meeting between the commissioners and state lawmakers, Del. John Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s) said, “That strategy has been around since the mid-’80s and the road still isn’t built.”

“The sequestration is a matter that is going to be resolved by the politicians in D.C.,” Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said Tuesday.

The local government is responsible for infrastructure, he said. “We have opportunities here to continue to grow this county — to be successful. We have a good core in place.

“Yeah, there could be troubling times ahead. I really think we’re OK,” he said.

Commissioner Cindy Jones (R) said the county’s reserves should be kept in place. “I think it was a good idea to set aside the money we set aside to mitigate the concerns with BRAC. That looks like they’ll be coming forward now.”

The county set aside $7.5 million in the event that infrastructure is needed to support missions at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. St. Mary’s County set aside the same amount of money in fiscal 2005 in the event of military base realignment and closure decisions that could affect Pax River. That money was not used.

Jarboe also said county government shouldn’t be buying any more land unless it’s for new public school sites. There is $3.1 million budgeted for new land for schools, and the commissioners have been meeting behind closed doors lately on the matter.

Morgan said the county shouldn’t limit itself to just education from kindergarten to 12th grade, but beyond to higher education opportunities. The College of Southern Maryland is looking to build a fourth campus either in Charlotte Hall or Hughesville. Jarboe said he supported the new campus going to Hughesville.

jbabcock@somdnews.com