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Emmitsburg Board Passes Budget, Pursues Energy Efficiency Grant

Scott Zuke

(6/18) The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners approved the mayor's $1.6 million budget proposal for the 2014 Fiscal Year with only minor alterations at their June 3 meeting.

In reviewing the budget, Commissioner Patrick Joy located two duplicated expenditures, totaling $16,000. The Board voted to reallocate a portion of the funds for bleachers and a water line in the town park, and to disburse the rest into the CIP fund for curb gutter, sidewalk, and road improvements.

The Board engaged in a contentious discussion over how funding for the town square redesign project should be accounted for in the budget, with Commissioner Chris Staiger asking that a vaguely described $10,000 contribution be reallocated back into the fund balance until a specific use was identified for it. Mayor Briggs and Board President Tim O'Donnell argued to leave the item in place as a sign of the Board's intent to show forward progress on the long-term project. Staiger's motion failed in a 1-4 vote, but the Board went on to unanimously pass a motion asking the Mayor to come back in August with a revised project budget for the square redesign, including all past and projected future expenditures.

"My biggest concern is the process, and my preference is to have the project presented to us for funding as opposed to just willy-nilly transferring money into buckets when we don't really know what it's going to be spent on," Staiger said after the vote.

The Board approved two ordinances proposed by Commissioner Joy to ammend Title 3 of the Town Code relating to the Budget and CIP at the June 17 meeting. The new language allows town departments to exceed their allocated budgets by no more than 5% without prior approval from the Board. The ordinance also clarifies a working definition for Capital Improvement projects as those having a projected budget of more than $5,000 and typically spanning several years from planning to completion.

The commissioners also backed two policies declaring the town's intent to achieve reductions in electricity consumption and to increase renewable energy generation in order to become a Maryland Smart Energy Community, a program under the Maryland Energy Administration. The town stands to win a $37,500 grant upon achieving the designation, which would likely be put towards the installation cost of energy efficiency initiatives like the LED lighting project.

Under the policies, the town will commit to reducing electricity consumption by 15% within five years, and meeting 20% of local government buildings' electricity demand with renewable energy by 2022. According to Town Manager Dave Haller, the town should be able to meet both requirements within the next two years.

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