From the Desk of
County Executive Jan Gardner
(1/2017) As we usher in 2017, we welcome a new year and a new beginning. It is a time of renewed energy, resolutions, and fresh ideas. So, whatís on tap for 2017?
In Frederick County, we jump right into the annual budget process. It may sound boring, but the budget is actually the most important function of county government because the budget defines how we spend our collective money and reflects our community values and priorities.
When people read the list of accomplishment from 2016, they often ask, "How much did this cost?" Thatís a good question with a great answer.
Every resident deserves frugal and fiscally responsible management of their tax dollars. And, my administration has delivered a big bang for the county tax dollar, earned three AAA bond ratings for the first time in the countyís history reflecting strong fiscally conservative management, and started re-building reserves for the next rainy day.
In the first two years of my administration, the county budget grew modestly, by about $35 million over two years with no tax rate increases. This is almost exactly the same increase in spending as the first two years of the prior board of county commissioners. The differences rest in choices and priorities.
While the prior administration actively cut county employees and privatized service, invested the bare minimum required by law in education, resulting in starting teacher salaries falling to the lowest in the state, and sold county assets at a loss, I have focused budget priorities on investing in core services like education and public safety.
The county budget now reflects a renewed commitment to public education including improving starting teacher salaries; a new salary scale for Sheriff Deputies and Corrections so we can retain highly qualified employees in public safety; restoration of community partnerships with our non-profit human service agencies to better serve people in need while effectively saving
taxpayers money; and, valuing county employees. How was this accomplished? We ended privatization that was costing taxpayers more, the fire sale of county assets, and taxpayer giveaways to special interests.
In the upcoming budget, expect a continued commitment to education, public safety, roads, parks, libraries, and people with no tax rate increases. I am committed to making sure county government lives within its means just as all of you do with your household budgets. My job is to always protect taxpayers.
New legislation expected in 2017 includes addressing large solar utility projects in agricultural areas, agri-tourism focused on wineries and breweries, a new small business tax credit, and possible legislation to better address blight.
Current initiatives that will move forward in 2017 include:
- Livable Frederick, a new county comprehensive plan, which will move through public hearings in the Spring;
- Solid Waste Whatís Next?, that will deliver cost and operational options for enhance recycling and composting;
- Seniors First, which will focus on rethinking and restructuring county services and collaborative partnerships to better serve active seniors and older adults as this demographic grows; and,
- Citizens and Montevue will continue the transition to accepting more subsidized patients for assisted living. I am pleased to report that the first few months of operation have been financially positive as nursing home revenue covers subsidized assisted living.
New initiatives on the horizon include a second business incubator to help support and grow jobs in Frederick County, re-establishing and elevating the work of the Office of Sustainability, and housing initiatives to make sure that more people can afford to live and work in Frederick County.
Monocacy Scenic River Advisory Board
For at least 30 years, Frederick and Carroll County have had a joint citizens advisory board focused on protecting resources and enhancing the Monocacy River corridor. This citizen based board recently proposed a new Monocacy River plan which includes a proposed resource protection area or river buffer. While 77% of the proposed protection area is the 100-year flood plain,
in some areas the proposed resource protection area extends beyond the flood plain causing some affected property owners to be concerned about how this plan would impact the use of their property.
In November, the Board held two public meetings, one in each county, and notified all affected property owners by mail. At their regular monthly meeting in December, they also heard citizen concerns. The advisory board is meeting on January 4 and is expected to discuss and modify the plan based on public input.
Once the Monocacy Scenic River Advisory Board finalizes its draft plan, the plan will go through a public hearing process before the Frederick County Planning Commission and the County Council. These public hearings are likely to be scheduled for February, March, and April.
It is important to recognize that this proposed plan is citizen based, will go through a lengthy public process, and will likely change to incorporate public input. The public process will work to balance legitimate competing needs and interests. So, stay tuned and stay involved. Public participation will make a difference.
Congratulations to Council President Bud Otis and Council Vice-President M.C. Keegan-Ayer on their election to continue in their leadership positions on the county council. Together, we work hard to deliver open government, honest government, and deliver results for the hard-working citizens of Frederick County.
We always want to hear from you. You can contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 301-600-3190. Happy New Year!
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