xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

PILOT fight renewed; Annapolis seeks full $750,000 for services to Maryland capital

Annapolis representatives are once again seeking to restore an annual payment the city receives for services it provides the state for being Maryland’s capital.

Mayor Gavin Buckley and all three lawmakers who represent the city in the General Assembly are pushing Gov. Larry Hogan to provide a full $750,000 payment in lieu of taxes, the reimbursement to Annapolis for the services, such as police protection, bomb squad and more. But Hogan has proposed the PILOT payment be reduced to $367,000 for fiscal 2022, the second straight year he has cut it.

Advertisement

“Given the unprecedented fiscal challenges caused by the pandemic, our goal was to keep things level-funded as much as possible and avoid drastic cuts, and we were able to do that here,” Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said.

The PILOT is meant to make up for the public safety and public works services from the city that benefit the nearly 60 state-owned buildings within the city limits. Many city workers serve at the State House, James Senate Office Building and the Lowe House Office Building, among others.

Advertisement
Advertisement

There won’t be any new legislation seeking additional PILOT funds this year, Buckley said. He is asking for the compensation already required by law.

“We are just asking to be given what we are owed,” he said. “There’s never been a more glaring example of why it’s needed than now.”

Buckley pointed to last year when thousands of people flooded city streets throughout much of the year for protests, demonstrations, marches and rallies. While there were similar actions in other parts of the county, they were concentrated in Annapolis in part because it is the capital.

Another example arose last weekend, ahead of Inauguration Day when city police and emergency management departments collaborated with state agencies to protect the state capital against potential threats of violent protests.

Advertisement

“Think about 2020. How many protests came to the state capital?” Buckley said. “Whether it was ReOpen Maryland, Black Lives Matter, whatever. That wouldn’t have happened if we were just a town.”

The city maintains a bomb squad and hazmat team simply because Annapolis is the capital, said Buckley, who last year sent a letter to the governor that detailed all of the money the city doles out for protecting the capital. The bomb squad alone costs the city about $500,000 annually.

“I mean when we break down the funding, the only reason we have a bomb squad, or the only reason why we have an armored vehicle or whatever it is, is to help protect the capital,” Buckley said.

As the city faces a steep budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, full compensation for the PILOT would help ease some of the constraints on the departments most often used to provide services to the state like police, fire and emergency management, City Manager David Jarrell said.

“The short answer is yes,” said Jarrell when asked if the city would have to consider cuts to essential services provided to the state.

For instance, if the city were to institute furloughs — something floated at a city work session last year — city firefighters, some of whom also function as the city’s bomb squad, may not be able to respond as effectively to an incident or have the manpower to cover certain events.

The annual payment has been a point of disagreement between the governor’s office and state and local legislators for years. Former Mayor Mike Pantelides asked Hogan for $1.25 million in fiscal 2018 after tallying nearly double that in costs for state-related services.

During the 2019 legislative session, the late House Speaker Mike Busch shepherded a bill through the General Assembly that increased the payment for the first time in more than a decade. The bill increased the payment from $367,000 to no less than $750,000. It also required yearly adjustments tied to inflation starting in fiscal 2022, which begins July 1.

At the time, the governor’s office vowed to reduce the payment back to $367,000 through budget reconciliation and has stayed true to his word, said state Sen. Sarah Elfreth, D-Annapolis.

Last year, Hogan sought to cut the payment in half but was rebuffed by the General Assembly. However, Hogan won out in July and cut the PILOT along with a range of other budget reductions that were blamed on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, Elfreth said she is committed to keeping the payment fully funded. Her staff, along with those of her House of Delegates colleagues, are currently combing the governor’s $49 billion budget proposal to find areas that could be cut to make up for the reduced PILOT.

The group is well-positioned to find the money and pass a full PILOT, she said. Elfreth serves on the Budget and Taxation Committee and Del. Shaneka Henson, D-Annapolis, serves on Appropriations, two key committees that will have a say in Hogan’s appropriations bill.

“It’s just disappointing that the governor is again trying to cut the funding when I think now more than ever it’s needed,” Elfreth said.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement