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Words from Winterbilt

Who to Vote For?

Shannon Bohrer

(9/2014) We have an election coming up for the position of County Executive, a first for Frederick County. For individuals that vote along party lines, the decision was made in the primaries. For the rest of us, we are doing our homework. There are elections that matter and this in one of them.

This article does not endorse either party, but it does indorse one candidate; Jan Gardner. Everything said in this article is true, from the writer’s perspective. The writer’s perspective is from what both candidates have offered in their election literature, what they did when in office and from research by the writer. The writer has not been offered any monies, gifts and/or anything of value for the purpose of recommending either party and/or candidates. If you have read my articles in the past you may understand that politics is a common theme, but you would also know that in five years I have never endorsed a single candidate - until now.

Examining the candidates Blaine Young and Jan Gardner for the position for the County Executive was not difficult. Both candidates have web sites and published articles with information about what they have accomplished and why they should be your choice. Additionally, both candidates have a history of being in public office, which is a record that can be examined independently.

While researching the article, I did have some unexpected findings, including similarities for both candidates. Both became the President of the Board of County Commissioners. Both candidates claim they are the fiscally responsible candidate and both candidates claim they were the president of the board when the county achieved its first AAA Bond rating…. Is that clear? As to the fiscal part, Young claims he created a 29 million dollar surplus in less than two years, while overcoming a 40 million dollar projected deficient for fiscal year 2013. When Jan Gardner left in 2010, she left a 12.3 Million dollar surplus for the Young board in 2011, the first year of the Young board. These opposing facts might seem a little confusing - and they are.

I visited the Blaine Young web site and examined the many accomplishments listed. At the top of the page there was a statement about the 202 taxes and fees that have been eliminated. The very first thing listed under that was the elimination of the pension program for the Board of County Commissioners, which sounds very good. I emailed the election site and requested information on the 202 taxes and fees that have been eliminated. I never received a response and the web site has since changed.

I then conducted a little research. The 202 taxes and fees that have been eliminated are targeted to business, not individuals. An example is the elimination of the admission and amusement tax. While it is nice that the tax was eliminated, it does not reduce the cost of government. How will the shortfall of funds affect us, do we need them? I wonder if the ticket price to see a movie is less.

Eliminating the pension program for the Board of County Commissioners sounded good, until you take a closer look. For a County Commissioner to be eligible to receive a pension, they must serve two terms. Four of the current County Commissioners, including Blaine Young, have only served one term. Since the governance will change in 2015, none of the four would have been able to serve a second term to receive a pension, under the old system. The only Commissioner that was eligible to receive a pension was David Gray, who was already receiving his pension. Eliminating the pension did not save anything. Maybe they counted the four ineligible pensions in the 202 taxes and fees….well maybe not.

As to the first AAA Bond rating that goes to Jan Gardner since she was in office before Blaine Young. In Young’s latest advertisement he no longer claims to have the first AAA, but he says "We have achieved the highest Bond ratings in the history of the county!" And it may be, but it was not the first AAA rating.

As to who is more fiscal responsible requires some additional numbers. During the 2008 recession, the Gardner Board increased spending by 4 million from 2008 to the 2009 budget. But they then reduced spending by 26 million in 2010 and another reduction of 11 million for the 2011 budget. The fact the Gardner board cut spending in 2010 and 2011, two years in a row and left a surplus, of 12. 3 million is conservative.

If, as the Young campaign claims – the Young board created a $29 million dollar surplus in just two years, do they get the full credit or does the 12.3 million dollar surplus left by the Gardner board get some of the credit? The Young campaign also claimed to have overcome a 40 million dollar deficit in 2013, the third year of the Young Board. This was the third year of the Young Board - who created the deficit?

Recent campaign ads say that the Young Board added 43 million into the general funds, from the fire tax, which was a separate fund at one time. This does sound reasonable. However, the general fund already contributed 13 million to the fire tax because it was underfunded. If it was underfunded by 13 million, then 30 million was added, not 43 million.

In 2010, the last year of the Gardner board, the county’s budget was 449 million and four years later, the fourth year of the Young board, 2014, the budget had grown to 516 million, an increase of 67 million. How does one espouse that they are a conservative and spend so much money. And at the same time tell us they are saving us money? The projected budget for 2015 is 525 million, or 87 million more than the 2011 budget, Young’s first year. When asked about this Young said: "We are spending more money. But we’re spending it in the right places to protect the taxpayers."

Recently, there have been dueling articles in the Frederick papers about who the fiscal conservative candidate is. It’s Jan Gardner. Even the claim that Jan Gardner was politicking for a raise for herself while in office is misleading. The rules are simple, if the board receives a raise it starts with the next board – not the one in office.

This article is only a summary of the information I found. This is an important election, please do your own research and vote on facts. Beliefs are nice, but not always true, which is probably why you see advertisements and signs that read "Republicans for Gardner."

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer