Wicomico Reviews Proposed Capital Improvement Plan

Staff Writer

SALISBURY – School renovations, parks projects and civic center improvements highlighted a presentation on this year’s capital planning document.

Last month, Acting County Executive John Psota and Finance Director Pam Oland held a public hearing on Wicomico County’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for fiscal years 2024-2028. The five-year planning document outlines $94,470,885 in general fund requests and $40,878,800 in enterprise fund requests.

“It’s a five-year plan,” Oland told attendees. “So the intention over the next five years is to provide for the departments as best we can for their requests. For fiscal 2024, the major funding aspects are furniture and fixtures for the new public safety building, funding for some projects at corrections, $2 million for the civic center and $12 million for rec and parks.”

This year’s proposed CIP, totaling more than $135 million, includes $2.13 million for the civic center and $12.3 million for recreation and parks requests, though most of those projects would be funded with state and federal grants.

“When the actual CIP is listed with those individual projects, a good majority of those projects, of the $12 million, are actually funded through grants. So that is not $12 million we are either looking for through bond or pay-go …,” Oland explained. “In fiscal 2024, we’re looking at about $13.8 million in general obligation bond money, $10.5 million in pay-go, about $11 million in state grants and $8 million in federal grants to come up to the $45 million in total general fund and enterprise fund projects.”

Oland noted that county staff worked with department leaders over the months of September and October to develop the proposed CIP. She added that the debt service for the proposed projects totaled 7.96% of the county’s total general fund estimated revenue.

“The county has a debt service policy, and that policy is that we are not to exceed 12% of total general fund estimated revenue for our principal and interest in the general fund,” she said. “For fiscal 2023, the estimated payments are $13.8 million. The budgeted revenue is $173 million, resulting in a P&I of only 7.96%, so well under our policy limit.”

The five-year planning document also proposed more than $10.4 million for school improvement projects, including $950,000 for a new roof at Wicomico High School, $1.3 million for study and planning at Fruitland Primary School and $8.2 million for a renovation and addition at Mardela Middle & High School.

“This is, at this moment, what we feel the county is able to fund in the short term,” Oland said.

During public comments, Brian Raygor, Wicomico County Public Schools’ chief finance and operations officer, thanked county staff for including its priority projects into the coming year’s CIP.

“We appreciate the capital improvement plan for the county and the work it will allow us to continue doing at Mardela and Wi-Hi and to begin work at Fruitland Primary School …,” he said. “We appreciate you hitting these top three priorities.”

Officials noted the public hearing was a chance for community members to voice their opinions on what capital needs the county should fund. A copy of the proposed CIP is available on the county’s website and will be submitted to the Wicomico County Council in late December.

“The charter calls for the council to adopt the CIP in February …,” Oland said. “In June, the council adopts the budget, which adopts the capital projects for the first fiscal year of this plan.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.