On the evening of March 20th, approximately 90 of our neighbors attended Anne Arundel County Executive’s Host 2019 Budget Town Hall meeting at Lindale Middle School, here in Linthicum.
Besides County Executive Steuart Pittman, several of his administration’s staff, including Jenese Jones our District’s Constituent Services Officer, Sarah Lacey, our District’s County Council member, and several other officials were present, including AA County District 1 School Board Member Candace C.W. Antwine, Scott Spore, President of North Linthicum Improvement Association, Don Bender, Co-President of the National Active and Retired Federal Employee Association (NARFE) local Chapter 1519, and LSIA Board members Sandy Hartzell and Shawn Murphy,
Following brief opening remarks by County Councilwoman Lacey, County Exec Pittman walked through a short five-page PowerPoint presentation on the funding sources and key cost items the 2019 AA County Government budget need to address. Mr. Pittman made it clear that he and his administration is looking for our County’s citizen input on needs and priorities before completing his draft budget submission, which is due to the AA County Council on May 1st. Once provided to the County Council, the Council members will review, hold meeting where they will listen to resident comments and suggestions, and then render their decisions and recommendations on the AA County 2019 Budget.
The floor was then opened to the audience, each allowed 3-minutes to make their statement.
The speaker session was led off by Dan Woomer, LSIA’s Vice President, who was followed by Suzzie Schuyler, LSIA’s President. The following is the opening statement and a summary of the list of challenges facing our, and our neighboring communities presented by Dan and Suzzie:
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Dan Woomer –
The Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association (LSIA) with over 500 active member household, representing over 2,700 households, is pleased to speak at this 2019 Anne Arundel County Executive’s Budget Town Hall Meeting.
Linthicum, and our neighboring communities are facing many challenges with which your administration could help address.
These challenges include, but are not limited to: BWI Airport Noise pollution, SCMagLev, Roads, Over Development, Property Tax Cap, Light Rail, and Senior Income Tax Break.
I, as well as other members of the LSIA, would be pleased to meet and discuss any or all of these challenges with you, and provide additional information.
Good Evening, my name is Dan Woomer and I have lived in Linthicum Heights for over 39 years. We are seeking your administration’s help with the following challenges, not presented in any priority order:
(1) BWI Airport Noise
With the implementation of Next-Gen the jet engine noise is bombarding our communities. MAA and the BWI Roundtable are working to have FAA reinstate the prior flight routes, and requirements to quickly reach flight altitude all to reduce the noise our communities are suffering with each and every day.
The building of the SCMagLev will have little to no benefit for Marylanders, yet disrupt and destroy sections of AA and PG Counties, contaminating our communities’ environment, and take millions of dollars away from needed infrastructure improvements.
(3) Property Tax Cap
Every household and business must live within its means, our County government should be no different. The Property Tax Cap was passed by a large majority of voters to force the County government to live within its means.
Our household incomes seldom increase more than the cost-of-living, and many have not seen a cost-of-living increase for years. We prioritize our expenses; the County government must do the same. The State of Maryland is one of the highest taxed States in the union.
Do not circumvent the Property Tax Cap, it is one of the few remaining reasons more seniors and retirees have not left Maryland for more tax friendly States.
(4) Light Rail
We are asking that your administration continues the increased security around our communities’ light rail stations started a few years ago. Linthicum and Ferndale residents have witnessed individuals use the light rail to come into our communities and engage in aggressive panhandling, theft and other more serious offences. One request for your administration is to modify the AA County Police incident tracking and reporting system to capture the information if the person or persons being detained did use the light rail to enter our communities.
The current system does not capture this information, and thus the generated criminal activity reports and statistics do not reflect an incident’s association with the light rail. Adding this capability would help capture such data, criminal activity reports would more accurately reflect such occurrences, and provide a means to bring the communities together in a more common and constructive manner.
Again, we ask you and your administration’s for help and support so we can address the many challenges facing our communities. Thank you for this opportunity to speak at this town hall. We have provided a combined copy of our testimony for your review and records.
It is now my pleasure to introduce the President of LSIA – Suzzie Schuyler.
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Suzzie Schuyler –
To continue, Linthicum, and our neighboring communities, are facing many challenges with which your administration could help address.
I repeat the offer made by Dan, I, as well as other members of the LSIA, would be pleased to meet and discuss any or all of these challenges with you, and provide additional information.
Good Evening, my name is Suzzie Schuyler, and I have lived in Linthicum Heights for over 28 years. I’m here to complete the list our Vice President started.
The following are also some of the significant challenges facing our and our neighboring communities.
And as with the prior presentation, we are seeking your administration’s help with the following list, not presented in any priority order:
Andover Road and Maple Road are primary entry and exit routes in and out of our community. They have deteriorated for years and promises since January 2014 have been made to rebuild these arteries. We ask you and your administration to work with the State to prioritize these projects so they start this year.
