ANNAPOLIS — The governor’s proposed budget would grant more dollars to Frederick County, but it again leaves out funding for the proposed downtown Frederick hotel and conference center.
Total aid to the county, including retirement payments, would increase 2.7 percent from $299,846,000 to $307,946,000 if the Legislature adopts Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) fiscal 2019 budget.
The budget, introduced Wednesday, again did not include capital funding for the proposed downtown Frederick hotel and conference center.
For the past three fiscal years, lawmakers have added money for the project to the budget, and Frederick’s Democratic representatives anticipate doing so again.
Sen. Ron Young (D-District 3) said he will continue to work to get the $15 million bond added during this General Assembly session. While both chambers work simultaneously on budget issues, the budget approval process starts in the Maryland Senate this year, before shifting to the House of Delegates.
“They’ve already pledged to me here that it would be in,” Young said Wednesday, gesturing to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.’s seat in the front of the chamber. “We’ll get it in. The sooner it’s in, the better. It makes it easier.”
Sen. Michael Hough (R-District 4) said he was pleased that the capital funding was not included in the governor’s budget, though he was not surprised.
“[The governor is] respecting the will of the delegation. We’ve asked not to put money in that. And why would they? They’re nowhere near on this thing. They’re still changing the plans. It’s not like they’re moving dirt or anything,” Hough said.
Local legislators’ views
Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D-District 3A) criticized the budget for not addressing the impact of sweeping changes to federal tax law and the possibility that the federal government may not reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Hogan has said he would introduce legislation to mitigate the impact of federal tax reform on Marylanders.
Lewis Young, and the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition, said they were disappointed that pay increases for behavioral health providers, which legislators previously approved, were lower than expected. Last year’s HOPE Act, which aimed to address the heroin and opioid epidemic, called for a 3.5 percent pay raise for providers. The budget presented Wednesday, however, set aside about $1.32 million for 14 behavioral health providers, an increase of just over 2 percent.
Lewis Young also lamented a proposed shift of some state costs for local Department of Assessments and Taxation offices. Under the governor’s spending plan, counties would be expected to pay 90 percent of some expenses compared with the current 50 percent share.
Delegate David E. Vogt III (R-District 4) said he was pleased with the budget, particularly an expansion of programs for people with autism, increased K-12 education funding and economic development initiatives.
He added that holding tuition growth at Maryland’s public colleges and universities to 2 percent was a highlight.
Money on the move
The county’s share of highway user revenue again increased in Hogan’s proposed operating budget. Frederick County would see an increase in funding from $2.1 million to $2.2 million. The highway user revenue funds would be split, with $1.37 million going to the county and $830,395 going to municipalities.
Highway user revenue funding had sharply declined over the past decade, but it has recently increased. In 2007, Frederick County received around $13.8 million.
Hogan’s $4.6 billion capital budget also included money for several transportation projects that will affect the county.
The governor set aside $22 million for a traffic relief plan for Interstate 270 and Interstate 495 along with $28.8 million for congestion mitigation projects along I-270.
The capital budget would also fund work on the Md. 85 interchange at I-270 at $19.7 million.
Delegate Carol Krimm (D-District 3A) said the I-270 funding was important, but it was also imperative to support transit options for the county.
Overall transportation aid to the county would increase 16 percent to $6.015 million, if the budget passed as drafted.
Cash for the classroom
Hogan’s budget proposal increased K-12 education aid to Frederick County, including employee retirement costs, by 2.4 percent over last fiscal year to a total of nearly $280 million.
The capital budget includes $4 million in the coming fiscal year toward the $48.51 million Butterfly Ridge Elementary School project and $8.51 million toward the $41.85 million Sugarloaf Elementary School project.
The capital budget would also set aside about $9.84 million over the next three fiscal years to renovate the Maryland School for the Deaf’s Veditz building. The school aims to renovate both levels of the space to house the Career Technology Education program and add classrooms.
It also budgets $16.32 million over the next five years toward a proposed $22.88 million project to construct several new facilities at the school, including a new high school boys’ residence and student center, high school girls’ residence, middle school residence, satellite health center, and central offices.
Frederick Community College would be slated to receive $6 million to renovate and add onto its Building E.
The new $3.78 million Myersville Library, planned to be built near Harp Place Park, will get $750,000 in state support.
Other capital budget line items
Other proposed budgeted items specific to Frederick County included:
- $985,000 for a wastewater collection system in Lewistown.
- $960,000 for a wastewater treatment plant in Lewistown.
- $65,000 to resurface roads in Cunningham Falls State Park.
- $83,000 to improve Burkittsville Memorial Park.
- $84,000 to improve Stonegate Park basketball court.
- $250,000 to New Spire Arts.
Staff writer Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.