The $516.3 million county spending plan finalized Thursday will stick to a state-mandated baseline for school funding and will overhaul the way money is gathered for emergency services.

Four Frederick County commissioners voted to pass the operating budget for fiscal 2014, which will begin July 1. The new budget is roughly $45 million larger than last year's, primarily because it includes about $40 million in emergency services costs that previously were in a separate fund.

Citizen comment on the budget has centered on the commissioners' determination to support county public schools at the per-pupil minimum required by state law. School officials and parents had asked that commissioners provide an additional $15 million to the Board of Education, in addition to the roughly $244 million contribution already budgeted. They argued that taking into account inflation and rising costs, a static level of education funding actually ends up feeling like a decrease in county support.

Commissioners said they decided against beefing up their per-student contribution in part because it would commit the county to the higher level of funding in future years, an unwise move in a time of fiscal uncertainty. Even without the increase, the county is not skimping on its support for schools, Commissioner Paul Smith said.

"The maintenance of effort level we are funding is a level of excellence," said Smith, who prepared a four-page statement explaining his stance on school funding.

However, commissioners directed additional funds toward county schools through the fiscal 2014 capital budget, which they approved unanimously. The capital plan includes one-time allocations of $1.6 million for school bus radios and $700,000 for school security upgrades, as well as additional funding for maintenance projects and technology improvements.

The operating budget approved Thursday will raise overall tax rates for about 23 percent of county property owners through sweeping changes to emergency services funding.

The overhaul will abolish the fire tax and simultaneously raise property taxes from 93.6 cents per $100 of assessed value to $1.064 per $100 of assessed value. The changes will result in no net increase for most property owners, but some will see their combined rate jump by 4.8 cents per $100.

Commissioners President Blaine Young said the changes were necessitated by large shortfalls in the fire and rescue fund. Increasing taxes on some residents is preferable to slashing emergency services staffing or salaries, he said.

In addition, moving emergency services into the general fund allows it to take its place as one of the county's core services, Young said.

Commissioner David Gray, who voted against the operating budget, said he didn't agree with the changes to the fire and rescue system and didn't approve of the fiscal plan's cuts to grant-in-aid funding. The board majority's decision to move forward with the budget demonstrates lack of interest in the wishes of the community, he argued.

"We had the required public hearings, but the process really did not involve the public in a really meaningful way," Gray said.

Also included in the operating budget is a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment and merit step increase for county employees.

Eliminating vacant positions resulted in $1 million in budgetary savings this year, according to a county news release. The release also noted that since 2009, the county workforce has shrunk by 432 positions.

The Board of County Commissioners on Thursday also signed off on the $69 million capital budget for fiscal 2014 and a six-year plan for capital improvements.

The plan accelerated the design phase of the Urbana Area Elementary School project by one year.

(24) comments

sej58

Three members of the current BOCC don't have a clue what goes on in any other industry in Frederick besides the buiilding industry. So how could they even wrap their hands around BRAC or other high tech companies in the county that are currently laying people off due to their lack of focus. Innovation takes an involved thought process which is lacking on this board.

usgov

If Ft Detrick is BRAC'd in 2014/15 it's a lock Frederick County will enter bankruptcy.

LucyLucy

And if Frederick County enters into bankruptcy then who takes control does a county manager take control?

I know in places that if a city goes bankrupt then a manager takes over, depending on how the laws are written so what would HAPPEN if Frederick County went BANKRUPT, maybe that is Blaine's ultimate goal?

watson4sherlock

Actually I don't think the government changes they just file a petition with the bankruptcy court so they can have their debts reorganized. It could mean creditors, bondholders, and pensioners loose all or part of what they are owed. Stockton, California filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Wages and taxes are a priority debt so those can't be discharged in bankruptcy.

LucyLucy

Wait just a minute, why are our property taxes going up when just last year we were sent rebate checks because the county had surplus of property taxes?

I am like totally confused and MAD....and stunned at the audacity the BoCC displays on a daily basis...well most of them anyway.

