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From the Desk of
County Executive Jan Gardner

(8/2017) It’s summertime! While many people are enjoying vacation and summer fun, county government is still hard at work. Almost 5,000 children are participating in Park and Recreation summer camps, crews are working on numerous road projects and bridge repairs, and over 9,000 people of all ages are participating in Frederick County Public Libraries’ Summer Reading Program. Construction of the Walkersville library is well underway and is scheduled to open in early 2018.

Taxpayer Giveaway

On a more serious note, I recently provided an update on what I consider to be the worst financial deal and biggest taxpayer giveaway in the history of Frederick County.

The prior Board of County Commissioners entered into a 30-year Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement with the developer of the Jefferson Tech Park, allowing the developer to use every penny of property tax revenues generated by the project over 30 years to pay for costs that a developer traditionally pays for.

I am sharing this information because I believe citizens have a right to know that millions of property tax dollars are being shifted to benefit the developer. How much? $89 million!

So what does this bad deal mean? The developer was permitted to spend over $25 million from the sale of bonds to construct an interchange and a bridge over US 340, to make required road improvements, and to make sewer improvements. Just like a mortgage, where you pay back your loan over time, the total amount paid is higher than the price of your home due to interest payments. It will cost taxpayers $89 million to pay back this $25 million in debt. Remember, it is customary for developers to take on these costs. It is a cost of doing business typically financed by a bank, with no obligation to use your tax dollars.

While the prior board touted this project as creating as many as 7,000 high-tech jobs, all the development to date has been residential. This may change as the project builds out. A grocery store, hotel, and some offices are included in the plan.

Residents in this development are paying their property taxes just like every other resident and deserve and expect county services. However, their property tax payments are not going into the county general fund to cover their use of county service. As these new households add children to our schools, make calls for public safety response, and use libraries, parks and roads, all the other taxpayers in the county have to subsidize the cost of these services. This will be true for 30 years.

Unbelievably, the deal gets even worse. In 2006, the county required this developer to pay $8 million for an addition to Crestwood Middle School because the project would overcrowd the school. The last Board of County Commissioners allowed the developer out of this contract and allowed them instead to pay $800,000 in school mitigation fees. County taxpayers are now stuck paying the remaining $7.2 million to build the school addition.

It is hard to understand how the prior administration could enter into such a bad financial deal. It allows tens of millions of property tax dollars to be diverted and lets the developer out of a contract to build a needed school addition. In my view, it is a travesty and the worst financial deal in the history of Frederick County. Many citizens do not even want the additional development and are rightly angry about having to pay for it.

Never again! My pledge to you is that this kind of bad deal will never happen on my watch. As your County Executive, I take my responsibility seriously to protect taxpayers. I have put in place new policy to make sure this kind of deal is not allowed. County policy now prohibits Tax Increment Financing for any residential housing project. Taxpayers should never be asked to subsidize residential housing.

While I firmly commit to never allowing this kind of bad deal to happen again, it is important to recognize that a future administration could allow this again. It is up to voters to hold their elected officials’ feet to the fire.

Good news!

I want to share good news about what’s happening in Frederick County. And there is a lot of good news.

Our economy continues to grow and we are adding new jobs. We recently welcomed a new research firm called Emmes and their 100-plus employees. I am proud that Frederick County assisted them by getting permits approved in just six days. Among other things, this company assists life science and bio-tech companies with getting their products and medical devices through FDA approval. Likewise, RoosterBio Inc. is graduating from the Frederick Innovative Technology Center Inc. and is expanding into a 14,000-square-foot office. The bio-tech company plans to double the number of employees within a few years.

Our Health Department was just recognized as one of only three in the country for its successful Kids Like Us program that helps children who have family members struggling with drug addiction. Our health department is doing an outstanding job with limited resources to connect people experiencing drug addiction with resources and services. Heroin and opioid addiction is taking far too many lives. We clearly need more treatment capacity and are working with many partners to provide help and prevention.

Our students continue to accomplish incredible things. This summer, Walkersville High School rising senior Sydnie Grossnickle was named Maryland Dairy Princess. And the Thurmont Little League team was crowned State champs!

I also want to publicly thank Bess Gladhill for her generous donation to Frederick Community College to set up a scholarship in memory of her husband, Frank Gladhill. This scholarship fund will allow numerous students the opportunity to earn their college degree and achieve their dreams.

There is no place like Frederick County with so many good people, organizations and opportunities. We live in a truly fabulous community with wonderful people and a strong sense of community. Together, we will move forward to address our challenges and secure a bright future.

Read other articles from Frederick County Government Officials