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From the Desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(3/11) Spring? Well not yet, but one sixty degree Friday afternoon screaming for a ‘mental health’ day will get you thinking… Of course, we did get six inches of snow three days later. I’ve found a broken snow blower and a shovel will clear up most of these springtime delusions!

February was a relatively quiet month in town government, with numerous ‘house cleaning’ amendments approved at the first meeting on February 7. These updates concerned garbage collection routines, removal of the Chief of Police position, and updates to election procedures and schedules. The Mayor presented his review of the current budget for fiscal year 2011 which ends June 30. There were no major surprises and we appear to continue living within our means in an environment where revenues and budgets continue to decline from year to year.

By mid-month, we saw the county government begin to take more aggressive measures at reducing its deficits of revenue versus expenditures. This includes the Board of Education, which accounts for approximately fifty percent of county spending. If Sabillasville Elementary were to close, the impact will be felt primarily in the Thurmont area and not at Emmitsburg Elementary, which is currently listed at eighty-seven percent capacity. The recent changes to the Head Start Program and possible future changes to the Up County Program are more likely to impact residents of our local community.

The second, monthly Community Deputies Forum at the Vigilant Hose Company was adversely impacted by the ‘rush hour’ snowfall. This event continues to be scheduled for the third Monday of every month at 6pm. Please drop in if you have questions or concerns related to police protection or related events in town. The next meeting is March 21.

These meetings are a great opportunity for one on one contact with the deputies in a casual environment. The deputies are considering addressing specific topics of community interest from month to month in order to avoid attendance being driven by ‘events’ – or the lack of them – in town. If you have a topic you would like to have considered, please e-mail me and I will submit it to them. They’ve offered to do the leg work to provide more of a ‘program’ if that is of interest to the public.

At the February 21 town meeting the Board adopted working copies of a revised Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) as well as a text amendment increasing allowable activities in certain commercial zones. Both of these documents will now be forwarded to the Planning Commission for their review and recommendations prior to public hearing and final consideration by the elected officials.

Proposed APFO requirements are meant to establish a reasonable framework for residential growth which takes account of municipal infrastructure resources such as water and sewer, local and regional traffic conditions, and area school capacities. The Commercial Zoning updates are intended to increase opportunities for business growth and development.

The Board of Commissioners also received the 2010 Budget Year (FY2010) Audit results at the February 21 meeting. As I would expect, our financial management practices were reviewed and validated, with changes to practices and procedures identified and agreed to where necessary to meet recognized guidelines. Most of the recommended changes involved increasing oversight by the Town Manager and tightening reporting standards.

In terms of the financials: The Board of Commissioners originally approved a balanced budget for FY2010 that was approximately 6% less than the previous budget year. The Town completed the budget year with an approximate $25,000 deficit. HOWEVER, this was not due to overspending versus the original budget approval.

The FY2010 deficit was primarily the result of the state government’s failure to transfer a portion of the Highway User Fees they collect back down to the municipalities. Reductions to expenditures of some $80,000 could not overcome this loss – leading to a negative balance that will be covered using monies saved in previous years. We will soon be planning for next year’s budget with an expectation of additional reductions to revenue and spending – but more on that later.

Thanks for your time and have a great month – Chris Staiger

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