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From the Desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(1/11) I hope everyone has had a safe and happy holiday season and a Merry Christmas! As we quickly head into the New Year, I would like to thank all the volunteers who have helped our community through their participation on committees and other town activities and traditions. The hard work of our town employees should also be acknowledged and appreciated. All of these people working behind the scenes have helped to make our community a better place over the last year. I look forward to the challenges of 2011 including managing the town’s operations through a third straight year of declining budget resources, shaping an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance to effectively address growth concerns, and, most importantly, developing new ways to communicate more effectively with residents and our business community.

I know the budget issue starts to sound like, "Blah, blah, blah…" after a while but it is true that the general fund budget (which pays the day to day operating expenses of the town government for most activities, equipment, and salaries, as well as funding capital improvements such as lights, road repair, and new equipment) has declined by around six percent per year for the last two years. I would expect this decline to continue as the state continues to ‘redirect’ more revenues traditionally returned to the municipalities. The independent Water and Sewer Enterprise funds which represent the balance of town income and expenditure (and are generally funded through your quarterly water and sewer billing) face increasing costs and expenses as old water and sewer lines are replaced and the Maryland Department of the Environment mandated wastewater treatment plant upgrade begins.

I am committed to no increase in the residential property tax rate which funds about forty percent of the general fund budget. Over the years I have found continued resistance to dropping the rate even though the town has collected revenue greater than expenses every year I have been in town government. Although the Board of Commissioners has authorized a limited use of our $700,000 "rainy day fund" for this year’s budget requirements, I honestly expect to run a small surplus this year as well. Since there is resistance in the administration to dropping the tax rate in the face of "uncertain" budget environments where "the price of everything always goes up," I will propose a rebate of some portion of our continued annual budget surplus (that, in the end, seems to result every year) to residential property tax payers.

In January, the Board will begin to address staff recommendations on the adoption of an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance for the town. This process will allow us to define the infrastructure requirements necessary prior to additional growth as well as tie us more directly into county requirements related to education and regional transport. As we manage this process, my goal is not to throw road blocks in the way of commercial or even residential development but to standardize the process so that we are more clearly linked with county standards and not seen simply as a way to escape them. Our biggest addition to this approval process will be how we define and allocate the water and sewer resources which are solely under municipal control - and typically provide the real reason for developer interest.

Lastly, I’ll admit to being a bit disturbed by the results of a recent commercial and residential survey of town government. While the methodology and sample size might justifiably be questioned, I think the results presented at the December 6 town meeting show that your elected officials need to do a better job of understanding and implementing your concerns. I understand that we take ownership of the proposals of the administration when we approve them. This was also a lesson learned by many federal legislators in November! That being said, I believe the Board of Commissioners as a body must do a better job weighing the opinions of the public in policy decisions. Certainly, I now promise to be more critical of staff proposals in an effort to better understand how they were developed, who was consulted, and how they will be implemented. Growing a little too "comfortable" is always a danger…

Once again, my best wishes to you and your families for a safe and happy New Year. Please contact your elected officials with your concerns. Please copy them on your interactions with the Town Office. We are all here to be your representatives and advocates!

Sincerely, Chris Staiger

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