From the Desk of
County Commissioner Young
(June, 2010) I am thankful for the opportunity
to reach out to the readers of this publication.
When former Commissioner Charles Jenkins was
appointed to fill the vacancy of former Delegate Rick Weldon, I saw an
opportunity to get involved by once again representing the tax payers. My
interest and desire was not that of a position for pro-growth or anti-growth,
pro-waste-to-energy or anti-incinerator or any single issue, it was a
frustration about how the government functions and spends our tax dollars.
We see what is happening on the Federal level;
how Frederick County was short-changed on State Highway User Revenues by the
state (taxes paid in Frederick County, paid to the State and supposed to be
returned to Frederick County for road maintenance). So I wanted to be part of
the process on how your county tax dollars are spent. Budget management will be
the most critical issue that we face together.
During the next couple of years the role of
County government must be redefined. We (government) must live within our means
and no longer attempt to be everything to everyone. When times were good and we
saw a rise in assessments and revenues for income tax were flush, the money was
spent, programs expanded and government grew. Now, Frederick County has seen
major cuts in State funding, income tax revenue is way down and property tax
revenue, although still up slightly, is projected to be down in the future as
the new property assessments come in.
So, what do we do? Do we live within our means
and prioritize what are deemed essential services and fund them first or do we
just make general flat reductions across the board? This is the first year of
several very challenging budget cycles. This year is just the beginning. Next
year will prove to be a very daunting task for the Board of County
Commissioners (BOCC), balancing the budget with a projected $34 million deficit
and in FY 2013 a $43 million deficit is projected.
This year's operating budget was balanced
using $23 million of one-time, non-recurring revenue. That is a fancy way of
saying the budget was balanced by taking revenue meant for other services or
projects that will not be generated in the future to pay for these expenses.
That to me is not a balanced budget and is a major issue that the next BOCC
will have to face. Every citizen and taxpayer has to balance their household
budgets. We budget our mortgage/rent, electricity, food and other necessities.
We do this with revenue that we expect to be there every month, not with a
windfall that won't be there when the bills come due next month.
You cannot have the premiere cable package if
you cannot pay your electricity bill. Every county taxpayer has expectations
that they will receive some basic services when they pay their county taxes. In
my opinion, they are education, police protection, fire and rescue services,
roads maintenance, sewer services, having their water supply protected, trash
disposal and those services related to the items on this list.
There is also an expectation of some basic
level of citizen and social services, for those who cannot help themselves
because of a mental or physical handicap, and some services that give
opportunities for those who want to help themselves, with an expectation of
strict accountability. In my opinion, with what the future holds, we will have
three options: Focusing on the priority/essential services and doing them right
and cutting the rest; keep reducing across-the-board which eliminates programs
and does not provide the essential services to the extent we should; or a
combination of these with a tax increase.
Even after reducing the approved budgeted
positions, they are still up over a four-year period by 2.4%. Government should
be a reflection of the community that it represents. We must live within our
means and leave as much money as possible in the taxpayers' pockets as you are
trying to rebound from the economy. During these times we need tough leaders to
make tough decisions. Unpopular decisions will have to be made. Compassion
should work both ways: Compassion for the issues at hand, but also compassion
for the taxpayers. This is where the government's money comes from. The
taxpayer can only be asked to do so much as they have their own financial
Non-profit and religious organizations will be
called upon to do more for those worthwhile, meritorious specialty services
that are requested by the public. This should not be the role of the
government. I practice what I preach by volunteering and donating to
Personal accountability and responsibility is
the only way to get this county turned around. This should start at the local
level. These economic/financial times are often defined as being the worst
since the Great Depression. The Great Depression produced the Greatest
Generation which the majority of us have learned about in history books. The
question we should ask is, "What will the lessons be that we will learn?" These
should be looked at as exciting times as we could set the tone for future
generations if we choose and make our decisions wisely.
Thank you again and I want to hear from you on
this topic. Please call me at 301-600-2336 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read other articles from Frederick County Commissioners