Frederick County Council members kept the county property tax rate level and adopted County Executive Jan Gardner’s (D) proposed operating and capital budgets for fiscal year 2021 in split votes Tuesday.

After discussing both decisions for more than an hour combined, the council adopted a property tax rate of $1.06 per $100 of assessed value, the same rate as prior budget years dating back to fiscal year 2015, in a 4-3 vote.

Council Vice President Michael Blue (R), along with council members Steve McKay (R) and Phil Dacey (R) voted ‘no’, arguing the council should drop to the constant yield tax rate of $1.0344 per $100 of assessed value.

But only Dacey was a ‘no’ vote on the overall budget: roughly $665.8 million on the operating side and $250.1 million on the capital side. There also was $115.5 million budgeted for special revenue funds—for agricultural preservation, debt service and many other areas—and $123.6 million for enterprise funds, like water and sewer service and solid waste services.

Dacey said Tuesday it was difficult to be “that guy” who opposed the budget, but he could not vote for it as many residents countywide are hurting due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I can’t, in good conscience support this budget,” he said. “I feel like it represents the certain areas of government [where] it’s a transfer of wealth from people who are hurting, to people who may not be.”

McKay, even though he voted against the property tax rate, said he supported the budget.

“I think you do your best to shape the budget, but at the end of the day, it’s your job to pass a budget,” McKay said. “Because if you don’t vote to pass the budget, then you can’t say you supported all the important things that the budget provides.”

Democratic members said the budget accounted for the pandemic and would have been larger, had it not been for Gardner and her staff adjusting it during the past few months.

“We know there are a lot of unmet needs in this budget,” Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D) said. “It represents millions [of dollars] in cuts from what had originally been proposed, and I do think it’s important for people to realize that.”

Earlier in the meeting, council members spent nearly an hour discussing whether to keep the tax rate flat at $1.06, or drop it to the constant yield rate — the rate that would bring in the same revenues as the previous year.

Dacey said if council members weren’t going to reduce the rate now—with so many people hurting financially during the coronavirus pandemic—he found it difficult to see when they would ever lower it.

McKay said providing relief to taxpayers, no matter how small, was important. Blue sided with those arguments. Although he was a no vote, he said he heard an interesting argument from a customer that came into his auto repair shop—Brownie’s in Walkersville—last week.

“If you look at all the taxes you pay, those [property taxes] are the only one you can recoup over a period of time,” Blue said of that argument, noting selling the home at a higher value, for instance.

Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) and other Democrats said it was important to consider the services Frederick County provides, and that property taxes provide funds for those much-needed services.

It also helps residents who need the most help, she added.

“The government provides a safety net under people during times like this,” Keegan-Ayer said. “And part of the money we’re going to collect, we need to make sure we’re able to provide that safety net that people expect in their government.”

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter:

@Steve_Bohnel

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(12) comments

wran

I was in a shopping mall parking lot on Monday at about 1100. There was a school bus there with ladies passing out lunch boxes to drivers of cars who pulled up next to the bus. I watched this for a while. I don't begrudge meal help being given to those who need the assistance. But, I saw people in very fine cars, many of them vans, driving up to get the lunches. I saw no one coming on foot to get the meals.

bosco

Bernie "Breadline" Sanders would be so proud.

caspiansails

Another loss for the citizens of the county. With the current rate of inflation there is no need to NOT reduce the tax rate to the constant yield and has not been a need for some time. Enough already. Do people not realize that leaving the tax rate the same as housing assessments rise is the same as raising your taxes. If you property value increases 5% then so do your taxes. It is a very progressive tax which will one day force you out of your home. Automatic increases as we call it, much like the gas tax which was a total abdication of responsibility by the state legislature. That one in particular should be illegal. This one is just shameful and will always be with faithless and spineless council members along with a progressive executive.

Blueline

The rate is only part of the equation, the other part is the assessment. If your house is over-valued by the county, you will still pay more than you should.

bosco

Two stories, front page above the fold. One about property taxes and the other about services for people here illegally.

DickD

You can't have all essential services and cut the tax rate.

Lemmy

So there are no opportunities for savings or cutting waste in Frederick County government?

jsklinelga

lemmy

Was that a rhetorical question? Another could be: Are all the current services essential? Consider:

Students are automatically eligible for free meals if the family receives assistance under the Food Supplement Program or Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) benefits. To apply, families must complete a new Application for Free and Reduced-Price Meals at the beginning of each school year.

It would be sheer heartless to criticize the need for this program or review the administrative costs of the program. It takes essential people, with paid vacations and pensions to administer programs like this. And money to buy the food.

Would you really feel comfortable analyzing the finances of this program or the wide range of similar ones.

User1

So take the program back to what it use to be...LUNCH! Not breakfast or dinner but keep it at lunch. Why feed everyone three meals a day? That’s the parents responsibility not the schools!

neilyoungfan25

Dick - It was clearly stated last night there would be no loss of services. What the Council did was to give them a nest egg of 8 million bucks. Shameful in the middle of a pandemic

User1

You can if you cut the cost of illegals!

fnpzwack

To adopt the constant yield rate, would have meant no additional taxes collected to account for the 2,000 new homes built in the past year. And if you listened to the discussion (debate) at last night’s meeting, it was very clear that Dacey was outmatched.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.br/> TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.