Tag Archives: Kent County

ARBOR DAY CELEBRATION

Apr 21 – ARBOR DAY CELEBRATION-announcement of 2015 arbor day poster contest winners. 1:15-3pm. Kent County Courthouse Courtyard, Cross St. 410-819-4121.

Boy Faces Charges In Kent County School Bus Fire

The Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office announced that a 12-year-old boy is facing arson and numerous other charges for allegedly igniting a marine flare on a school bus filled with students, causing it to go up in flames in Chestertown earlier this month. Investigators said that on the morning of March 5, while the bus was on its way to Chestertown Middle School, the flare gun ignited the pre-loaded flare, causing everyone to evacuate the bus along Chestertown Road in Chestertown. Authorities said the bus driver quickly evacuated the students from the bus before it went up in flames. Seven students were treated for minor smoke inhalation injuries and were released from Chester River Hospital Center. The remaining 21 students were evaluated at the scene by Kent County Emergency Medical Services and subsequently transported to Chestertown Middle School.

The school bus is considered to be a total loss with an estimated $45,000 in damages. Authorities said the investigation that followed revealed the 12-year-old had the loaded flare gun inside a bag in his possession when it was discharged and ignited the flare causing the immediate evacuation and subsequent heavy fire damage of the school bus. The boy has been charged with first- and second-degree arson, first- and second-degree malicious burning, bringing a deadly weapon on school property, carrying/transporting a handgun, disturbing the peace and 28 counts of reckless endangerment. He has been referred to the Kent County Department of Juvenile Services and remains in the custody of his mother.

Kent County Expensive Place To Live

According to a new study by the University of Washington and the Center for Women’s Welfare, Kent County has become more expensive. Kent, along with Queen Anne’s, showed some of the state’s highest increases in expenses for families to cover just essential costs of living, including basics like rent, food, and utilities. The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Maryland 2012 sponsored by the Maryland Community Action Partnership, shows significant increases in costs related to housing and daycare in particular.

Maryland Education Funding Divides State and County Leaders

By TIM EBNER
Capital News Service
COLLEGE PARK – Cash-strapped Maryland county leaders say they can’t afford to pay their share of rising costs for schools and are asking the state to back off of a requirement to match state education funding dollar-for-dollar.

Counties are responsible for splitting education costs with the state. But, education groups say about a third of Maryland counties are not matching state funding at the level required under Maryland law.

That includes two of Maryland’s largest school districts, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties, and five smaller districts – Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Wicomico counties – according to an analysis by the Maryland State Education Association.

County leaders say they can’t fully match state funding because they have been hit hard by a reduction in property tax and income tax revenue over the last few years.

Even with budgeting shortfalls, local leaders still need to uphold their commitment to school funding, said Delegate Norman Conway, D-Wicomico.

Conway, who chairs the House Appropriations committee, and other state legislators are expected to meet Friday in Annapolis to listen to county leaders’ concerns about education funding.

“We called the meeting because we’re getting some indications that there are some challenges for the counties that are not on the positive side,” Conway said.

The push by education groups and some legislators to force counties to spend more money on education comes as Gov. Martin O’Malley moved this week to shift more of the burden of paying for education to local governments.

On Wednesday, O’Malley released a proposed budget that would require counties to pay about half the total cost for teacher pensions, which makes up a sizable share of the state’s education budget and is estimated to cost $946 million in the next fiscal year.

“The stakes of this conversation just got a lot higher if the governor is preparing to shift pension costs to counties,” said Michael Sanderson, executive director for the Maryland Association of Counties. “You are forcing them [the counties] to come up with a big pile of cash for a commitment to school funding. Suddenly the stresses of their budgets get much worse.”

School funding has been a top priority for O’Malley. In his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, the governor wants to spend approximately $5 billion on education – an increase of $109 million over last year — and more than $373 million on new construction projects for schools.

County leaders say the sputtering economy has weakened their tax base, forcing them to make tough spending decisions that have affected schools.

In Montgomery County, cuts to school funding have resulted in crowded classrooms, frozen teacher salaries and reductions in hours for more than 5,000 part-time staff, according to the Montgomery County Education Association.

“Our … funding now is $70 million less than what it would have been had Montgomery County funded schools at the required level set by the state,” Tom Israel, executive director of the Montgomery County Education Association said.

Counties are required to fund education at the same level as the previous year to be awarded an increase in state aid. This requirement, known as “maintenance of effort,” ensures that state funds are matched each year by local governments.

