Wicomico Council Approves Tax Hike and Gives Pollitt Extension on Budget

SALISBURY, MD – Tuesday morning, while Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt met with an operative from the Maryland Democratic Party and watched the proceedings on PAC-14, County Administrator Wayne Strausburg and Finance Director Andy Mackle came before the Wicomico County Council asking for an extension on presenting the county’s FY 2013 operating budget.  The Pollitt administration needed an extension because it had based its budget assumptions on a bill which never passed the Maryland General Assembly.

For weeks Pollitt told citizens that the county would face a maintenance of effort (MOE) reset of approximately $7 million.  At his final “public hearing” on the budget last Thursday it was pointed out to Pollitt that the “amendments” Pollitt claimed were passed in the legislature never happened.  Now Wicomico County is faced with funding education spending $14.4 million greater than last year’s appropriation.

When asked how the administration made such a huge mistake, Strausburg said, “We were told in a meeting that the MOE re-set would only be $7 million.”  Strausburg also said that the administration needed the extension in hopes that the legislature would remedy the situation.

While Pollitt and his administration may be hoping for relief from Annapolis, there is no probability that Governor Martin O’Malley could call a special session in time to help Pollitt with submitting a budget.  This leaves the county with two options:

  1. Submitting a budget with the $14.4 million in additional spending for the Board of Education (BOE).  or …
  2. Providing zero appropriation to the BOE, and allowing the state to confiscate the county’s income tax revenues in accordance with the recently passed SB848 (voted for by Wicomico’s own delegates Norm Conway and Rudy Cain).

HIGHEST INCOME TAX RATE IN MARYLAND

In sixty (60) days Wicomico County will “boast” the highest income tax rate in the state thanks to legislation put forward by Pollitt and unanimously approved by the county council.  Raising the income (or “piggyback”) tax rate to 3.2% is necessary if the county hopes to receive a waiver from the State Board of Education on its MOE obligations.

In addition to raising the income tax rate, the council would also have to increase its real property rates to the maximum allowed under the revenue cap.  A waiver would also require the endorsement of the Wicomico County BOE AND the TEACHERS’ UNION.

While this is the position of the Pollitt administration, it should be noted that even if the council agrees to the full set of tax rate hikes there is no guarantee that the county will receive any relief.

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