She says revenues are growing ‘modestly,’ but tax rates will remain the same in fy 2018.
Frederick, Md (KM). As she prepares her fiscal year 2018 operating budget, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner says revenues continue to grow slowly. During her public information briefing on Thursday, Gardner said the base budget, the expenditures side, is up by just over 1%. That includes spending for such items as maintenance of effort for the school system, and insurance. She says that totals out to $568.1-million.
“Estimated revenues are projected to grow modestly to about $581.9-million, an increase of between three to four-percent as a result of modest increases in property values from our most recent assessment, and a modest increase in incomes,” says Gardner.
Gardner also says she expects to have $14-million in unallocated funds. But the requests coming in from county agencies total more than $32-million.
But those numbers could change. “Now, in many years as we get closer to the budget presentation in April, we tweak these numbers upward because we have better information,” she says. “This year, we expect that we may tweak some of these numbers downward. So these revenues projections may actually be tweaked down a little bit because of the flattening of income tax revenue.”
But there is some good news about fiscal year 2018. “The proposed budget is being developed with no tax rate increases. We will live within our means. One of my goals is always to protect taxpayers while providing effective and efficient services.”
During her Thursday presentation, Gardner said there is also some good news when it comes to the capital budget, especially school construction. “Frederick High School is under construction right now, will open to students in September of this year,” she said. “Not only will this be a new state-of-the-art school. It will include a new and innovative instructional program called LYNX, Linking Youth to New Experiences.”
Gardner says the county hopes to break ground next month for Butterfly Ridge Elementary in the Hillcrest areas of Frederick, and Sugarloaf Elementary School in Urbana. “Both will open to students in the fall of 2018,” she says. ” And will help to relieve school overcrowding in those parts of the county, but will certainly not completely eliminate it so there are more schools needed to come behind it.”
The County Executive said other projects in the works include a feasibility study of Waverly Elementary School to determine if expansion or a new building is necessary; along with a new Urbana Elementary School and a replacement for the Rock Creek School; also, a new eastern county elementary school.
Gardner says the county should be able to fund these projects in the future. “School construction costs or bids have come in at budget or even a bit below budget,” she said. “We have been able to identify savings through value engineering. And as a result of earning three AAA bond ratings, this allows us to expand our debt capacity and make our money go farther because we lower interest rates and lower debt service payments on our schools.”
County Executive Gardner will hold a public hearing on Monday, March 20th at 7:00 PM at Winchester Hall to hear from citizens what they want to see in the fiscal year 2018 budget.
By Kevin McManus