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From the Desk of
County Executive Jan Gardner

(5/2017) With the input of thousands of citizens, I have shaped a fiscally responsible budget that reflects our community values and priorities. The budget provides funding to ensure top-notch education for our children; an investment in police, fire, corrections and 9-1-1 communications to keep our community safe; and services that create an enviable quality of life in which to live and grow our businesses.

The proposed budget plans for our growing senior population, supports a strong and vibrant economy and job creation, and invests wisely and strategically in our future prosperity. With no change in the tax rate, the budget ensures that we live within our means, protects taxpayers, and demonstrates good stewardship of limited county dollars.

Financial Highlight:

Frederick County taxpayers expect and deserve fiscal responsibility. The proposed budget protects taxpayers in three ways. First, there are no tax increases. Second, the budget takes steps to save taxpayer’s money and reduce our debt payments. Third, the budget restores reserves tapped by the prior administration.

No Tax Increase - This budget includes absolutely no increase to tax rates. I am committed to making sure Frederick County lives within its means.

Saving Money - I am also proud to be saving taxpayers significant money. As a result of our three AAA bond ratings, achieved a year ago and affirmed this spring, we have refinanced some of the county bond debt and annual debt service payments have decreased by $2 million. Taxpayers will save a whopping $4.6 million on bonds that were recently financed to lower interest rates. This is real money and real savings to taxpayers.

Savings From Retaining Citizens And Montevue: Due to the legal settlement and retention of Citizens and Montevue as county facilities, the county avoids paying out $7.5 million that would have been required to complete the sale of these state-of-the-art facilities. The taxpayers would have had to pay $7.5 million to sell since the bad deal put together by the prior administration sold these building for less than the money owed on the mortgage to build them. These dollars can now be more wisely allocated to core county services like education and public safety.

Restoring Reserves - I am slowly restoring reserve funds that were tapped by the prior administration for ongoing expenses. The prior administration spent more money than they had in their last year in office to provide raises for county employees out of the reserve funds. This created a structural deficit because one-time reserve funds were used for an ongoing expense – salaries. I fixed the structural deficit I inherited in the first year of my term and have righted the fiscal ship in county government.

Budget Accomplishments:

This year, the public helped to define budget priorities through an online survey. Over 2,000 participants weighed in, consistently naming education and public safety as their top two priorities.

The budget accomplishes the following:

Education - Provides a record amount of funding to education including funding mandated Maintenance of Effort in response to growing enrollment plus an addition $10 million to meet the commitment for the second year phase-in of a new sustainable pay scale for teachers and staff. It is my intention that this investment in public education be used to provide the best teachers and staff in our classrooms, and to make sure our children have access to the programs and materials they need to be well prepared for work or higher education.

Public Safety - One of the fundamental responsibilities of local government is to ensure the safety of its citizens. The proposed budget provides 8 corrections officers and 4 sheriff's deputies – the top priorities of the Sheriff, as well as 12 firefighters and 8 emergency call center (9-1-1) staff, in addition to training and equipment to meet growing call volume to keep our community safe. The Sheriff’s office is working hard to cover a declining presence of state police and to address the drug epidemic.

Seniors - Advances key recommendations of the Seniors First initiative. The senior population in Frederick County is expected to grow twice as fast as the State of Maryland and twice as fast as the country over the next decade. The budget includes continued support for our Meals on Wheels program, in-home health aides, and navigation to connect seniors to resources.

Citizens and Montevue are once again keeping the county's promise to our seniors by providing subsidized assisted living to the indigent elderly under a financially self-supporting and sustainable operating model. No general fund tax dollars are being used to support the operation of Citizens and Montevue. Revenue from Citizens is covering the expense associated with providing assisted living for 29 indigent elderly residents from Frederick County. Citizens and Montevue are operating with no taxpayer subsidy.

Employees - Provides all employees in county government with a 2% cost-of-living salary improvement.

Fiscal Responsibility - Tax rates are held steady. The County's AAA bond rating has allowed us to complete more capital projects for the same money so we can build schools, roads, libraries, fire stations, and parks. At the same time, we are paying off old debt. In fact, 40% of our existing debt will be paid off in the next five years.

Sustainability - Elevates the Office of Sustainability to help the county go green and stay green!

The proposed budget provides a plan for moving Frederick County forward in a sustainable manner. County revenues continue to grow modestly, reflecting steady growth and a stronger economy. In the past two years, our businesses have added almost 4,400 new jobs, topping 100,000 jobs in the county for the first time; unemployment has fallen below 4%; and economic output or Gross Domestic Product has exceeded $11 billion.

The county continues to follow conservative budget and debt affordability models. Coupled with our AAA bond rating, we are in excellent financial shape. We are restoring reserves that had been tapped in previous years. And we are ensuring residents in municipalities are not paying for duplicative services through our tax equity payments. Thoughtful choices and fiscal prudence puts us on a path to prosperity.

The budget invests strategically and wisely in education, public safety, people, and services. It affords a high quality of life for Frederick County residents through the provision of services of our libraries, parks, health department, transit, and other county agencies.

Working together, county government provides effective and efficient services and ensures Frederick County remains the best place in the country to live, work, and raise a family. The budget establishes a blueprint for the future of Frederick County, acknowledging our rich history and ensuring our bright future.

Read other articles from Frederick County Government Officials