Letter to the Editor: Donating Your Required Minimum Distribution

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As 2018 comes to an end and we get ready for the start of 2019, the United Way of Kent County would like to remind you to be sure you have taken your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your IRA or 401K. If you are over 70.5 years of age, these withdrawals must be taken by the end of the year. And once January arrives, you can take your new withdrawal for calendar year 2019.

We would also like to remind you that there are significant tax advantages of donating part of your RMD directly from your custodian to the United Way of Kent County—or to any other qualified charity.

The RMD is taxed as regular income and may increase not only your income taxes, but may also your Part B and D Medicare premiums. Moreover, the extra income can result in higher taxes on your Social Security. By donating the RMD, or part of it, you reduce your income and subsequent income taxes, while helping to support your favorite charities in Kent County.

The Qualified Charitable Distribution provision for donating pre-tax money from the RMD is now a permanent provision of the tax code, and any IRA holder over the age of 70.5 can donate up to $100,000 of their RMD. And with the 2018 new tax law making itemizing a rarity, it makes even more sense to source your charitable donations from your RMD.

A few simple requirements: The money is limited to the RMD and is capped at $100,000. The money must come direct from the IRA custodian to the charity. It cannot go to the owner first. Plus, the money contributed reduces income, but cannot then be claimed as a charitable donation (if you itemize)—since that would result in a double deduction.

For more information on how to donate your IRA RMD to the United Way of Kent County and the benefits that brings to Kent County, please contact Executive Director Beth Everett at 410-778-3195 or email her at beth@unitedwayofkentcounty.org.

Glenn L. Wilson, President
United Way of Kent County

Letter to the Editor: A Note of Concern about Impact of Kent County Short Term Rentals

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With the proliferation of new Airbnb, VRBO, and other rental sites popping up around Kent County over the past couple of years, there are some points to consider:

A non-exhaustive review of the AirBnB and VRBO websites revealed over 50 sites in Kent County. At an average booking rate with an average rental fee, this means that over $ 1,200,000 in annual rental income is being collected by these properties. That means the county is losing over $60,000 in room taxes each year. Additionally, with the decrease in revenues experienced by some local, licensed, regulated B&Bs, which now contribute correspondingly lower tax payments, the above losses in  the county are exacerbated.

In addition, there could be further loss of county revenue, the net income county tax rate of 2.5%, if these “invisible, under-the-table” lodging businesses are under-reporting profits on tax returns. Raising the visibility of these businesses through county enforcement measures could make it more difficult to remain hidden from compliance agencies across the board.

Another point for consideration is the effect these unregulated property rentals are having on their neighbors. Folks who have their morning cups of coffee are wondering who is now next door, while other neighbors coming home late at night are wondering who that strange car belongs to! Enforcement of existing zoning regulations would help.

Occasionally, traffic flow is made more difficult by Airbnb guests who are simply unaware of local parking codes. Huge boats pulled by large SUVs, parked on curves, on a 2-way street, in a residential neighborhood, close to a school, should certainly be considered a problem.

There are needs in Kent County. Don’t you think $ 60,000 (or more) each year would help a little bit? Perhaps as a starting point these lodging problems could be addressed by sending a letter to these property owners outlining the codes and regulations the county has in place. That would be a start.

Other communities are starting to solve these problems. Isn’t it time for us to do the same?

 

David & Cheryl Hoopes
Chestertown

Letter to the Editor:Vote for Commissioner Based on the Record

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Calling all citizens! On Election Day, November 6, we have the future of Kent County in our hands. It is time to stand up and speak out to remind us all that we live in a county that is envied by other rural and urban counties for several major achievements:

Balanced budgets each year despite fluctuating funding from the State of Maryland.

Fully funding all county services each year within budget and maintaining a fund balance for emergencies.

Continued funding at or above the state mandates and now the highest funding ever of our public schools despite student enrollment. Kent is fourth in highest per pupil funding of our schools. Better than over twenty Maryland counties.

