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Tax rate stays the same, but no pay increase in Charles

There was good news and bad news after the dust cleared from the final budget decisions from the Charles County Commissioners June 10.

The good news is that there will be no increase in the constant yield tax rate or the property tax. Commissioner Debra Davis had made a request back on May 20, asking Finance Director David Eicholtz to return June 10 with a balanced budget that included no tax increase for residents and a pay increase for county employees.

At one point during the morning budget work session this past Tuesday, it looked as though the commissioners had in place a solution by which they would be able to do just that.

In the end, however, despite holding taxes at the same rate as Fiscal Year 2014, there was no pay increase for county employees, teachers, correctional officers or sheriff’s deputies. In the end, three of the five commissioners said they could not vote for a step pay increase.

Davis, District 3 Commissioner Reuben Collins and Bobby Rucci voted for the budget which after lengthy negotiations did end up in a balanced state, but no pay raises were included in the 3-2 decision.

How a deal which seemed in place Tuesday morning unraveled by the evening 6 p.m. decision seems predicated on Collins’ insistence that to give county employees a step pay grade increase “was not financially prudent” at this time.

Commissioner President Candice Quinn Kelly, who along with Commissioner Ken Robinson [District 1] voted against the General Fund Operating Budget which put all of this in place, said the opportunity was there to give the citizens and county employees a break, but the deal fell apart before it could manifest.

“I thought we had the opportunity today to do the right thing by Board of Education and our teachers and correctional officers their step increases,” Kelly said. “I am terribly disappointed. It was there. It was possible, reasonably prudent and the right thing to do. And for our county employees to not get a step pay increase when they have not had one is what is most disappointing to me.

“Even as we say we are proud and promoting a reduction in crime by our sheriff’s office, we can’t give them a step pay increase when they haven’t had one in three years?” Kelly added. “I cannot support this General Operating budget. I am terribly disappointed. I believe an alternative was provided which would have resulted in no tax increase and a pay raise for our employees.”

“The proposal that would close the deficit would have put us in a significant deficit going into the Fiscal Year 2016 budget,” Collins countered. “I just feel it is better to be prepared as we move responsibly forward, and it puts us in a better position knowing what our actual situation is and will allow a more reasonable approach to salaries or whatever in the future. The impact of using a one-time revenue source, I did not feel that was fiscally prudent.”

The rate of tax for fiscal year 2015 on all real property subject to real property taxation was fixed at $1.141 per $100 assessed valuation and the rate of tax for Fiscal Year 2015 on all public utility property, railroad personal, corporate personal and business personal property subject to taxation was set at $2.8525 per $100 of assessed valuation. The fire and rescue tax on all public utility property, railroad personal, corporate personal and business personal property subject to taxation was fixed at $0.16 per $100 assessed valuation and the commissioners set the tax differential rate for FY 20

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