Frederick County will set aside $30 million in surplus revenue to fund four projects — with $22 million of it to consider building new Middletown elementary, middle and high schools.
Funding for the Middletown campus project includes money for an initial study of roughly one year.
“One option is to do nothing, and these budget revenue amounts could simply sit and roll over two budget years into the future,” Chief Administrative Officer Rick Harcum said of the county’s surplus during a County Council meeting Tuesday. “The other option is to choose to do something with this right now.”
County Executive Jan Gardner, D, said it’s likely that there will be three new school buildings, but there is no commitment until the study is done.
Three new buildings on the Middletown campus are expected to cost about $220 million, according to Gardner.
It might cost around $40 million for a new Middletown Elementary School, between $60 million and $70 million for the middle school and about $120 million for the high school, Jennifer Peterson, the county’s assistant budget director, said during the council meeting.
“This is just setting some funds aside to get it started,” Peterson said of the $22 million.
The seven-member County Council voted 4-2 in favor of spending the surplus revenue for the four projects.
Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer, Vice President Michael Blue and Council Jessica Fitzwater and Kai Hagen voted in favor. Keegan-Ayer, Fitzwater and Hagen are Democrats. Blue is a Republican.
Councilmen Steve McKay and Phil Dacey, both Republicans, were opposed. Councilman Jerry Donald, D, was absent.
“I don’t object to the goal of incrementally funding a large project,” McKay said during the meeting. “My objection is that it just seems premature to do it in this way.”
McKay said the spending should have been part of the county’s normal budget process, and that the county should have waited until the start of the new fiscal year in July before allocating surplus funds. Gardner disagreed.
“I don’t know what that means,” she said during a phone interview Friday. “This is the normal budget process.”
The county will still have around $25 million in surplus revenue to carry over to Fiscal Year 2024, which is similar to the surplus the county has carried over in previous years, Gardner said.
The county will allocate $3.4 million to help pay for county vehicle replacements, which have become more scarce and expensive with supply chain disruptions.
Another $3 million will go to the county’s Housing Initiatives Fund for workforce housing projects and to support first-time homebuyers.
The county will spend $1.6 million for Chromebook computer replacements for elementary school students in Frederick County Public Schools. The school district is projected to have a Chromebook for every elementary schooler by the fall, and it already has one for every middle and high school student.
The council is scheduled to vote on Tuesday to approve a budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.