Covering capital expenses for the public schools to not impact the school’s budget.

Increased Building permits far beyond prior years reflecting county growth not decline and families moving to Kent County.

Not taxing small businesses although other jurisdictions have appealed to the state of Maryland to allow this in order to raise revenue.

Increasing paramedic staff to support health care needs of our citizens.

Provision of police services for the incorporated towns of Millington, Betterton, and Galena in addition to the County.

Establishing and maintaining property tax credit for our senior citizens.

Establishing the first youth employment program and prioritizing funding in budget planning – increasing funding each year.

Supporting the arts and cultural activities growing tourism revenue to the highest in the history of Kent County.

Fighting to maintain our hospital with full services.

Fighting the Opioid epidemic in cooperation with law enforcement and NGOs.

Fully transparent government operations and Commissioner meetings.

Largest internet service out of all rural counties in the State of Maryland.

These are just a few of the services that all of us enjoy in Kent County.

Now, there are candidates running that have big ideas, but no experience in implementing them at a local, state or national level. Commissioner William Pickrum hosted a series of six forums open to the public about the funding and operation of major county services. These forums provided an opportunity for individuals running for office to learn the intricacies of providing services at the County level. Unfortunately, none of the candidates took advantage of these learning opportunities so they missed the opportunity to validate if their ideas could possibly work.

We need to keep moving Kent County forward. Having lived in Kent County for decades, everyone knows we have come a long way and no one honestly can dispute that fact. Is there more to do – of course. Are there challenges facing the County – of course. But, these are circumstances that every jurisdiction in the land faces each year.

Cast your vote based on the record of each individual. It is still time to close out the noise of those selling untested theories and choose a candidate that has a record of proven results; a person that has encouraged women, young adults and minorities to run for office; a candidate that supports our youth and seniors; a candidate trusted by every County official in the state of Maryland to be the next president of the Maryland Association of Counties. I am voting for William W. Pickrum. We should encourage all to Pick Pickrum.

Dr. Vita Pickrum
Kent County

The author is the wife of County Commissioner William Pickrum

Letter to the Editor: Enforcement of Critical Area Regulations in Kent County

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A Kent County News report on August 23 was headlined: “County to ease enforcement in Critical Areas” and reported the County Commissioners had voted to “order the planning office to stop issuing fines for what they see as lesser violations of state Critical Area regulations.”

Commissioner Ron Fithian initiated this action by trivializing fines issued for two Critical Area violations, claiming, “This is petty stuff,” and adding, “This makes no sense.”

I disagree. Protecting the Chesapeake Bay is not “petty stuff.” As every landowner in the Critical Area knows, their property is subject to extra regulations that aim to shield the Bay from further degradation. If these owners flout the law, they’re likely to find themselves facing a fine, and rightly so.

The commissioners’ vote to weaken Critical Area enforcement should concern everyone. But, here’s the rest of the story.

To an inquiry from me, an assistant attorney general at the Department of Natural Resources replied: “While Kent County has some discretion in enforcing its Critical Area program, any changes to this provision of the County’s Critical Area program must be submitted to the Critical Area Commission for review and approval.”

The letter further states: “At this time, however, the County has not submitted any text changes to the Critical Area Commission for review or approval. Furthermore, the County has continued to effectively enforce its Critical Area program by citing violations when they occur in the Critical area and continuing to assess fines.”

So, for now, fines remain in force and Bay protections are intact.

Grenville B. Whitman

Rock Hall

Letter to the Editor: Indivisible Group Supports DiGregory for State’s Attorney

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In what they believe to be a crucial midterm election, the citizens of Kent & Queen Anne’s Indivisible (KQAI) have endorsed Bryan DiGregory for State’s Attorney in Kent County, Maryland. This is KQAI’s fourth endorsement of this election cycle. KQAI has also endorsed Jesse Colvin to represent Maryland’s First District in the U.S House of Representatives, and Crystal Woodward and Michael Welker for the Maryland House of Delegates in the 36th district.