In Talbot County, where the primary source of revenue comes from property and income taxes, officials did not match maintenance of effort funding this year for the first time ever.

The county spent approximately $32 million on education funding this year, a cut of $1.8 million from the year prior.

“It’s a very tough decision to cut school funding. Obviously education is a high priority, and we take it very seriously,” county manager John Craig, said.

For several years, Talbot County has seen a drop in revenue, primarily due to a cap on property taxes, Craig said. The county budget decreased by more than $20 million over the last five years, he said.

Like Talbot, most counties spend about half of their budget on schools. And since the county cannot tell school boards how to spend money they allocate, county leaders feel shut out of the process, Sanderson said.

“We’ve reached a point where the counties are almost irrelevant in the budgeting process. They wish to save money, consolidate services, equalize benefits for school employees and have school staff participate in furloughs, like almost every other department in every county, but for education we can’t,” he said.

But state education advocates say the counties are taking advantage of what they call a loophole in the maintenance of effort requirement, allowing them to reduce school funding without penalties.

The advocates say the state should penalize the counties by reducing the amount of state funding that goes to their general budgets.

“The current maintenance of effort requirement is completely illogical. It’s the school system that loses out in the end,” Israel said.

Counties that don’t spend as much on schools as the year prior are ineligible for an increase in state aid, Israel said. Montgomery County’s decision to undercut school funding would exclude the district from receiving $26 million in state funding in the upcoming fiscal year.

Not all counties receive an increase in state aid each year. Aid is tied to student enrollment rates. In counties like Talbot, where enrollment dropped, no additional state funding was awarded this year, giving county leaders less incentive to match state spending, Craig said.

Both state legislators and county leaders want changes in the maintenance of effort law. Legislators on the House Appropriations and House Ways and Means committee are expected to meet Friday to discuss changes to the current maintenance of effort law.

Delegate Sheila Hixson, D-Silver Spring, chair of the House Ways and Means committee, said Friday’s meeting will provide legislators a chance to listen to all of the complaints and concerns around maintenance of effort. Representatives from county school boards, teacher unions and county associations are expected to be on hand.

“Nobody is going to say that they think maintenance of effort is perfect. There will certainly be disagreements about fixes and what the actual problems are,” Sanderson said.

Currently, the state Board of Education allows counties to apply for a one-year waiver that would allow them to avoid penalties if they don’t match state funding at the required level.

Waivers are usually granted for short periods of financial hardship. But, Sanderson said, the waiver process does not account for the long-term financial struggles that counties now face. He wants counties to be granted longer-term waivers.

Meanwhile, state and county education advocates say there’s no incentive for counties to apply for waivers because they can simply ignore the law without penalty if they’re ineligible for an increase in state aid. The advocates want to close that loophole by imposing a penalty on the general county budget if education funding is reduced.

“Our sense is that there’s a lot of momentum to fix maintenance of effort. We have had intensifying conversations with state legislators and there seems to be recognition that the law needs to be fixed,” Israel said. “State education shouldn’t supplant local funding.”

War on Drugs in Kent County

There was a big drug bust last week in Crumpton when police confiscated more than 60 grams of cocaine, several thousand dollars in cash, and handguns. Twenty-four-year-old Anthony Todd was arrested and held without bail. Todd was out on bail on another drug charge when police served the search warrant.

Fatal Crash Closes 213 For Hours

A Delaware woman died in a crash last week that closed state Route 213 in Kent County for five hours. State Police said 28-year-old Falon Delledonne was driving south on 213 north of Still Pond Road when her car crossed the center line and crashed into an oncoming car driven by 64-year-old Howard Rose of Chestertown. Delledonne and Rose were flown separately by MedEvac helicopters to Shock Trauma. Delledonne died at the trauma center; Rose’s injuries were not serious. Delledonne’s 4-month-old son was taken by Queen Anne’s County Emergency Medical Services ambulance to Chester River Hospital Center in Chestertown with serious injuries, then moved to A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington.

Kent County Ducks Unlimited Auction

Come out and support an organization dedicated to conserving, restoring, and managing  wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people. This event features live and silent auctions, with numerous raffles featuring DU items, artwork, hunting and fishing trips, and more.

