Bel Air shaking off winter doldrums

Bel Air town officials are eager the see the last of this winter's snow melt away and the temperatures warm up, as the first of the community's early spring activities are quickly approaching.

"It can't snow on St. Patrick's Day," Town Administrator James Fielder Jr. remarked during Tuesday's town commissioners work session. "It just can't."


The next town hall meeting will also be Monday on St. Patrick's Day, and town officials reviewed matters Tuesday that would be on the agenda for that meeting, while also talking about the coming celebration.

Fielder noted operators of Bel Air eating and drinking establishments are getting ready for St. Patrick's Day, when downtown Bel Air is typically bustling with revelers.

He said town officials have recently been meeting with bar and restaurant owners and operators to ensure the holiday goes smoothly.

"Hopefully it's going to be a very smooth and positive period of time with a lot of people in town," Fielder said.

Town residents can also look forward to a series of annual Bel Air spring events coming in April, such as the Bel Air High School Spring Musical April 10-12 and the Easter egg hunt at Rockfield Manor and the Kite Day Festival at Rockfield Park, both on April 12.

Revamped website is live

Visitors to will see that the revamped version of the town's website, which was presented at a late February work session, is up and running.

"We're still making some small content adjustments and things like that," Director of Administration Michael Krantz said.

Visitors to the site can see features such as the calendar, meeting agendas and photos of events and scenes around town.

New accounting standards

At Monday's town meeting, the town commissioners are expected approved spending up to $10,000 to have the Boomershine Consulting Group LLC of Ellicott City, the town's actuarial firm, conduct a pension plan study.

Finance Director Lisa Moody explained Tuesday that the study, which is expected to take six to eight weeks, is necessary as the Governmental Accounting Standards Board's Statements 67 and 68 are implemented.

The two statements relate to how state and local governing bodies report the expenses and liabilities of their pension plans "resulting in a more faithful representation of the full impact of these obligations," according to the GASB website.

Moody said GASB Statement 67 affects the current fiscal year, and the GASB Statement 68 will be in effect for the 2015 fiscal year.


"The reason the town is paying for it is because it's accounting," Moody said of the actuarial study. "It's not funding; it's not something the pension plan should pay for, because it's an accounting requirement."

She said Bel Air officials must report the "unfunded" liabilities in the town's pension plans for town employees and sworn police officers on its financial statements in future fiscal years.

Moody noted private-sector entities have had to show unfunded pension liabilities on their financial statements "for quite some time."

Economic issues of the past five years have "pushed the view forward a little bit," so those who view government statements can see the pension liabilities, she said.

The city of Detroit declared bankruptcy in 2013 and had billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities owed to city retirees, a factor Mayor Robert Reier noted Tuesday as he asked Moody about the new GASB standards.

He said the standards could give "a layer of protection or transparency" to Bel Air.

The commissioners will also review a three-year extension of the town's contract with its auditing firm, SB & Company LLC of Hunt Valley. Moody said the contract will contain a small increase and will still run less than $17,000 annually.

"They've really worked with us hand in hand throughout the year on tax issues, debt issues, new standards that have come up from GASB that haven't been so significant, so it's really been a value for the both of us and a good working relationship over time," Moody said of the accounting firm.

Town residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on a mid-year budget amendment for the current fiscal year during a public hearing which is part of Monday's town meeting agenda.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 39 N. Hickory Ave.

2015 budget update

While spring is a time of festivities for the residents, their leaders will be spending their spring delving into the annual budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The commissioners agreed Tuesday with a recommendation by Fielder and Moody to cancel the Monday, May 19 town meeting, the tentatively-scheduled time for the second public hearing and adoption of the budget by the commissioners, and hold the proceedings instead on Tuesday, May 27.

Moody, who will present the budget for adoption, said she will be out of town at a conference on May 19.

She and Fielder planned to hold the town meeting at 5:45 p.m. on May 27, right after the scheduled work session, which begins at 5:15 p.m. Moody said the commissioners would not have to leave after the work session and come back for the town meeting.

Reier, however, suggested moving the work session back to 6:30 p.m. instead and holding the town meeting at the usual time of 7:30 p.m. for the convenience of residents who might attend.

"That's kind of unprecedented that we would [have] an early town meeting," he remarked.

Everyone at Tuesday's meeting agreed to Reier's suggestion on the times, and to the recommended date change.