KQAI endorses DiGregory for State’s Attorney for the following reasons:

He is tough on crime but, importantly, tough on the causes of crime
He focuses on rehabilitation into society of offenders
He backs victims and their families and sticks with them to get not only justice but support
He has real-time, on the job, performance as a public defender and now will be a strong by fair prosecutor
We know Bryan to be hard working, energetic, honest, and ethical
His focus will not be just on punishment but reforming the individual who offends
Bryan knows the devastation caused by the opioid epidemic, where the massive burden of addiction must be tackled before, during, and after
Incarceration is deeply expensive to the taxpayer. Bryan aims to return people to society, but only when they are ready, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars for Kent County

It is for all these reasons KQAI endorses Bryan DiGregory for State’s Attorney for Kent County, MD. He is a smart and fair choice. The group urges all Kent County voters to cast their ballot for DiGregory.

Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible

Letter to the Editor: Kent County is Ready for Three New Commissioners

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Incumbents have it easy; they have been in the job for years, nothing terrible has happened and who likes change anyway. Sail the same course is easy; whether they’ve done a good or bad job. Is that what we want for 4 more years?

The 3 current Commissioners, combined, have been in office more than 30 years. Are we better off today than we were in 1990? The beauty of our election system is that we get to vote for fresh thinking and new ideas. We the people decide who we want shaping our future.

Take a hard look at the incumbents: their careers, background, and experience. Do they guarantee new approaches and fresh thinking affecting the next 2, 5 or 7 years? I don’t think so. Explain to me how being a teacher at Delaware State University (William Pickrum), owning a small interior design store (William Short), and being the Town Manager of Rock Hall (Ron Fithian), translates into a broader and better vision for Kent County.

There must be other backgrounds and skill sets that together would generate a more inclusive management style for the 5 incorporated towns and their residents; one aimed at blending different perspectives into fresh solutions. All of us want to look forward to an improved lifestyle that benefits all segments of Kent County.

I think it is time for Kent County voters to infuse new blood into our Commission. In 2018, we have 3 new, outstanding Commission candidates who have diverse backgrounds and achievements guaranteeing a collective decision-making process leading to positive outcomes.

Tom Timberman is an Army veteran, lawyer, and development expert, with 15 years experience in combat zones; he has lived in Kent County 22 years. Bob Jacob, born and raised in Kent, is a successful entrepreneur who grew his business from his garage to one with 25 employees today.Tom Mason is a widely respected agricultural authority who owns and manages several dairy farms; a business he built himself.

The incumbents had their shot. It is time to pass the baton to 3 new Kent County Commissioners, who could well bring us to a better place. Having worked in non-profits for over 30 years, I have witnessed how new leadership can create excitement and engagement.

Bob Miller
Chestertown

Letter to the Editor: Get Ready for the Goosebump Jump to Support the Kent Center

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Who doesn’t love a refreshing dip in the Chesapeake Bay? Especially in early November! Never done it before? Here’s your chance! Wear a great costume (or not) and come out and have fun for a great cause.

Kent Center is sponsoring their annual Goosebump Jump at Betterton Beach on Saturday, November 10 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. to raise money to support their many programs that serve adults with developmental disabilities here on the Shore.

We are recruiting brave, hearty people of all ages to take a quick dip in the Bay as well as sponsors who will make a pledge to support them. There will be a Scandinavian Smorgasbord lunch provided by Chef Merry Guben of Kent Center Kitchen at the Betterton Fire Hall after the jump, free for jumpers and $10 for adults or $5 for kids 12 and under who are there to cheer them on.

