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From the Desk of County Council at Large Candidate Billy Shreve

America’s second president John Adams had a great quote, "Facts are stubborn things." As your elected representative, I must always keep my actions and deliberations within the realm of the facts. I must also keep in mind how I, as your County Commissioner, can best serve all of the taxpayers of Frederick County. It is these two guiding principles that compel me, as the Commissioner liaison to the Frederick County Board of Education (BOE) to provide a response to the recent column by the BOE regarding funding priorities for education.

In a previous editorial column, the BOE made several statements in support of an increase in education funding by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). While this letter was big on hyperbole it was lacking in honest and complete facts.

In the second sentence, the BOE stated that they had only requested 2.9% more in funding over their current budget. While nominally true that this request was only 2.9% higher than the total budget that is funded not only by the county, but also by the state and federal governments, the fact of the matter is that the BOE request amounts to an increase of 7.88% to Frederick County taxpayers. While an increase of almost 8 percent may look small to some, it is more than twice the percentage increase conveyed by the BOE, and would result in roughly an $18 million dollar increase in Maintenance of Effort funding alone.

Another fact I would like for everyone to consider is, if one compares the previous fiscal year to the proposed upcoming fiscal year funding, the proposed budget for all Frederick County government increases by only 0.49% over the prior fiscal year. That is correct: The proposed budget increases by less than one half of a percent. The BOE budget request for an almost 8% increase in operating funds, but when added to the requested one-time funding, would represent a 12.75% increase over the previous budget year. An increase of 12.75% would stick out like a sore thumb when compared to the austerity being exercised by the county government as a whole.

The BOE column also noted that additional funding to the BOE could help provide for higher teacher starting salaries and targeted technology increases. The current County Commissioners on many occasions have offered budgeting ideas and suggestions to the BOE. We have offered to review, investigate and identify potential joint savings and synergies to streamline government and provide for quality education to our citizens and students. We have been ignored and disregarded in these requests.

Keep in mind that the BOCC can only appropriate money to the BOE; we cannot direct what gets funded, like teacher salaries. Specific funding decisions are made exclusively by the BOE.

As a matter of fact, while trying to provide input for budgetary savings I personally have actually been gaveled down at BOE meetings and not permitted to provide input.

Commissioner President Blaine Young tried to be a part of the conversation with the BOE in finding affordable and sustainable ways to increase the starting salaries for our teachers in Frederick County. His offer was rejected outright by the BOE, and nobody from the county was even included in the schools’ salary negotiations with the Union.

I have lead the effort to have Wi-Fi in all schools by August of this year. This way, every classroom becomes a computer lab. Mobile phones and tablets are of the most advanced technology available today, and this program allows Kids to remain plugged in when they enter schools, not shut them out of the world of technology that is at their fingertips. The next step is to have every student have a computer assigned to them by the school system. Learning doesn't stop when they leave the classroom. This Board has been able to attain these improved learning abilities.

Yet another fact is that this BOCC has been as aggressive as any prior board in advancing school projects in the Capital Improvements Program (CIP); in funding systemic costs (maintenance of our aging buildings, repairing roofs, boilers, windows), and improving technology programs all while staying within our financial and budgetary means. We funded Wi-Fi in all schools. Installation will be complete in June of this year.

The Young Board of County Commissioners have more than doubled our funding for systemics, increased technology funding to aid our students in preparing for a better and more advanced future, and moved up funding for school projects. We have moved up in funding the new elementary school in Urbana, a new addition to Urbana Middle School and Frederick High School.

One final fact to note, our current system-wide capacity (school seats) is below 90 percent. While the Young Board has more than doubled the systemics funding to care for our aging schools, our six year CIP also accommodates for all anticipated new student growth in Frederick County while ensuring that we will still not exceed our 90 percent system-wide capacity.

As I stated in the beginning of this response, I believe it essential to provide a factual basis for all public commentary. I believe the BOE letter of March 30 conveniently ignored critical facts. While it might be easy to continually advocate for more and more spending, we simply cannot continue with the tired and old routine of business as usual. The citizens of Frederick County deserve the most effective government and best education system that we can afford.

For far too long governments have simply thrown more and more of the taxpayers’ money at each and every perceived problem. That is one of the reasons why our national government is so far in debt today. However, the Young Board of County Commissioners believes in innovative solutions that result in real and proven results, not just being another part of the problem.

There are the facts! After all, isn’t it supposed to be about the children’s education.

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