The annual report was released on Tuesday.
Frederick, Md (KM). It was a time to boast. Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner on Tuesday released the county’s annual report for 2017, which she says has a lot of good news. “2017 has certainly been a busy year. And it’s been a year energized by innovation. It’s been a year of big ideas, cutting edge initiatives and accomplishments for which we can all be proud in Frederick County,” she said.
Starting off with the financial report, Gardner said the county outlook in this area is strong. “And our long term conservative budgeting approach has really delivered good results, and has demonstrated that Frederick County government meets the highest financial standards,” she says. “A recently completed outside independent audit of the county’s financial report made absolutely no findings. Our fiscal hours is in order.”
When it comes to the budget, County Executive Gardner said the property and income tax rates have remain constant for the past three years, and the county does live within its means.
But there was a little extra revenue for the county in 2017. “In fiscal ’17,. property tax revenue exceeded budget by $2.9-million, and recordation taxes exceeded budget by $5.2-million. Our overall budget grew by modest 3/9%, pretty consistent with what happened across the state of Maryland,” says Gardner.
She also says funding for the school system’s budget exceeded maintenance of effort by $10-million. “And it’s important to note that the share of the budget that we set aside for K-12 has been growing over the past three years so we now dedicate 52% of our budget to education,” says County Executive Gardner. With that additional money, she says the school system has brought up the ranking for salaries of starting teachers in Frederick County compared to the rest of Maryland from 24 out of 24 to 18 out of 24.
But Gardner says one of the major accomplishments of the year was the establishment of ROOT. Located at 118 North Market Street, it a business incubator and houses several government and private agencies which assists start up companies.. “In 2018, just right around the corner, a new technology-focused business incubator will open on the first floor of ROOT, completing the vision. It will be the second business incubator and accelerator to operate under the umbrella of FITZI, the Frederick Innovative and Technology Center, Inc.,” she said.
Other initiatives Gardner cited include the groundbreaking for a new Walkersville Public Library; the drafting of “Livable Frederick” which will be presented to the Planning Commission next year; the hiring of 64 fire fighters; a new fire station in Middletown; the addition of 100,000 jobs to the local economy, and the unemployment rate in Frederick County in September dropping to 3.1% which is lower than the state and national averages.
It was also a time for members of the County Council to talk about accomplishments in 2017. Council Vice President MC Keegan-Ayer said she was happy to see a new Frederick High School open in the fall. “I can’t tell you the excitement I felt when I was able to walk through the doors of the newly rebuild Frederick High School,” she said. “I started advocating for that school 15 years ago when my oldest child was a freshman.” Keegan-Ayer also said she’s happy to see Butterfly Ridge Elementary School under construction. It’s expected to relieve overcrowding at Hillcrest Elementary.
Councilman Jerry Donald said he was happy to see additional funding for public safety. “We added over 40 new fire fighters and rescue personnel. We added police officers to our county deputies. And we have really tried to up our 911 staff so that we can be there when the call comes,”he said. Donald noted that the Council was able to keep the property tax rate at $1.06 per $100 of assessed value.
Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater is the liaison to the Affordable Housing Council and she noted that she and her colleagues were able to take action on that issue in 2017. “This year we passed a bill that increases the fee that developers pay if they opt to not build affordable units in their developments. And those funds will be used tor leverage for better housing developments in our community to make sure we can have those affordable units for our workforce to be able to afford to live here,” she said.
Fitzwater also said the Council passed an ordinance in 2017 to prohibit members from voting on rezoning requests from July 1st in an election year until after the new Council is seated.
By Kevin McManus