They held a hearing Wednesday on their proposed FY 2013 Budget.
A proposal to eliminate funding for non-profit organizations brought out a lot of people to Wednesday's Frederick County Commissioners' budget hearing at the Governor Thomas Johnson High auditorium. The spending plan for fiscal year 2013 totals $465,605,457, and sets aside $26,566,000 for non-profits, including about $10-million in property tax exemptions. But Commissioners' President Blaine Young has said he wants to bring that amount down to zero to encourage more citizens to contribute.
"Today, I say do not cut the 20 or more services provided by the Frederick County non-profits," said Agnes Ann Dannahee, whose comment summed up a lot of the testimony. She had some strong words for the Commissioners on how these cuts would affect on the less fortunate in society, such as children. "You plan on taking money from children who need important counseling services, and their parents are working. They don't qualify for Medicaid," she said. "Or maybe the children of parents who have lost their jobs, the children of maybe the county employees who jobs you cut. That's the Seton Center in Thurmont."
Reverend Michele Beedle, the senior pastor at the Christ Reformed United Church of Christ in Middletown, said that the savings from eliminating funding for non-profits amounts to $242,000. She said that's a tiny amount in a spending plan totaling more than $465-million. "If you take the width of a typical gymnasium, just over 65-feet long, and that represents the fullness of your recommended your budget, then the amount of savings is equivalent to this pea," she said, holding up a pea to make her point.
And her fellow pastor at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ, Mark Wakefield, said it was commendable for the Commissioners to be wise stewards of the people's money, but cutting funding for non-profits was a false economy. "Reducing or eliminating the modest funding today potentially shoulders us with a much larger bill, when as a result of cutbacks of services, our criminal justice or medical systems are asked to cope with even more cases," he said.
Prior to the hearing, a large number of citizens rallied outside of TJ High to protest funding cuts for non-profits. One of the speakers was Gary Brennan, President of the Frederick County Teachers Association. He said teachers and others were willing to sacrifice when the economy was in a slump, but it's coming back now. "And what we see more and more is decisions being made by the county based on ideology and not facts. We see decisions being made on very narrow interests instead of the broad interests of this community. And we see people making short-sighted decisions that are going have long term negative consequences on the quality of life in this great county," he said.
Many of the participants were carrying signs. One read "The case of human life is the first object of good government" which is a quote from Thomas Jefferson.
Even though some of the Commissioners support the elimination of funding for non-profits, Commissioners Vice President Paul Smith told the audience that he would like to see some social service agencies continue to receive county funding. They are the Frederick Community Action Agency, the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, The ARC of Frederick County and the 211 Hotline run by the Mental Health Association of Frederick County.
60 people signed up for Wednesday night's hearing. Commissioners' President Blaine Young said the hearing was to adjourn at 11:00 PM. Anyone who didn't get the chance to testify could have that opportunity on Thursday night at Winchester Hall.
The Commissioners are scheduled to hold worksessions on the budget on May 10th, 17th and 24th. Adoption is expected on June 7th.
The property tax rate, which will remain at the current 93.6-cents per $100 of assessed value, is scheduled for adoption on May 10th.