Saturday, 5 November, 2011

Cost: $50/Single; $90/Couple

Location:  Camp Tockwogh, 24370 Still Poud Neck Rd., Worton , MD 21678

Phone:410-778-6965
Website: www.ducks.org/maryland/events/26397/kent-county-du

Kent County Leads Nation in Social Security Payments

If Kent County residents did not receive their monthly payments from the Social Security Administration, 8.6-percent of total personal income in the county would be lost, a total of $79,355,430 in 2009. Kent County is more dependent on Social Security payments than is the rest of the country. Nationally, 5.5-percent of total personal income came from Social Security payments, and in Maryland, 4.0-percent of all income came from these payments. In Kent County, 5,685 people receive some form of Social Security payment, either an old age pension, a survivor benefit or a disability check. Social Security beneficiaries represent 28.1-percent of the total county population.

In rural counties such as Kent and counties with smaller cities, Social Security payments constitute a much larger chunk of the local economy than in urban areas. A greater percentage of people in rural America receive these payments than in urban counties. Total Social Security payments in Kent County amounted to $3,919 per person in 2009. The national average was $2,199 per person, and in Maryland it was $1,960.

Social Security payments in Kent County have been changing as a proportion of total income. These payments amounted to 5.7-percent of total income in 1970, 9.0-percent in 1980, 7.7-percent in 1990, 8.2-percent in 2000 and 8.6-percent in 2009. Social Security payments are particularly important to rural counties and small cities because the money is largely spent in the community. If this money dried up, many of these small towns would disappear.

Social Security payments amount to 5-percent of total income in urban counties. In counties with small cities, these payments amount to 8.2-percent, and in rural counties such as Kent County, Social Security totals 9.3-percent of all personal income. More than one out of five Americans living in small cities and rural counties received some kind of Social Security check in 2009.

Judith Stallmann, an economist at the University of Missouri, explained that Social Security payments help generate the sales that keep a rural business afloat. “We find that Social Security income can be the difference between success and failure for some local businesses,” Stallmann said. “If you took away, say, 10-percent of the demand, would that local business be able to remain open? Often it’s that 10-percent that keeps them going. Social Security is providing that margin.”

Social Security payments go to those over the age of 62 who have filed for benefits, to survivors of insured workers and to those with disabilities. The program is mainly funded by payroll taxes. In Kent County, 78.5-percent of recipients were retirees in 2009, 10.1-percent were survivors and 11.4-percent were disabled. Changes to Social Security are being discussed in Congress, which is looking for ways to balance the larger federal budget. If benefits are cut or if the eligibility age is increased, rural counties and small cities would be disproportionately affected, according to Peter Nelson. “Cuts would have a bigger negative impact on rural places, absolutely,” Middlebury’s Professor Nelson said. “They are more dependent on Social Security.”

Kent County Commissioners Say “No” To Proposed Rubble Fill

After months of comments and protests citizens finally have their answer about the proposed rubble fill north of Massey on the Alexander Farm. At the start of last week’s meeting Commissioner William Pickrum addressed an audience made up of meeting regulars and about 50 protestors.

“I know a lot of folks are concerned about the proposed rubble fill. Based on the information that we have received and the facts as we understand them regarding job growth, and the economic and environmental impact I think that we’ll be opposed to establishing a rubble fill off of Rt. 301.”

His statement was met with a round of applause and cheers. Pickrum added that he is aware some local delegates want to take the rubble fill issue to Annapolis during the next legislative session. “I am vehemently opposed to this,” he said. “This is a local issue … they (delegates) should let us do what we’re going to do and they should work on keeping Annapolis from trying to destroy local economies.” John Vail, a member of the Sassafras River Association, the organization behind many of the protests, said “we just want to say thank you.”

Commissioner Ron Fithinan thanked the SRA and concerned citizens for expressing their opinion in a professional manner and giving the commissioners time to do their job. “When these types of things come before us we have to do our due diligence and check it out from both sides. We feel like we’ve come to that conclusion and it’s time to stop spending the money (on consultants.)” To date the county has spent more than $60,000 on private consultants to advise them about the proposed rubble fill.

He said that Commissioner Alex Rasin, who was not at last night’s meeting, agreed with the stand the commissioners were taking on the rubble fill.

The idea for a rubble fill was first brought to the county in July by Kent Recycling & Land Reclamation. The proposed rubble fill would be on 339 acres of land north of Massey. The facility would receive approximately 1,200 tons of construction and demolition materials a day from locations in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York. The site would be able to hold more than 36 million tons of debris. Kent Recycling would own and operate the facility under a management agreement with the county.

Concerns were immediately raised by the SRA about the impact the rubble fill would have on the area’s ground water and nearby Jacob’s Creek, a headwaters stream that feeds into the Sassafras River.