Hurlock Council votes to give employees a 4 percent raise

Hurlock, Maryland
HURLOCK — The Hurlock Council held its second FY2017 budget work session following the town meeting on Feb. 11. As has become all too common at such work sessions in most government meetings, the only members of the audience were two newspaper reporters.

Hurlock Administrator John Avery said the most recent draft budget included a 2 percent raise for hourly employees and explained the contingency fund would be about $110,000. “That figure is without fine tuning some of these things which we would do before the next meeting. The cost of living adjustment (COLA) is 1.7 percent. He asked the council to address any concerns they have or items they thought should be added or deleted.

Mayor Joyce Spratt explained that a raise for the hourly employees at 2 percent would cost the town $19,318; raises at 3 percent would cost $28,973; and 4 percent would cost $38,636 and added it has been a few years since they received 4 percent. At the end of the meeting the council agreed to include a 4 percent raise.

Jerry Rhue asked about potential increases in police department funding. Police Chief Michael Henry said two officers are in school and the department plans to hire one more which will bring the force to 11 officers. Mr. Avery reiterated there is $30,000 in the FY2016 budget and $30,000 in the FY2017 budget for vehicles. In a discussion about purchasing an additional police car he explained he is seeking quotes for vehicles including a possible 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Mayor Spratt said she did not think there was enough money in the Parks and Recreation category which currently includes $1,000, primarily for mulch, with an additional $4,000 for maintenance, supplies, and other needs. The council agreed to increase the total to $10,000 since additional parks and improvements to current parks are planned.

Councilman Jerry Rhue asked if more lights are needed in Prospect Heights based on a discussion at the open meeting on crime concerns in the area. Councilman Charles Cephas whose district includes Prospect Heights said he thought brighter lights rather than more lights are needed. He also cited two dark spots near the entrance to the development across from B&G on Route 392. Mr. Avery noted that Delmarva Power installs lights at the town’s request and charges a minimal amount. He will add an additional $2,000 to the Utilities category for street lights.

During a discussion about increasing the town’s contributions to the Hurlock Volunteer Fire Company (HVFC) Mayor Spratt expressed her thought that because the HVFC responds to numerous county-wide calls to assist, the department should receive county funds. Councilman Rhue said that if a municipality owns its ambulance as Hurlock does the county’s contribution to the town is higher.

Mr. Avery said he will review the revenue side before the next meeting to see if additional funds would be available to contribute to HVFC’s new ladder truck. He explained there should be a budget report for January “so we’ll be a little closer with this (draft) budget.”

In a move that promises to increase revenue by a considerable amount, Mr. Avery said he is “Looking at negotiating a CD for the town” that would substantially increase interest income. Currently the town receives annual interest of $900 based on funds of $500,000. The CD under consideration would increase that amount to $7,500 annually. “That is a huge difference,” he said. And there is no penalty for early withdrawal before the 42-month term ends. For Councilman Rhue it was a “no brainer.”

Councilman Earl Murphy said he sees “every day as an opportunity” for a council member to answer a constituent’s question about the budget and other matters. However, citizens may find it difficult to ask questions about fiscal matters without access to a primary document, in this case, the FY2017 draft budget.

According to the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting “communication and (stakeholder) involvement is an essential component of every aspect of the budget process.” The Council says it is “vital” that all stakeholders be involved in the budget process. All work sessions are open to the public but no comments are allowed. That opportunity arises during the budget hearing, or public information session, which in Hurlock is slated for April 25 at 5:30 p.m. before the regular town meeting at 6 p.m.

The final draft budget is available for public review effective the week of April 18. When the topic was raised at the Feb. 11 meeting, Mayor Spratt said, “I don’t remember ever giving it out before. We never did before.” Town Attorney Robert Merriken responded, “The budget process is supposed to be open to the public.”

At the next meeting on April 25 the council will introduce the requisite budget ordinance. At the May 9 regular open meeting the council will review the final budget version and vote on the ordinance and on May 31 the ordinance to adopt FY2017 budget takes effect.

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