EASTON — The county council voted 4-1 in favor of a $92.3 million budget for the coming fiscal year after voting to collect more property tax revenue for Talbot County schools.
The county council amended the budget bill to increase the education supplement to property taxes by 0.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, bringing in an additional $373,750 for the school system.
Council President Corey Pack, Vice President Chuck Callahan, and members Frank Divilio and Pete Lesher voted for the budget; Laura Price voted against.
The council approved an increase in the education supplement from 1.8 to 2.3 cents per $100 of assessed value, increasing the supplemental revenue for schools from $1,345,500 to $1,719,250.
“This amendment proposes to change the education supplement, which will change all of our real property tax rates, basically by half a cent for real property, and by 1.25 cents for railroad and utility properties,” Angela Lane, county finance director, said before the vote
Council Member Pete Lesher said he was proud of the budget and the Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) for employees, the first in 10 years.
“I think it is important to retain the workforce that we have and let them know that they are truly appreciated,” said Lesher. “I wish we could do more, but I hope that that much is recognized for what it means from this council.”
Price said her concerns included dipping into the county’s savings to pay for COLA and increasing taxes after voters rejected a change to the county’s tax cap.
“You can’t do those increases with meaning to enhance what we have to do on the county. We asked for citizens to vote themselves a tax increase and they said no,” Price said. “It’s gong to get harder year after year when we have to keep adding educational supplement.
“It’s not that I disagree with where we choose to spend our money, or where proportionately how it is being allocated,” said Price. “Mr. Lesher mentioned COLA and it’s not that we don’t appreciate our employees, and make salary scale adjustments in public safety. The problem that I have is that we are using the savings account to pay for it.”
The county’s property tax revenue cap restricts how much money Talbot may collect in property taxes. In November, voters rejected a proposed amendment to the Talbot County Charter that would have amended the tax cap.
The county’s tax cap has no effect on the education supplement, a state law that allows counties with tax caps to collect additional funds for education funding.
Real property tax revenue for FY 2020 is based on a rate of $.6142 per $100 of assessed valuation plus the education supplement.
The budget includes a little more than $42 million for the Talbot County Board of Education for operating expenses, plus $3.7 million for debt service and $409,000 for non-recurring expenses.
Other major categories include $4.5 million for the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office, $4.8 million for emergency medical services, $4.6 million for the corrections department, $2.67 million for emergency management, $3.3 million for county roads, $1.8 million for Chesapeake College, $2.5 million for the health department, and $1.9 million for volunteer fire companies.
Property taxes are expected to bring in $44 million, income tax revenue is projected at $26.5 million, and other local taxes will garner $10.5 million.