You can help in several ways:

1) Become a jumper and recruit sponsors who will donate money to support your jump and cheer you on. Are you a member of a scout troop? A fraternity, sorority, club, or service group? Do you like to have fun with people you work with? Form a team and jump together or just jump on your own. Jumpers who raise more than $25 receive a commemorative t-shirt as well as free admission to lunch.

2) Support your friends and neighbors who will make the jump by pledging to sponsor them and plan to be at the Beach to take pictures of their chilly plunge.

3) Come to the warm up lunch at the Betterton Fire Hall to enjoy a great meal with jumpers and the Kent Center family. Various prizes will be awarded to jumpers and teams including most money raised, senior jumper, junior jumper, best costume, and more. Raffles and music will also accompany lunch at the Fire Hall.

Supporting the Goosebump Jump is a way to have fun while supporting a vital community organization. Kent Center is a private non-profit that supports more than 70 of our friends and neighbors with diverse abilities and employs 140 people. It also provides residential care to 37 people to encourage independence and typical citizenship. For those able to work at competitive jobs, Kent Center offers job training and job coaches so they can earn a living in the community.

While Kent Center receives funding from the federal and state government, it is at a bare minimum level and at risk with every budget cycle. Funds raised through events like the Goosebump Jump assure this essential agency will be able to continue to serve our community.

Help us sustain support for the Kent Center family by joining the Goosebump Jump today! Read more and register at kentcenter.org/news-events/goose-bump-jump1.

Linda Cades
Kennedyville

Letter to the Editor: Assessing the Kent County Commissioner Race

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William Pickrum, Ron Fithian, and William Short, the current Kent County Commissioners, have laid the building blocks to boost the fortunes of Kent County while honoring the unique attributes that enhance the quality of life for residents. While those building blocks are numerous and substantial, however like Rome, Kent County cannot be fortified in a day.

Housing prices are rising and homes are staying on the market for shorter periods. Construction projects can be seen around the county, but nowhere is it more evident and concentrated than in Chestertown. The Department of Planning and Zoning supports this observation by reporting increased permitting activity for new construction and renovation. The County is taking advantage of the 1-G fiber they have installed to serve anchor institutions and build out hotspots. The Enterprise Zone, with the new Dixon Value and KRM development north on Route 213, is taking shape on the landscape and there are many other business creations and expansions that are taking place with a palpable uptick in the past year. There is more to do and the Kent County Commissioners have said as much. They are not satisfied yet with where Kent County is and can explain exactly their plan for the future.

Like so many communities, Kent County must grapple with, the opioid crisis, poverty, needs for infrastructure upgrades, and an aging population. The current Commissioners have addressed these issues as well as public school funding. The solutions are not magic or easy.

Nothing substitutes for trusted relationships forge over time to get needed assistance. The current incumbents, between the three of them, have cultivated these strong connections that gives Kent County a stronger voice in Annapolis. Advocacy in Annapolis has brought such progress as increasing the income level that allows for property tax relief, mostly affecting fixed-income seniors. Two years ago, the KCPS District received an additional $300,000 from the state through advocacy by Kent County Commissioners and Superintendent Dr. Karen Couch in conjunction with the 36th District Delegation. There are ongoing efforts, again in coordination with the state, to get more beds and money allocated for drug treatment and to increase awareness at all levels of the opioid/drug addiction crisis.

The three candidates who are challenging the incumbents reiterate the issues that the current Commissioners have already identified and implemented planning for; development of the 301 corridor, promotion of 1-G fiber, increased economic development staffing and budget, fighting for the hospital and health care, advocating at State level for changes in school funding formulas and putting in place mechanisms for growth, like the, already created, Economic Development Zone and the Arts and Entertainment District. Who among the challengers really stands out in the crowd?

