(6/2017) Another stellar year for Frederick County! The FY 2018 General Fund Operating Budget has been adopted for $582M, and the Capital Projects Budget of $170M. The Council voted 4-2-1 to pass these Budgets. Council Members Keegan-Ayer, Donald, Fitzwater and myself voted for it, Council Members Chmelik and Shreve voted against passage,
and Council Member Delauter was absent from the meeting.
Here’s why I voted for the budget. It is fiscally sound, conservative, resident prioritized, and our property tax rates have remained the same for the third year in a row at $1.06. County income taxes have also remained steady.
Our residents were polled and asked what their top priorities are for using their hard-earned money to fund programs within Frederick County. People responded and indicated their top priorities are Education at 45% and Public Safety at 37%. CE Jan Gardner and her team tailored the budget to reflect many of the needs highlighted by the
people who live here.
A high percentage (80% or $467M) of the budget is allocated to mandated programs. The discretionary portion (20% or $114M), in my opinion, has been wisely allocated. It preserves our tremendous AAA Bond Rating (allowing FCG to leverage bond debt at the lowest rate possible, thus saving millions in interest fees on the debt) by replenishing
the Revenue Stabilization fund. This allows the County to use monies saved on other vital programs.
Some other areas to highlight:
Education – FCPS funding is increasing $13.8M which is $10M over Maintenance of Effort. The budget for the schools has been flat for several years prior to the new Charter Government coming into being. Sustaining the school system at the mandated MOE put us in a hold pattern on salaries, some construction, pensions and positions. FCPS is a
stellar system, and being able to fund them appropriately, albeit incrementally, was one of my personal goals coming into office. The Capital Projects Budget allocates funding for the construction of Butterfly Ridge Elementary, Sugarloaf Elementary and final completion of the new Frederick High School. It also includes design funding for a new Rock Creek School
and a feasibility study to address the severe overcrowding at Waverly Elementary School. There are many plusses to a very strong public school system as it is one of the highest rating factors for people considering Frederick County as a place to live, along with businesses considering moving into our area. Not to mention the far ranging value of well-educated
students and excellent teachers.
Public Safety – Funding 8 new Correctional Officer positions and 4 new Deputies in the Sheriff’s Office. To help offset the tremendous workload and overtime burden at the Division of Fire and Rescue, 12 new positions have been funded which brings the total positions supported to 53 firefighters and other personnel when counting the 41
positions funded by the Federal SAFER Grant. This increase helps to counter balance the elimination of 38 positions under the final Board of County Commissioners. Emergency Management is adding 8 new positions to the 9-1-1 Call Center to better respond to crisis calls from our residents. Our law enforcement and emergency response personnel are exemplary, highly
trained and motivated personnel. We really don’t appreciate them until...we need them.
Our County Employees – approval of a 2% cost-of-living adjustment for all employees. I truly value the unseen and many times unnoticed efforts of our great work force. We have so many dedicated, talented and heartfelt people who make us proud each and every day. Thank you to all.
So, these three areas comprise over 90% of the new expenditures in the Budget. There are a number of other areas also receiving additional monies including FCC, newly formed Division of Aging (by percentage, our senior population is growing faster here than in Florida!), Citizens Services Division, Public Libraries, TransIT, Parks and
Recreation, Office of Economic Development, Animal Control, our Interagency Information Technologies, Office of Sustainability, Utilities and Solid Waste Management Division, and Division of Public Works – who doesn’t want good roads and highway markings?
This budget is well-rounded, provides grant monies supporting programs for some of our most vulnerable residents including homeless students, and is reflective of most of our residents’ values including my own. I saw nothing of note to cut, and did not offer any budget amendments as after serious review, found it to be a solid and
well-constructed, fiscally sound financial plan for FY 2018. Our rate of growth at 3.9% is in line with the 3.8% rate for Frederick City, surrounding jurisdictions, and the
4.3% rate for the State of Maryland.
Enjoy our beautiful County. Tourists spend $1M per day taking in the sights and attractions we have right here in our respective backyards. My wife Rose and I hope you enjoy this beautiful weather and take some time to enjoy the many scenic parks, arts, music and recreation activities Frederick County offers.