The Frederick County Council recently approved a $717 million operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The 2022 plan proposed by County Executive Jan Gardner increases spending by nearly 8 percent.

For the seventh straight year, Gardner (D) proposed keeping the county’s property tax rate at $1.06 per $100 of assessed home value, and as in past years, there was some pushback on that decision.

Republican council members Steve McKay and Phil Dacey proposed reducing the rate to $1.033, called the constant yield rate to hold tax collections to the current level. That would have meant cutting more than $6 million from the budget, but the council declined.

The pair raised the issue again during the vote on the overall budget, but it was again shot down. County Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) offered a graphic — if somewhat inelegant — reaction: “This horse is dead in the gutter, and it’s a bloody mess now.”

Dacey persisted, and was the only member to vote against the budget, which passed 6-1.

Dacey argued the council had a responsibility to soften the impact of the county’s “skyrocketing” property values, News-Post reporter Jillian Atelsek wrote.

The council member knows that tax increases are cushioned under the current system of tax reassessment. Our properties are reassessed every three years, and then, if the assessment is higher, the increase is phased in over three years. That does soften the impact.

The wisdom of keeping the tax rate flat is that it allows the county to pay for the growth that has been approved, with revenue increasing each year.

Dacey was correct when he said the division within the council comes down to a “philosophical difference.” He argued that, rather than asking how much money the county has available to spend, the council should ask, “What can the county get by on?”

Council member Kai Hagen (D) replied: “Sometimes our goal is a little more than just getting by.”

Council member Jerry Donald (D) said the budget represented a responsible use of taxpayer money. The county spending is growing, he said, because the county is growing. The government needs money to keep up with the needs of a growing population.

We agree with Hagen, Donald and the others voting to allow revenue to rise. We do not see the role of the county government as squeaking by on as little money as possible. The council has the duty to assess programs and projects, approve what needs to be done, and then raise the revenue to pay for it.

While Dacey and McKay criticized Gardner for increasing spending by 18.9 percent over three years, McKay admitted that he supported almost all of the programs in this year’s budget.

The 2022 budget includes about $365 million in education, $21.5 million above the state-required funding. Much of this spending will address the lingering affects of educational disruption caused by the COVID pandemic.

It also includes money for the county health department to open a satellite location on W. Patrick Street to address health disparities and provide services to the largely minority communities of west Frederick.

It sets a new pay scale so all county employees will make at least $15 per hour. It allocates $1 million to boost broadband service in rural areas of the county.

Those are all real needs for real county residents and real county employees. There will be more programs in the future. For example, the county is studying moving its fleet of buses and cars to electric vehicles, to address the issue of carbon pollutions and climate change. That will cost money too.

Yes, often our goal should be “a little more than just getting by.”

(13) comments

Plumbum

FNP is critiquing the county.

But how bout us readers critique the FNP?

n) FNP is not proof reading stories from its writers. The story about the teen arrested with a handgun is one of many examples.

n) the FNP is unable to retain employees. Lack the ability to get papers delivered.

n) desperate to get people to subscribe. But fail to realize that the racial, the harrassing, and the trolling commenter comments play a part in deterring people from subscribing. The FNP allows the aforementioned to occur on a daily basis, nearly making it appear that it’s culture here. Even Facebook has a strict code of conduct.

n) anytime there are serious problems with a business or govt - it’s traced back to the top of command. Might be time for Ogden to take a look at who they have managing the FNP.

Frayou

For decades local politicians encouraged pro growth policies. They would explain the reason was to provide new taxes to pay for additional infrastructure, including schools. Now that the county is experiencing the effects of growth and its related problems politicians refuse to decrease the tax rate (7 years now and counting) to generate more tax revenues to provide for additional infrastructure revenue. Continuing circle. Tax more. Spend more. Never ending. Local, State & Federal. Something will eventually give. Unfortunately, it won’t be BIG Government.

MD1756

"County's goal should be to address needs" ... Agreed, but what we don't agree on are what are the "needs" versus what are the "wants." In my opinion, the government is spending too much money on wants and not enough on needs. It is taking over more of the responsibilities of parents and other citizens while not fully funding infrastructure or other obligations such as pensions for employees.

beyoungjr

[thumbup]

FrederickFan

The budget was designed to help our community - people and businesses - and our schools recover from the pandemic. It is exactly what we need to do.

Dwasserba

“Much of this spending will address the lingering affects...” effects. 🙄

stjohn42

I am sure the folks who have to plow their own streets in the winter, collect their own garbage, and fix their own potholes due to budget cuts will appreciate the < $150 a year savings in taxes.

jsklinelga

Yes, often our goal should be “a little more than just getting by.”

What is happening in this country, as in the county, is now more than a philosophical difference. In the past the "philosophical" differences were hashed out and a middle ground solution moved us forward. The middle ground is disappearing.

Prudence and reason are fast disappearing. It does not take a rocket scientist nor Wharton School graduate to know that our lust for "spending" is beginning to show dangerous trends in our financial landscape.

Many a family lived a comfortable and secure life spending what was needed not what was desired and saving for the future. Governments used to have the same philosophy.

stevemckay

Well said

beyoungjr

Thank you for trying S.M. There is no focus on eliminating waste and getting excessive spending under control. So many levels operating ineffectively. Better to get to a zero-base budget model and make every department justify every dollar!

Plumbum

Totally agree. From family life style - keeping up with the Jones. To government.

Our sheriffs office is something I pay close attention to more than any other part of the county government. The wasteful spending for anything involving the county (not just fcso) needs to end

The sheriffs office has a sheriff riding around in a pretty dern sweet police vehicle. Many do not know this - but the county has been doing DOT enforcement for a number of years now. Ok, how many here realize that one of the county DOT enforcement vehicles is a Ford F-350, crew cab, 4wd pick up truck? Huge mass of county tax payer money spent on this truck, presuming the county bought it. And I say this because there was a time when police agencies used confiscated vehicles from drug dealers.

public-redux

“...beginning...”?

Where have you been for the last 40 or so years?

beyoungjr

[thumbup]

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