There are many questions giving me pause about the challengers. Where were these candidates, who are now professing such an abundant interest, when the Kent County Planning and Zoning Commission was holding public meetings and soliciting inputs on the Comprehensive Plan? When have they participated over the past years in public forums and debate? Where have they spoken up publicly to offer constructive inputs and not just traded disparaging comments with neighbors? Have they attended commissioner meetings on a regular basis since announcing their candidacy to learn about the issues at hand? How have they been contributing and have they been involved? One candidate can point to serving on the Economic Development Commission that put forward a strategic plan, the plan that is already being implemented by the incumbents.

The Dao De Jing tells us that governing is “like cooking a very small fish” – great care must be taken. Replacing the current county governance by voting in to office untested candidates, with little experience or connections, who are unable to communicate clearly the how and what of their governance strategies, and who openly admit in public forums they are “guessing”, is a disruption that is very likely to lead to burnt fish.

Janet Christensen-Lewis
Kent County

Letter to the Editor: Incumbents Reelection Will Not Help Kent County

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I am compelled to add my voice to the conversation regarding Kent County Commissioners and their role in our county’s future. I have little in the way of strong feelings about the selection of candidates challenging the incumbents. I unfortunately cannot say the same about the incumbents.

Our county population is aging and shrinking. A community suffering those demographic shifts cannot last. All of us, but particularly families with young children are underserved by the Commissioners’ governance when it comes to their treatment of the KCPS BOE and their failure to adequately resource the school district. Their nearsighted policies negatively affect property values and economic growth, at the very least. There is an old trope about lunacy being the habit of repeatedly doing a task the same way while expecting different results. It applies to democracy too.

The county projections for income are flat or decreasing. In response, the incumbents voted themselves a 33% raise from 15k to 20k, and reduced their meetings by half. If each commissioner’s meeting runs an average of two hours, and every Commissioner attends every meeting, they are holding down part time jobs at over $400/hr. Nice work if you can get it.

When KCPS consolidation was first becoming a hot-button issue among KC constituents, my wife and a group of other local concerned mothers started SOS, a grass roots advocacy group dedicated to advocating for the needs of KCPS, and disseminating accurate information regarding the district. They were told by the incumbents that there was no foundation for constituents to criticize county policies unless they attended every CC meeting; there was just too much the women couldn’t understand. When SOS proposed the county archive the meetings for constituents that could not attend, they were told the CCs would look into it but it would be prohibitively expensive. SOS simply archived the CC meetings live feed onto a YouTube channel, for reference/transparency as a service to CK citizens. For their efforts they were told they had committed a disservice.

I want to hammer that point home. According to the incumbents there is no valid foundation to criticize their decisions if you don’t attend every CC meeting, nor can the county afford to make an archive of meetings available to educate those that cannot attend. SOS did it for free and the CCs told them it was damaging to the county.

Throughout last year’s budget cycle the Commissioners lauded themselves for paying for the KCHS football field repairs. As recently as the October BOE meeting they were still banging that drum. I firmly hold the opinion that maintaining county infrastructure is one of their primary charges: a minimum requirement of their job, not an instance of exceptional service. Those repairs were done over two years ago. Why are we still hearing about them? I do not think an instance of meeting the minimum requirement two years ago is a strong argument for continued employment.

One of the incumbents is currently campaigning on the claim “Funding to Reach 4th Highest Local Funded School System in Maryland” despite overall school funding decreasing during his tenure. His metric appears to be based on per student spending rather than percentage of county income spent on the school district. Here’s a couple of things about that: by that metric the top five spots in the state are held by the five poorest districts, and the per student formula is largely driven by the variable of low student population, which in turn ensures administrative costs are unduly weighted in the equation. We pay for one Superintendent per 2k students rather than one per 20k. A 70% full building costs as much to maintain as a 95% full building, and there is no such thing as hiring 3/4 of a school nurse. The less students, inevitably the per student costs increase. That metric should be a flashing warning light, not a cause for celebration.

I could go on, but need I? I am gravely disappointed by the incumbents lack of leadership and humility. I cannot recommend their continued employment by the citizens of Kent County.

Piers Heriz-Smith
Millington