She talks about the county’s AAA bond rating, ethics reform, Citizens & Montevue.
Frederick, Md (KM) During her public information briefing on Tuesday, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner touted the county’s accomplishments for 2016. “We are two years into the new form of government, and charter government continues to deliver good government and good results,” she said. “That’s what taxpayers expect, and that’s what taxpayers deserve.”
Gardner said the county’s financial house is in order. “Tax rates have remained constant for fiscal years ’16 and ’17. And in fiscal year ’16, the year ended June 30th of 2016, local property tax revenue exceeded the budget by $5.7-million; income tax distribution exceeded the budget by $10.4-million. And that’s really reflective of our conservative budgeting practices,” she said.
“Overall, the general fund budget grew by about four-and-a-half percent, just similar to surrounding jurisdictions and actually slightly lower than the state of Maryland,” Gardner said. “Funding for our Frederick County Public Schools exceeded maintenance of effort by about $10.5-million.”
She also said the county has a AAA bond rating from all three of the major bond rating agencies in the country, which a distinction few counties have.
County Council President Bud Otis spoke about the passage of a strong ethics ordinance for the county. “Our citizens can be assured that we have a strong commitment to ethics in Frederick County,” he said. “In fact, our ethics bill goes beyond the state law of ethics, and your elected officials must be held to a higher standard and avoid the appearance of any unethical behavior.”
One big accomplishment that County Executive Gardner spoke about was the county retaining Citizens Care and Rehabilitation and Montevue Assisted Living Centers. She said the business model of Citizens making money and subsidizing Montevue appears to be working. “Retaining Citizens and Montevue means that we kept the promise to our seniors, we honored the covenant and the deed of the land, and we’re taking care of our own and our indigent elderly in a fiscally responsible manner,” she said.
The previous Board of County Commissioners voted in 2013 to sell the facilities to Aurora Holdings. During the 2014 campaign, Gardner promised to keep the property in county hands. An agreement with Aurora was worked out earlier this year.
When it comes to schools, County Executive Gardner pointed to efforts by the county to be able to fund two new elementary schools–Butterfly Ridge in the western half of Frederick, and Sugarloaf, planned for the Urbana area–and keep construction of the new Frederick High School going. Council Vice President MC Keegan-Ayer spoke to that. “It was a funding conundrum,” she said. “But in the end, all the parties came together and found an innovative strategy to fund these new elementary schools, at the same time, successfully completing a new Frederick High School. And I’m very proud of this result.”
The new Frederick High School is scheduled to open in August, 2017.
As she was concluding the public information briefing, Gardner said the cost of the first two years of charter government is about $35-million, which is the same cost as the first two years of the last county commissioner government. “Yet in those first two years, they were laying off employees, privatizing, there was no investment in all in education,” she said. “But we’ve changed the priorities. And with the same amount of money, we are investing again in education, we’re valuing our employees, we’re partnering with our human service non-profit agencies to meet the needs of our community.”
“Life is good in Frederick County,” said Gardner.
By Kevin McManus