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From the Desk of
Town Council President Chris Staiger

(Dec, 2010) From the Desk of Town Council President Chris Staiger

I hope everyone has had a happy Thanksgiving Holiday! Christmas will be here soon and I hope everyone will have a safe and happy holiday season – regardless of which you and your family may choose to celebrate. I look forward to spending time with my family while enjoying the last of my vacation days! Please remember those in our community who could use a helping hand and consider a donation of your time or treasure to one of the many wonderful organizations in town who make it their duty to provide that extra assistance at a time that has become one of such extravagance.

I’d like to take this opportunity to review some important decisions in town government in November regarding the Frederick County Deputies’ contract and our progress in rehabilitating the sewer treatment plant off Creamery Road on the east side of US15. Our expectation is that with no increase in the property tax rate, next year’s revenues will be less than the previous year – for the third straight year. I don’t know that any of us find this surprising but it does raise the question of how we maintain services in an era of declining income.

One possible area for substantial savings involved our participation in the Community Deputy program with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Jenkins attended our mid-November meeting as the Town Council discussed options the 2011-2012 budget year. The current cost of the program – for three resident deputies – is approximately $300,000 or 20% of the town’s general fund budget. Next year’s cost will be approximately 10% higher due to increased pension obligations. It should be noted that the deputies are not receiving any cost of living or merit/step increases in pay for at least the second straight year.

Although various commissioners, including myself, have discussed the opportunity to save $100,000 per year by returning to a two resident deputy contract as we had in place prior to 2007, there was concern about reducing coverage in today’s environment. As the Mayor stated, you can’t really be sure if our relatively low rate of serious and even petty crime is the result of the current level of police protection or the generally low population and rural environment in which we live. As with most government programs, it’s difficult to trim them once they are approved…

In the end, we all appreciated that we are contracting for a level of service that provides for deputies based in our town, patrolling our neighborhoods, walking or biking through our streets, and conducting investigations into criminal activity that is quite different from the standard service provided through our Frederick County property taxes. The standard Frederick County service would only put deputies on patrol in the north county area – not base them in our community where they can familiarize themselves with our conditions and requirements while spending their shifts embedded in our community. As residents of our small community, I think all of the commissioners appreciated this.

The Board of Commissioners also approved funding for major improvements to the sewer treatment plant which will bring us into compliance with the requirements of the Maryland Department of the Environment. This project will cost approximately twenty million dollars. The town staff should be commended for securing 72% grant funding for the overall project – with a remaining cost to the town of approximately 5.5 million dollars. An initial loan through Suntrust Bank will fund the town’s portion of the costs at a 2.08 interest rate. Following completion of the project in 2014, the debt will be converted to a bond obligation repayable over forty years at a rate of approximately 2.6%.

Provision of water and sewer services is the primary responsibility of our ‘municipal corporation’ from a financial standpoint. Expenditures in these areas dwarf every other areas of expenditure – including the next highest single area, our employees, as well as the police protection discussed above, or miscellaneous services such as road paving or other "capital improvements." Our annual ‘general fund’ budget is a mere $1.5 million compared to the millions or even tens of millions spent providing water to our homes or making the flush truly disappear…

I wish all of you a safe and happy Christmas season. Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts and concerns at 447-3757 or Thanks, Chris Staiger

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