During Tuesday, April 21, 2015 Calvert Board of County Commissioner’s meeting, a budget adjustment for the courthouse renovations was discussed. In May of 2014, a budget for the renovations was approved for $408,579, providing reasonable accommodations to the court system. The space was for the new judge’s courtroom and chambers. The cost, including design/engineering totaled $680,341. There were other costs involved such as relocating Finance and Budget to a leased space, improvements to the law library, and building out space in the basement for the States Attorney’s Office. General Services expects the renovations to be done and occupied by the end of April 2015.
The anticipated amount for contracted general construction services to renovate and build out 4,695 square feet of office and courtroom was $139,247. Several changes made throughout the renovations increased the contracted services to $187,195, causing a $47,948 increase. The increase was a result of afterhours and overtime to minimize courthouse disruption, additional closet shelving, additional doors and hardware and fire caulking not originally specified on plans.
Finance and Budget identified funding to cover the increase by taking $13,284 from the King Park project (4210), $22,027 from Southern Community Center maintenance and repairs and $2,411 from Capital Contingency project (4000).
There was also a public hearing on closing completed or reducing inactive capital projects and reverting general fund revenues to help reduce the 2015 budget shortfall. Three of the projects (two transportation and one education) where the actual project expenditures were less than the revenue receipts, and there are general fund, excise tax and general obligation bond revenues that can be directed to other uses. The transportation projects were the JW Williams and 231 traffic light and the Brickhouse Road project. The benefit of repurposing the money in these projects provide general fund revenues to reduce the planned FY2015 budgetary deficit, sell fewer bonds than anticipated in FY2016 and provide excise taxes for other planned capital projects. There were no citizens who spoke at the public hearing.
The Board of Education (BOE) is still looking to shore up its budget from the county coffers. BOE member Bill Phalen said “I believe we have to ask for what we need. I believe we have to challenge the county commissioners. I believe the county commissioners need to step up.”
Phalen has expressed skepticism about the county’s repeated claim that “there isn’t any money.” He indicated county government holds several million dollars in reserve and less than half of it is encumbered. Phalen noted that in three or four years county government is expected to realize dramatically increased tax revenues due to the exportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) at Dominion’s Cove Point plant. He indicated the reserve funds in the county’s coffers should be leveraged now with the plant project’s projected revenues as a method for replenishing the reserves in the future.
The commissioners will present their budget to the public at a hearing scheduled for May 19. June 2 is the day the commissioners must finalize the FY 2016 budget.
Margit Miller / Calvert Beacon