(5/2016) Budgeting with a Purpose - It’s that time of year again!
Let’s start with some good news! Frederick County’s economy is strong. Over the past year, Frederick County businesses have added over 3,200 new jobs, unemployment is hovering around 4% well below state and national averages, and Frederick County’s production of goods and services has exceeded a whopping $11 billion!
Sometime people think the budget is a boring topic. But, the budget is actually the most important task we do together. How we allocate limited tax dollars reflects our community’s values and priorities.
Our community values fiscal responsibility and citizens expect the county to be good stewards of county tax dollars. The proposed budget ensures that we live within our means while investing in our future prosperity. And, the proposed budget is budgeting for a purpose – to ensure great schools, a safe community, and a high quality of life.
Last year, my first budget addressed the $10.4 million deficit created by the prior administration when they depleted reserve funds and spent this one-time money on ongoing expenses. This year, my second budget begins to restore reserves by setting aside $2.5 million for this purpose as well as shifting fuel savings into the fleet reserve. Restoring reserves and longstanding conservative
budget policies makes sure we are prepared for the next "rainy day".
The proposed FY17 budget is fiscally responsible. It is developed without any increases in county property tax rates or income tax rates. While tax rates remain unchanged, there is no doubt that you will hear accusations of tax increases because assessments and incomes have gone up. Building a budget on current tax rates is exactly what Governor Hogan did with the state budget and what
surrounding counties and municipal governments are doing as well. No one has accused Governor Hogan of raising taxes because he built a budget on current tax rates.
Budgeting with a purpose ensures exceptional schools. We know that quality education lifts our students, their families, and ensures our long-term economic prosperity. The number one thing we hear from our businesses and employers is a need for a well-educated and trained workforce. This begins in our K-12 public schools.
After years of flat funding, the proposed budget allocated $10.5 million to Frederick County Public Schools above maintenance of effort to make progress to ensure the best teachers and staff in our schools, and to provide programs and curriculum to ensure our students are prepared for jobs or for higher education. This is a modest 2% increase in the school system budget. The budget also
provides $500,000 in one-time funding to upgrade school technology, which is essential to keep pace with rapid changes in the field.
Budgeting with a purpose ensures safe communities. One of the fundamental responsibilities of local government is to ensure the safety of its citizens. The proposed budget provides over $5 million to support our public safety agencies including the Sheriff’s Office, Fire and EMS, and 9-1-1 Communications. The budget supports Sheriff Jenkins’ top priority to pay his deputies and corrections
staff. The majority of new positions in the budget are in public safety with the addition of deputies, firefighters, 9-1-1 call takers, and an emergency planner.
Education and public safety combined make up approximately 75% of the county budget reflecting the community priorities.
Budgeting with a purpose ensures our high quality of life. The majority of the remaining 25% of the proposed budget is allocated to provide county employees with a well-deserved merit or step pay increase. County employees are dedicated and hardworking and consistently deliver top-notch services to the citizens of Frederick County. As the economy recovers, it is appropriate to recognize the
people on the front lines that maintain our roads, handle our trash, make sure that water and sewer is always available, drive our transit busses, and keep our community safe and our quality of life high.
The budget ensures seniors get services they need through Meals on Wheels and Senior Care, expands operating hours of our three main libraries to 9 p.m. in the evening on weekdays including the Thurmont Regional Library, and meets state and federal mandates.
Budgeting with a purpose ensures we maintain and expand our infrastructure to meet community needs. The capital budget provides funds to complete the Frederick High School project, to build a new Walkersville Branch library, and to reconstruct several roads and bridges around the county.
Citizens can be assured that the county budget is fiscally sound, protects our investments, and makes progress to ensure great schools, safe communities and a high quality of life without raising tax rates. Frederick County will continue to be a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family. Our best days are ahead.