Another hearing is scheduled for next Monday.
.Frederick, Md (KM). The first of two hearings on the Frederick County Executive’s proposed fiscal year 2018 operating budget was held Tuesday night.
The County Council heard from Elizabeth Brown of Frederick, who volunteers at the Animal Shelter. She said she supports the County Executive’s proposal to add two kennel staffers and an animal control officer.
Brown said the current staff does an excellent job caring for the animals, but they can’t take care of all of the dogs and cats who come in, especially dogs who become terrified while being confined in cages. She says they often growl and nip at people. “Not enough of kennel staff means that staff spend all their time barely keeping up with cleaning cages, cleaning kennels, doing laundry and dishes, medicating, feeding and providing other basic care duties,” she said. “Often, the staff have no time to sit with the scared animals to help them adjust and the animals must be euthanized.”
Brown also said some baby kittens suffer as well due to the staff shortage. “Tiny two-week-old kittens brought in without their moms, they need syringe feeding every two hours. There are very few foster care providers who can do this. We all have jobs, right. And if there are not enough staff, it can’t get done, and sometimes these little guys have to be euthanized too,” she said.
County Executive Jan Gardner last week introduced her fiscal year 2018 budget which totals more than $581-million.
Also speaking in favor of the spending plan was Dana McDonald, the Vice President of Finance and Human Resources at Frederick Community College. She said she supports the County Executive’s proposal to provide $700,000 to FCC for cost of living increases for employees. “These funds help the college keep education affordable for our students by minimizing any increases in tuition, ” she said.
But McDonald said FCC will increase tuition by .84%, less than 1% for in-county students. “This would mean an increase of $35 per semester for full time students taking 12 credits,” she said.
McDonald also urged the Council to support County Executive Gardner’s capital budget for FCC which totals $4.9-million dollars.
Jason Miller of Mount Airy told the Council he has read the budget, and noted that the County Executive describes public safety as her second priority in the budget. But he questions that. “When you read the budget, you’ll notice that when it comes to fire and rescue services, this budget cuts 19.4% of the professional services it renders,” he said.
He also said there are cuts in other areas of public safety. “Even though they increased the Emergency Communications budget by 13%, they actually decreased the Division of Emergency Management by 7.4%. And they also basically cut Emergency Preparedness by .28%,” he said.
The County Executive’s office says Fire and Rescue Services is receiving a 4% increase in its budget. The Sheriff’s Office is getting an boost in funding of 3.06%, and Emergency Management is receiving a 11.36% increase in funding.
The Council will hold a second hearing on the budget next Monday, April 24th. That will cover the Board of Education’s share of the spending plan.
In other action, the Council agreed to hold a hearing on May 2nd on whether to set the property tax rate at the Constant Yield. That rate for the County would be $1.0359 per $100 of assessed value, and would bring in the same amount of revenue to the county in fiscal year 2018 that it does now. The county’s current property tax rate is $1.06 per $100 of assessed value. The County Executive has said her budget depends on keeping the rate as it is presently.
Also, at the request of Councilman Tony Chmelik, the Council agreed to pull a bill which would allow limited private event venues on farmland. Chmelik said the bill needs some work. “Sometimes, you have an idea but it’s not always the best when it comes out,” he said. “And you listen to folks, and you hear their feedback and you realize you might have to fix something.” He also said there was no chance it would pass the Planning Commission.
Chmelik says he hopes to bring the bill back in the future.
By Kevin McManus