County Council Takes Testimony On County Executive’s Proposed FY ’17 Budget

It funds the School System beyond maintenance of effort.

The Frederick County Council began its work on the County Executive’s proposed fiscal year 2017 budget on Monday. Panel members took testimony on School System portion of the spending plan.

Many who spoke expressed support for the proposed budget which contains $10.5-million dollars over maintenance of effort. “If you fund the requested amount for FCPS, you will make a strong statement that public education matters in Frederick, that our schools are the cornerstone of a strong community, and that we value the work of our staff and students that do so much to make us proud,” says Dr. Theresa Alban, the Superintendent of Schools.

For years, the previous Board of County Commissioners approved budgets that provided maintenance of effort funding for the school system, which is the same percentage of appropriations it received the previous year. Many have said that didn’t help public schools keep up with inflation, and resulted in lower salaries for teachers and other staff.

Shirley McDonald, whose running for the Board of Education, says it’s time that teachers be paid a competitive wage. “By most accounts, Frederick is the seventh or eighth wealthiest county in the state. Yet our starting salary is lowest in the state,” she said. “Why should one of the wealthiest counties be ranked at the bottom when it comes to our students and our educators.”

“The $10.5-million, I think, represents a turning point, a turning of the corner for our school system. Hopefully, we are going from a budget of cuts and painful decisions to a budget of hope and wise investments in the future of Frederick County,” said Gary Brennan, a teacher at  Brunswick High School who lead the Frederick County Teachers Association when it fought with the Board of Education and former County Commissioners to try to get competitive salaries for teachers.

But there was some caution expressed about the proposed increase in appropriations for the School System. Jeff Holtzinger said he supports the school system and wants teachers to be well paid. “I think you’ve got to balance that against the interests of the people who are paying the bills,” he said. “You’re hearing story after story about hard it’s been. It’s been just as hard on the people who are paying the bills.” He called the funding of $10.5-million over maintenance of effort as  putting the county on a “bullet train to an unsustainable budget.”

Local businessman Joe Parsley called on the Council not to fund above maintenance of effort. “So I would caution you all to be very, very careful to increasing above maintenance of effort until you have fully figured  out where all of this money is going to come from,” he said.

The County Council will hold a hearing on Tuesday night on the non-school system parts of the budget beginning at 7:00 PM. Then the panel will hold an all-day workshop on the spending plan on Wednesday from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM.