Includes 11.7% Increase for Sheriff and 3.0% COLA for County employees
On May 31, 2005, the Board of Commissioners for St. Mary's County through a majority vote approved the budget for Fiscal Year 2006, effective July 1, 2005. The budget, which was reviewed at the recent public hearing on April 26, 2005, is based upon estimates of available resources for FY2006, which are about 9.2 % higher than FY2005. The total approved general fund budget for FY2006 is $151,279,974.
For the second year in a row, the Board of County Commissioners is pleased to inform the public that property and income tax rates have been reduced. Citizens will enjoy a Property Tax rate of $.872, lowered from $.878, and an Income Tax rate of 3.00%, lowered from 3.05%. In seeking to adequately balance the available resources to the needs and expectations of this community, the Board of County Commissioners continues to identify education and public safety as priorities in the FY2006 budget.
The FY2006 budget provides $62.6 million in general funds for public schools, a 6.3% increase over last year. This fully funds the St. Mary's County Bridge to Excellence, the collaborative agreement between the Board of County Commissioners and the Board of Education, which was signed in April 2004. The funding is based on enrollment and cost per pupil data established through the Thornton Commission study. Additional funding was also included for eight new full time positions to support the Great Mills High School Enhancement, which includes a Criminal Justice instructor and a technology initiative that supports the No Child Left Behind Act. The Board of County Commissioners' commitment to education is further evidenced by fully funding the public schools facility request of $13.5 million in the capital budget, which accommodates the increasing population through additions for full day kindergarten, several school renovations, and the replacement of Carver Elementary School, and an additional $4.7 million in County funding dedicated to land acquisition for four new school sites and the design of a new elementary school in FY2006.
Public Safety is another funding priority of the Board of County Commissioners. The FY2006 budget provides the Office of the Sheriff with $20.8 million in funding, an 11.7% increase over last year. The Board approved the increase in funding for 10 additional full time positions: eight Senior Deputy First Class ranks, one Senior Correctional Officer rank, one Inmate Services Coordinator; and pay parity with the Maryland State Police. The budget also includes three additional full time positions and reorganization funds for the Department of Public Safety and a vehicle replacement program that will replace 42 vehicles and add eight; 25 of these vehicles are for the Office of the Sheriff.
Other funds in the general budget include a 3.0% COLA for County employees, effective July 1, 2005, educational support for County Libraries and the College of Southern Maryland, each receiving an additional 6.9% in funding, and for the first time ever, the Board established a scholarship fund of $50,000 for the College of Southern Maryland.
Other significant capital projects receiving County funding in FY2006, in addition to public schools listed above, include Agriculture and Land Preservation Programs, Naval Air Museum, and the Revitalization of Tulagi Place in Lexington Park. The amount of debt needed to implement construction projects will be reduced through the transfer of $3.2 million to the capital budget.
"As we continue to practice good fiscal management by reorganizing County Government operations, streamlining services and prioritizing spending, we are very please to be able to pass the savings on to the citizens through another reduction in tax rates," said Thomas F. McKay, President, Board of County Commissioners.
The Approved FY2006 budget document is being prepared by the County's Finance Department and will be posted on the County website, http://www.co.saint-marys.md.us/, available in all County libraries and upon request through the Public Information Office when complete.