She says it contains ‘big ideas, cutting edge initiatives.’
Frederick, Md (KM) It’s been a year of big ideas, cutting edge initiatives, new infrastructure and accomplishments. That’s how Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner describes 2018.
During her Thursday public information briefing, Gardner presented the county’s Annual Report and Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2018. “A recently completed outside audit of the county’s Annual Financial Report had absolutely no findings,” she said. “Our fiscal house is in order, thanks to the finance staff and our budgeting staff, and all that they do every year to keep all of us moving forward in a positive manner with really well managed and conservative budgeting and financial practices.”
She also said taxpayers have been benefiting. “Tax rates, both property and income taxes, have remained constant over the past four years,” says Gardner. “We have not raised or changed tax rates.”
The release of both reports are a requirement under the county charter. The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report covers the county through fiscal year 2018 which ended on June 30th, 2018.
With all of these developments, Gardner says the county’s economy continues to hum along. “So the number of jobs in Frederick County this year topped at 102,000. Our September unemployment rate remained lower than the state and national average at about three-and-a-half percent, and our economy continues to thrive,” she said. “The diversity of our job growth over nine different business and industry sectors gives our economy strength and resilience, and business really is booming.”
She also said her administration has continued to put more money into public education. “Funding for Frederick County public schools exceeded maintenance of effort by $14-million,” says Gardner. “It’s important to note that the share of the budget set aside for K-12 public education has been increasing over the past four years. So we now dedicate 52% of our budget towards education.”
Recently, the Maryland State Department of Education introduced a new “report card” for the state’s public schools which uses a numeric score and a one-to-five star rating. It’s designed to make school rating easier to understand. The County Executive said local schools can go to the head of the class. “Now, Frederick County public schools performed exceptionally well. Most of school earned four or five stars, and no school had fewer than three stars.” Five stars are considered tops, and one star puts a school at a very low level, according to MSDE.
Locally, Frederick County opened two new schools during the fall: Butterfly Ridge Elementary and Sugarloaf Elementary. “These beautiful new schools added much needed school capacity and will serve our community well for generations. They really are beautiful schools with great educational amenities for our students,” says Gardner.
In addition, demolition began on Urbana Elementary School. Plans are to build a new facility which is expected to open in 2020.
Gardner also pointed to accomplishments in the area of public safety. She said the county made progress on implementing next generation 911. “Next generation 911 technology will improve the accuracy of call locations–since pretty everyone is calling on a cell phone–we’ll be able to know where they’re located with really exact locations must faster than we can today,” she said. Gardner also noted with next generation 911, callers can send video to dispatchers from accident or fire scenes.
The Annual Report and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2018 are both available on the county’s website (www.frederickcountymd.gov), and will be formally presented to the County Council on Tuesday, December 18th, 2018.
By Kevin McManus