The spending plan totals $560-million.
In a 4-3 vote on Tuesday, the Frederick County Council adopted operating and capital budgets for fiscal year 2017. The operating plan totals $560,266,355. The capital budget $125,570,832, and includes funding for the Board of Education, Frederick Community College, highways and municipalities.
Councilman Tony Chmelik cast his vote in opposition. “There’s a lot of good things in this budget, and there’s a few things I don’t like,” he said. “It’s unfortunate but I think that we could have offered not everything that was in this budget, but a good portion of it without keeping the Constant Rate and keeping the Constant Yield.”
But Councilman Jerry Donald called it a moderate budget which funds such services as police and fire and rescue. “If we’re going to support these things, we have to support the budget,” he said. “If we’re not going to support these things–if you’re going to say ‘I can’t vote for this budget, but;’ ‘I can’t vote for this budget because’–then you’re not supporting these things. So don’t go out and tell the policeman and don’t go out and tell the fire fighters, don’t go out and tell the public, you’re supporting all these things when you’re not if you’re not voting for the budget. That’s the way it works.”
Councilman Kirby Delauter also voted against the budget, saying any cuts made to the spending plan were minimal. “0.000375%: that’s what this Council cut. We might as well give the County Executive everything. This is two years in a row giving her everything. she wanted. We don’t cut everything,” he said.
Delauter also pointed out that he proposed an alternative budget with $8.9-million in cuts, with no reductions in education, and some reductions from Fire and Rescue Services. “This Council made the tough decision, extremely tough decisions, to cut $210,000 from a $560-million budget,” he said sarcastically.
But Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater called the budget “responsible.” She said she does not want to make budget reductions just for the sake of making cuts. “Some of the amendments that were brought forth were cutting essential fire and rescue staff, required stormwater retrofits that would basically result in us breaking the law and incurring fines if we don’t move forward; education spending cuts; cuts to community partnership grants; these are all things the community came out and said they supported,” she said.
Fitzwater joined Councilwoman MC Keegan-Ayer, and Councilmen Jerry Donald and Bud Otis voting in favor of the budget. Delauter, Chmelik and Councilman Billy Shreve voted in opposition. “It’s ridiculous that we have to raise taxes every year. The economy is tight enough. People are struggling to make ends meet, and we’re up here spending money like drunken sailors,” said Shreve.
The Council also voted 4-3 to keep the property tax rate at $1.06 per $100 of assessed value. Councilmen Shreve, Delauter and Chmelik voted against that, preferring to reduce the rate to the Constant Yield which would bring in the same amount of revenue to the county that it collected in fiscal year 2016.
The new budgets go into affect on July 1st, 2016, the first day of fiscal year 2017.