Bonds, beer, and other items of local interest

I don’t use them too often, but I am on the e-mail distribution list for press releases from Wicomico County. Jim Fineran was a busy guy today since I received two, and I thought both deserved a little bit of comment.

The first one I’ll ponder is “County Scores High Marks From Wall Street’s Annual Evaluation.” One bragging point generally made by County Executive Rick Pollitt is that the bond firms love our county because they believe it’s run on sound financial footing. Of course, it’s a good thing they believe this because otherwise we’d be paying interest out the wazoo once the bill for county capital projects comes due.

And Pollitt states this again here, with a little slap at Joe Ollinger in the process.

During the recent campaign, my challenger stated that the county’s strong fiscal grades from Wall Street were a result of the Revenue Cap. However, the agencies have made it clear that our success has actually come in spite of the Revenue Cap. The following is from Moody’s Report:


Wicomico County has maintained a healthy financial position during recent years despite the impact of property tax revenue constraints, supported by proactive management and conservative fiscal policies and practices. (Emphasis in original.)

Yes, the election is over and Rick is back to his complaining about the revenue cap. Tell Moody’s that they don’t get a vote on changing this and it’s doubtful the five or six GOP members of County Council (depending on the election’s final outcome) are going to see it any other way. Certainly one tug-of-war likely to result next year as the budget is discussed will be whether to make up for the shortage that Pollitt voluntarily took this year when he opted not to raise the property tax rate to the constant yield rate.

Anyone with half a brain realizes that running a county and performing legitimate functions of county government costs money – the question is and will continue to be just how much can those of us living in the county afford to give when the other branches of government ask for an increasing share and costs for everything else (like gasoline and groceries) continue to add up?

Pretty soon we won’t be able to afford beer or wine, which brings me to my second press release.

Even though it’s generally after the fact, I talk about the Autumn Wine Festival and made sure to mention its baby brother the Good Beer Festival quite a bit this year, too. Obviously the group I’m associated with uses the events for political purposes given their calendar date in the midst of campaign season but I’d like to see both thrive for other reasons as well.

So I was pleased to actually see some attendance and financial numbers from each this year, for the first time in my memory. And my guesses were actually pretty good on attendance.

I recall that the prediction made by Parks and Recreation for attendance at the Good Beer Festival was 2,000 for the weekend, but the nice weather Saturday made me sure they came pretty close to that number on just that day alone. Sure enough, the event drew 1,628 that day. I also thought the Sunday crowd was about half, and indeed Sunday drew 750. Overall, they exceeded expectations by nearly 20 percent – but still suffered a small loss financially (about $1 per person.) Hopefully, the event will get more vendors to help make up the difference because otherwise I thought it was well run – the department was “ecstatic” about its future so perhaps in October 2011 we can do it again!

As for the AWF, year 8 was great as they drew 4,651 patrons and made a profit of about $24,000, mostly on the strength of the number of vendors (ticket sales made about 1/4 of the profit.) So they are set to go after a couple tough years of weather. And given the fact the AWF is now “twice its original size” it seems the Good Beer Festival is also on track to become as successful.

One thing unaccounted for insofar as the financial numbers at the festival grounds is the impact of over 7,000 visitors. Granted, there is some percentage who are local but even if just five percent come from far enough away to merit an overnight stay that packs hundreds of hotel rooms and helps keep the restaurants and gas stations in business. Just on an anecdotal basis from working a booth I notice a lot of people come here from across the bay so even if it’s a day trip we’re bringing money to the local economy. These events do well for paying for themselves and I suspect with decent weather next year the GBF will move into the black.

Finally, I wanted to point one thing out about this ‘Third Friday’ video.

I find it interesting that this video is featured on the ‘jimiretonformayor’ Youtube channel. Is that kosher with Salisbury’s campaign finance laws? I think it’s a question worth asking so I’m going to.

Honestly, I don’t mind Jim Ireton taking the time to promote this event as part of his duties but under the auspices of a campaign Youtube site I think this could be considered an in-kind contribution by the person uploading the videos (one can ask who does that and whether that’s on city time too.) Perhaps the city of Salisbury needs its own Youtube channel which can be used for these sorts of announcements.

Since I’m the burr in the saddle to a lot of people in power, why not ask this question too?

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

One thought on “Bonds, beer, and other items of local interest”

  1. One big challenge that Wicomico County will face will be what the General Assembly decides to do about the state pension plan. Currently, Maryland counties contribute zero dollars to the pension plans for the teachers they hire.

    Maryland cannot afford the yearly $900 million pension payments, and there are quite a few in the General Assembly want to push that responsibility back on the counties.

    If that happens, the counties will either have to massively eliminate services or do something to raise more revenue.

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