I know, this meeting was so last month. But when you have an election to cover and like to keep people informed on what’s up on the state level this event coverage wasn’t going anywhere.
This meeting was one of transition. After our usual recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, longtime Secretary Dave Parker read the minutes one last time and we recieved the Treasurer’s Report from Tom Hughes, who is staying on.
Ann Suthowski asked a question about membership and wasn’t pleased with the answer. “We should have at least 200 members,” she asserted, and perhaps she’s correct. Having said that, though, I’d rather have 50 good, active members than 200 who simply send in a dues check and do nothing else. Although most don’t attend the meetings, the core membership has stagnated or dwindled over the years so maybe the change in leadership will make a difference. (Personally I’d like to see more of a TEA Party influence.)
For the second month in a row, our featured speaker was a County Council member – this time it was District 2’s Stevie Prettyman. Outgoing President Marc Kilmer introduced her by reminding us “the county taxpayers have a friend in her.”
Stevie stated the obvious in her opening – “the last several years have been difficult.” In the next few weeks we’ll get the County Executive’s budget plan for FY2012, which begins July 1, 2011. While the numbers for this fiscal year can change at any time thanks to moves by state government, Prettyman briefly went through the process for passing the budget. The County Council can only decrease the budget or move money around (aside from increasing money for educational needs) but if they can’t pass an alternative by June 15 the Executive’s budget stands.
Digging into a bit of history, Stevie noted that FY2009 was the first time in a decade revenues fell short of the budget, and FY2010 brought us a $10.1 million gap between revenues and expenses – revenues that were shorter still this fiscal year and were threatening to be even shorter next year as the state made cuts and shifted expenses to the county level – she then recited a litany of proposed state cuts. “The low-hanging fruit is gone” for FY2012, she said, adding the budget will have to undergo “significant, permanent structural changes.”
“This is the time when leaders make real choices,” Stevie went on to say. “We need your help and support.” She was “very anxious to receive (the) budget.”
When asked about the capital budget, specifically the proposed Bennett Middle School, she noted that construction funds would indeed come out of the capital budget but bond repayment comes out of the operating budget. Previous Councils “would only borrow what they paid off” but larger projects have changed that approach. Still, our indebtedness is well under what the county’s charter allows, added Stevie.
A questioner asked why the existing Bennett Middle School can’t be renovated – it’s slated for demolition so the high school project can be completed in Phase 4 so that option isn’t really on the table as a permanent solution. (The next night, County Council voted to delay the Bennett Middle School project for a year, citing its cost and the county’s debt level.)
Dave Parker gave the Central Committee report, calling the Lincoln Day Dinner a “fantastic time.” While it was good to hear from our new Congressman Andy Harris, second banana Eric Grannon, the MDGOP’s Third Vice-Chair also made “an excellent impression.” Dave awarded the Republican of the Year plaque to Ed Nelson, who missed the Lincoln Day Dinner, and recounted the story of our Republican Youth of the Year, Margaret Gaetano.
Our next Central Committee meeting is Monday at 7 p.m. with a speaker to be announced. It will be a postmortem on the LDD as well – we are looking to make it bigger and better for 2012.
With an Andy Harris report, Mark McIver excitedly spoke about the new office at 212 W. Main Street and the “good media coverage” the opening received. In Washington the talk was about budget cuts, McIver continued, and while Andy wanted the full $100 billion promised we would get around $61 billion, with $4 billion included in a two-week continuing resolution extension.
Woody Willing chimed in that the club should be more active in pushing for an elected school board.
Joel Dixon, who is still in the running for Salisbury City Council pending Friday’s absentee ballot count, claimed “I didn’t come here to politick” but asked for our vote at the meeting.
Cathy Keim gave us an update on the same-sex marriage bill in Maryland, which has passed the Senate but – as it turned out later – ran into a snag in the House of Delegates.
After nominations were closed, the 2011 officers were elected by acclamation (there were no contested races.)
The new officers are:
- President: Larry Dodd
- 1st VP: Dustin Mills
- 2nd VP: Marc Kilmer
- 3rd VP: Carl Kurten
- 4th VP: Deb Okerblom
- Secretary: Michael Swartz
- Treasurer: Tom Hughes
Yes, I’m now the chief notetaker for both the Central Committee and Republican Club. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
After Marc Kilmer asked the club to “please treat (Larry) gently,” Dodd thanked us for the support and reminded us that the upcoming city elections affected the county as well.
Our next meeting will be March 28.