Council Passes $5 Million Budget for FY18


The Chestertown Council, meeting Tuesday night, passed a $5.3 million budget for fiscal year 2018.

The budget anticipates a shortfall of revenue against expenditures of $14,729, which is to be covered by the possible sale of assets including town-owned lots along College Avenue. Alternately, it will be covered from unallocated funds from the 2017 budget.

At a budget public hearing before the main meeting, Town Manager Bill Ingersoll summarized the key points of the budget. The major expenses remain public safety and public works, together accounting for just over $3 million.

The property tax rate remains unchanged, he said, and revenues from that source – the largest portion of the town’s income — have remained flat for several years at around $2.3 million. However, he said, there have been several new housing starts that he expects to produce increased revenue in the near future. Also, he said, conversations with the Kent County Commissioners about a tax differential to compensate for duplicated services – notably roads and police protection – suggest there may be help from that quarter in next year’s budget.

Another possible source of additional revenue, Ingersoll said, is a payment in lieu of taxes from Washington College, an issue that has been discussed for several years. And there are several “Air B&Bs” in the county that Ingersoll said have not been contributing their share of the county hotel tax, a portion of which benefits the town.

Ingersoll said there had been several adjustments in budget hearings over the last month. Among them was a reduction in the allocation for the July 4 fireworks display, which Ingersoll said needs to be scaled back this year because the location from which the display would normally be shot off will be unavailable due to construction of the new Washington College boathouse. He said the town has set aside a smaller amount for a more modest display which will be visible from Wilmer Park.

The utilities commission is “totally solvent,” Ingersoll said. As for the town-owned marina, the renovation work now taking place is covered by grants. Cerino showed photos of some of the work currently under way for bulkhead and walkway repairs. He said Phase I of the marina upgrade is “near the finish line.”

Councilman Marty Stetson noted that the town has not raised the tax rate in 10 years. He said the town “can’t do everything for everybody,” but he said he hoped some of the budget could be allocated to street repairs.

Ingersoll said the town knows which streets are in the worst shape, and will use unallocated surplus funds to repair them.

There were no public comments on the budget, which the council passed without dissent. Council members Linda Kuiper and Sam Shoge, both of whom were absent, submitted their votes in writing.

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4-H’ers Casey Turner, left, and Sarah Hofstetter hand over the Kent County Horsemen’s Cup to Mayor Chris Cerino for display in the Chestertown Council chambers.

Also at the meeting, Dave Turner of the Chestertown Horsemen’s Club and members of the Bits and Bridles 4-H Riding Club handed over the Kent County Horsemen’s Cup, a trophy recognizing an individual promoting horse activities in the county, to Cerino for display in the council chamber. A special shelf for the trophy has been installed in the rear of the chamber. This year’s honoree was Dr. Harry Sears, chosen because of his contributions to the Washington College riding team. 4-H’ers Casey Turner and Sarah Hofstetter presented the trophy to Cerino.

Turner said that Chestertown is in many ways “identical to” Lexington, Va. and Lexington, Ky., two towns that have capitalized on their equestrian traditions to attract tourist dollars and boost the local economy. He suggested that a similar focus on horse-related activities would be “a perfect fit for our town’s character.”

Also at the meeting, John Hanley of the Chestertown Environmental Committee gave a brief presentation on the University of Maryland Extension Program’s Bay Wise program that encourages property owners to adopt practices that reduce impact on the Chesapeake Bay. He mentioned several steps that can be taken, including planting native species, avoiding use of gas-powered mowers and reduction of fertilizer use. Property owners who meet certain criteria can receive the Bay Wise certification, which is determined by one of the area’s master gardeners.

Councilwoman Liz Gross noted that some of the large property owners in town would have a larger impact that a number of individual homeowners if they adopted Bay Wise practices.

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