(2) Over Development
School crowding, road and utility overloading, increased congestion and increasing danger of accidents for our community residents. Linthicum is a small town being constantly encroached upon by developers and witnessing our green spaces disappear forever. Enough. Until the roads, utilities and schools have the capacity, additional development needs to end.
(3) Senior Income Tax Break
We are asking your administration to encourage the State government to pass legislation to exempt retirees’ income for state income tax.
Many States already do this, and Maryland is seeing an increase of retirees moving to these tax friendly States. We have a demographic that includes a large number of highly educated residents. As retirees, many volunteer in schools, hospitals and communities all helping to make Maryland and Anne Arundel County a great place to live and raise a family at no cost to the County or State.
We are losing this valuable resource to other States for a few dollars-worth of income taxes, that would overwhelming be made up in their spending, sales tax, and healthcare.
In conclusion, with your administration’s help, we can address the many challenges facing our communities.
Again, thank you for this opportunity to speak for our community at this town hall meeting.
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Several others in attendance also signed up to speak, and for the next two-hours, we all listened to statements discussing the following challenges our County Government are asked to address.
Watershed Stewardship Funding – Sandy Hartzell and Suzanne Etgen, Executive Director of WSA, spoke about the Watershed Stewardship program, and how starting with a few volunteers have trained many stewards who are actively engaged in AA County to work with communities to reduce the actions and activities contributing to pollution of our local steams and bodies of water. Sandy also highlighted the success this program has made on improving our County’s fresh water streams, ponds and other bodies of water. While their funding has remained level for several years past, they are requesting a small increase in the funding provided by the County to be included in the 2019 AA County Budget.
Teacher Pay Parity – Several AA County teachers and other school staff, spoke on the need to (1) correct the pay parity problem within the AA County school system, and (2) to address the lower salaries AA County teachers are paid, as compared to the surrounding counties. On the first, since 2008, when our teachers step increases were suspended due to the economic downturn that hit us all, many of the loyal senior teachers have not received their earned step increases as promised. Some of these teachers, have not received are as many a seven step increases, so for the last decade, they have been increasingly underpaid, seeing their peer’s pay advancing, even by AA County standards. On the parity with the surrounding counties, one specialist spoke about her leaving the AA County school system, to take a job with PG County. Without considering the step increases, she stated she is earning $28,000 more than she would if she stayed in AA County. If the step increases were appropriately applied (which as noted above they have not been), she is still earning $11,000 more travelling from her home in AA County, to working in the PG County school system.
Police Recruitment – Several AA County police officers, and AA County Fraternal Order of Police members, spoke to the need to hire additional police officers to fully staff the AA County’s Police force. Currently, as we have also heard at the LSIA General Membership meetings, the AA County police force is approximately 180 officers understaffed. This is placing increasing stress on the on-duty officers to cover our County and provide the police presence and protection needed.
Fire Department Recruitment – As with the AA County Police, the professional firefighters needed to provide the minimum staff for our County’s Fire Stations is seriously lacking. As stated by many firefighters who spoke at last night’s town hall, the national standard is four firefighters per truck and four firefighters per engine. Currently, only one station in AA County meets this minimum number. The rest of the stations, including Ferndale and Linthicum, have three or less. Several of the firefighters that spoke noted the Ferndale station’s ambulance services have one crew, which means the ambulance and the emergency aid services are not available to our communities for 16 hours each day. If an emergency happens outside the hours this ambulance and crew are in service, help must be called in from other stations, which significantly increases the time before help will arrive, in a situation when seconds may count.
Library Funding – Several of AA County Liberians spoke tonight on the need to increase funding for our County libraries. Our County libraries are de facto community centers where they service hundreds of thousands of visitors each year with books, information access, training, career development, educational programs, and host community engagement and organization meetings, and many other events for children, adults and our senior citizens.
Drug-Opiate Crisis, Homeless & Trash – Drugs, especially opiates and fentanyl, have poured into our County, with often deadly consequences. The speaker asked the County Executive how his administration will address the illegal drug problem in our County. Also noted is the trash the homeless camps are creating in and around our communities. As noted by other speakers, this trash is brought into our communities from illegal dumping by others especially in and around Linthicum, Ferndale, and North Linthicum and needs to be cleaned up, and the “dumpers” caught and seriously fined.
With all who wished given the opportunity to speak, the floor was closed. Both County Executive Pittman and County Councilwoman Lacey thanked everyone for coming to the Town Hall and sharing their concerns and opinions, and called out LSIA for our engagement and activism in representing the Linthicum-Shipley community. At approximately 8:30 p.m., the town hall was called closed.
County Executive Pittman and County Councilwoman Lacey stayed in the auditorium for an additional half-hour engaging in short conversations with the attendees.