The overhaul will abolish the fire tax and simultaneously raise property taxes from 93.6 cents per $100 of assessed value to $1.064 per $100 of assessed value. The changes will result in no net increase for most property owners, but some will see their combined rate jump by 4.8 cents per $100.

NASCARLOVER

"audacity" is being very generous, they are an outrage[sad]

Perhapsnotyet

I guess it is not good to be that 23 percent Lucy. If in fact you are in that group. I suspect it is the people that were paying the lower fire taxes.

louie

That was just a PR stunt.

kaihagen

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200357205787328&set=a.1043941293359.2007866.1070401288&type=3&theater

LucyLucy

Wow,,,interesting to see what happens when the REPUBLICANS are in total control..that was a great graphic. Thanks.

MCEDDE21

Yes. The bar graph is quite telling. But, I still have a couple of questions: If BY & Co. have eliminated 432 County jobs, how can they possibly be spending more now than in every prior year? Where is all the money going?

NASCARLOVER

Good information, nice job[smile]

president8444

As I read some comments ,as they print no increases in costs the past few years are not real.Just BOCC bashing.All my expenses have gone up ,even groceries.Our world is expensive now.

xroads1213

We have the most excellent schools in the state and are probably in the top ten in the country. That's what I keep hearing anyway. I think we will still be the best without the additional money. Keep up the good work.

steven09

Actually not. I'm not sure where you got your information. Determinations are subjective because different organizations use different factors in their equation, but most independent reports have Montgomery and Howard the best in the state, and neither of those is really close to Loudon and Arlington in Virginia. An argument can be made that FCPS has the third best in the state, but not by much. Most studies rank Frederick County as third to fifth in the state.

steven09

Here is a reputable link that lists Frederick County (2010-2011) as third in the state, based on college readiness. http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/maryland/districts

Here is another that lists us as fifth. http://www.schooldigger.com/go/MD/districtrank.aspx

Nationally, Frederick County would place in the top 10 percent, but far from the top 10 overall.

armillary

Since Blaine has our county infected
your career has become disrespected
so keep counting your days
and your one percent raise
and remember your job's unprotected.

guido207

The Blaine Young BOCC spending is out of control. In the last 3 years, spending has increased $78 million or 18% ($438 million FY 2011 to $516 FY 2014). The Jan Gardner BOCC increased spending just $2 million over their 4 years or 0.5% ($436 million FY 2007 to $438 million FY 2011). The record spending of this BOCC makes the Obama Administration look like Ebenezer Scrooge.

To top it off, the Blaine Young BOCC has raised our taxes. Giving everything away to developers must be very expensive.

Kudos to David Gray, apparently the only "real" republican on the Board, who voted against this budget and the tax increase.

kaihagen

Might be a good idea to mention that this is the largest budget in county history (and that each budget by this BOCC has gotten bigger than the one before it).

Also worth noting that there have been no tax cuts, except for developers, and that roughly 20% of the county residents just got a tax increase.

fkeough

How hilarious you remain Kai! This BoCC actually paid its bill (remember OPEB?) and made important cuts in government. Are you missing some service you want me to pay for, Kai? Farrell Keough

mllposey

If Kai and friends had made it through in 2010, I shudder to think of what the budget would be by now... increase of MoE, broken Fire service, maintaining 200+ fees and programs like Head Start, throwing good money after bad toward Citzen's/Montevue, and we'd have no support for WTE and would end up eating our trash... You had your turn, Kai...

LucyLucy

Well Ms. Posey prepare yourself because you are about to see a BoCC comprised fully of Democrats....which are the true Fiscal conservatives need I remind you. Who has voted 37 TIMES to repeal Obamacare at the tune of costing us the TAXPAYERS $50 MILLION dollars? It wasn't the Democrats.

LucyLucy

LOL yes I realized my mistake that STUPID CHARTER government thing passed, which I never voted for BTW, so there will be no more BoCC...

fnfn

Blaine's nonsense of giving $100 to each home was just a ploy to try to influence the homes with lower assessed value, that is more likely paying his opposition to change some of their minds.

I wish our city had not cut our bulk trash pickup since it helped to keep our city less cluttered.

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