Frederick County government appears to have emerged from the last budget year with roughly $74 million in unspent funds, far more than officials had expected.
The figure is an estimate based on unaudited county finances, but it’s the highest balance in recent memory and a “once-in-a-career opportunity,” Chief Administrative Officer Rick Harcum said.
During the onset of the pandemic, local officials braced for county tax revenues to plummet. As a result, county government was especially conservative in its spending.
Moreover, large county businesses found ways to adapt and avoid mass layoffs, Harcum said, and higher-than-expected income taxes contributed to the current fund balance.
Plans have been laid out for use of much of the fund balance, which came for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The council on Tuesday approved $32 million for the county to purchase and upgrade a 26-acre property on Oak Street in Frederick, and Councilman Michael Blue (R) is pushing for some homeowners to receive a $175 property tax rebate, which would account for another $7.5 million.
Roughly $27 million will be carried over to the county’s 2023 fiscal year budget, Chief Financial Officer Lori Depies said. This leaves between $5 million and $10 million of the fund balance for County Executive Jan Gardner (D) to put toward a series of initiatives she plans to introduce in the coming weeks.
At the state level, larger-than-expected revenue growth — largely a result of federal stimulus funds — resulted in a $2.5 billion fund balance, according to the Maryland comptroller’s office. The Baltimore Sun reported last year’s state surplus was $585 million.