County Executive Discussed Proposals For 2017 Legislative Package

School Construction Work Group also presents some recommended legislation.

Frederick, Md (KM) A number of proposals were put forward on Tuesday for Frederick County’s  2017 Legislative Package. During a public information briefing on Tuesday, County Executive Jan Gardner discussed several bills and position statements.

One would exempt emergency hotel stays from the local hotel tax. “Human service agencies in Frederick, specifically the Religious Coalition and SHIP {Student Homelessness Initiative Partnership}, have spent about $70,000 over the last year to provide hotel rooms for emergency family shelter,” she said.

Gardner said there could be a number of reasons for emergency family shelter in a hotel. “That can be because they’re leaving an abusive situation; they’ve been evicted from their housing due to a job loss or other economic hardship; or they simply had an unstable housing situation to start with,” she said.

The County would only lose an estimated $3500 in hotel tax revenue if this bill passed, says Gardner.

Other measures come from the Frederick County Farm Bureau. “They want to support efforts to establish a safety net insurance program that would supplement a dairy farmer’s income when milk prices fall below a certain establish threshold,” she said. “They also want support for programs to control populations of deer and bear. While we hear a lot about deer, it’s been more common to see  bears in certain parts of the county.”

Other Farm Bureau bills include promoting ag-tourism, funding to plant cover crops and agriculture education and legislation to deal with products made from genetically modified organisms. Another piece of legislation would let farmers use sludge as a nutrient supplement.

Gardner said counties and other municipalities want to restore highway user fund revenue. “This is our local share of the gas tax,” she said. “The counties and municipalities across the state use this for road maintenance and some local road improvements. And this  money was shifted from counties and municipalities during the recession.”

Frederick County was hit very hard. “As a result, in one fell swoop, Frederick County lost $13-million when 96% of the money was retained by the state,” says Gardner.

Also during Tuesday’s briefing, the School Construction Work Group presented its ideas for legislation. Chairman Mike Marshner said one proposal would put a three-year delay on any changes to the school construction process enacted by the Legislature. He said sudden changes can make it difficult for local school districts as they’re planning and building new facilities. “Sometimes, Ray {Barnes, Chief Operating Officer for Frederick County Public Schools} and his staff are working on school projects, and something comes  through the legislative process, which changes what his project has to do now, and he’s already engaged. He may already be fully funded at one level and now he’s got something new he’s got to accomplish,” says Marshner.

Other pieces of legislation would call on the state to maintain adequate reserve funding. “It might be appropriate to consider proposing legislation to create a state revolving loan fund for public school construction, not unlike what’s used for public water and wastewater systems throughout the state which has been a very successful program,” he says.

The Work Group is also proposing that the General Assembly pass a bill to create financial incentives for school districts which use try something different when it comes to design and construction of schools. “Right now, there’s just not that much incentive out there to have the local school systems to experiment  with new or innovative construction technology that could yield big savings,” says Marshner.

The County Executive will hold a town hall meeting on the 2017 Legislative Package on Thursday, October 6th at Winchester Hall at 7:00 PM.