BG Annapolis Opens 16 - DG

Gov. Larry Hogan addresses the House side of the General Assembly on Wednesday in the State House in Annapolis. Speaker Michael E. Busch is in the background.

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget plan released Wednesday includes funding for a handful of Frederick County public education priorities.

About $336,599 is earmarked for the LYNX School, which stands for Linking Youth to New Experiences and is expected to open with the new Frederick High building next school year.

The governor’s office said the funding will enable the pilot school program to make apprenticeship a central focus of students’ experiences and give them opportunities to engage with businesses throughout their schooling.

Money in the capital budget — about $14 million — will be directed toward the construction costs for Frederick High School, Sugarloaf Elementary School and Butterfly Ridge Elementary School.

Other capital expenses would support construction or renovation projects at the Walkersville wastewater treatment plant, Cunningham Falls State Park, Frederick Community College, Carroll Manor Elementary School and Walkersville Middle School.

Notably missing from the budget was $15 million in bond support for the proposed downtown Frederick hotel and conference center. Democratic lawmakers said earlier this week they anticipated the absence, but will continue fighting for funding. A $1 million capital bond authorization for planning costs, however, is recommended to be deauthorized in 2018 and redirected to other projects.

Overall funding for Frederick County would increase 2.9 percent in fiscal 2018 to a proposed $300 million, which includes a portion of the pension and retirement benefits for school system employees. State payments for primary and secondary education to the county would increase by 2.3 percent under Hogan’s proposal.

But the budget is not entirely rosy.

Hogan’s budget plan addresses a $544 million budget deficit, partly by tapping financial reserves to avoid bigger cuts. During an outline of highlights Tuesday, Hogan said his plan for next year spends less than this year and “sounds too good to be true, but it is true.”

Still, lawmakers were finding out more about cuts as more of the budget plan became public Wednesday.

Money previously approved for initiatives aimed at helping Baltimore, including a scholarship program and after-school programs, was among items omitted from the governor’s proposal.

The governor’s plan also cuts back on wage increases for people who provide community services for the developmentally disabled, part of a law passed in 2014, when lawmakers raised the state’s minimum wage to keep those providers’ pay above minimum wage. The law included a 3.5 percent rate increase annually over four years, but the budget scales that back to a 2 percent increase, said Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles.

Salaries for state employees are frozen next year. The budget includes a number of contingency reductions — including those pay raises for care providers — that lawmakers can reinstate if they find the same amount of money to cut elsewhere.

Some areas of funding for counties are “flat funded” from previous years instead of receiving formula-driven increases, according to the Maryland Association of Counties. Those include local health departments and police aid to counties.

In another area, expenses normally incurred by the state are being shifted to counties. For example, counties would be expected to pay 70 percent of some of the costs at local Department of Assessments and Taxation offices, compared with the current 50 percent share. In fiscal 2019, the counties would pick up 90 percent of those costs.

One of the Maryland Association of Counties’ priorities in Annapolis is securing Highway User Revenue for counties. The figure set aside for 2018 is slightly less than in the current year.

The counties’ share of Highway User Revenue funding has sharply declined in recent years. In 2007, Frederick County received a high of approximately $13.8 million; in fiscal 2018, the proposed budget would send $2.1 million to the county.

Major transportation projects in the county that would receive funding in the proposed budget include $14.8 million to construct a new interchange on U.S. 15 at Monocacy Boulevard; $14.8 million for the interchange at Md. 85 and Interstate 270 in Frederick County; and $19.4 million to start a congestion mitigation project along I-270.

Statewide, the largest portion of the capital budget, about $2.8 billion, is spent on transportation projects.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

(2) comments

petersamuel

Time for the Mayor and Board to recognize this City sponsored hotel is never going to be built. It was always pitched to local taxpayers as being state financed. State agencies are now a wakeup to the con. Plus there are much better uses for state taxpayer money than this wasteful, ill-conceived, mismanaged monstrosity. The City picked a lousy site, specified an over-large, over-complicated building, and brought in too many parties. It is now eight years since the project began with a feasibility study and they haven’t even begun detailed design and site plans. State and city historic preservation rules will prevent demolition of he Birely Tannery building locking up a third of the site. Traffic access is awkward, parking problematic. Upfront costs are $84 million. Based on prospective revenues and costs the City’s own financial consultant valued the project on completion at about $30 million. Continuation of this huge loser is idiocy.

FrederickFan

Afzali strangely changed her vote to "no" on the downtown hotel after getting a $1,800 campaign contribution from the guy who owns the FSK Mall Holiday Inn.

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