It’s expected to complete its work by no later than Feb. 28th.
Frederick, Md (KM) For the next several weeks, the Frederick County Charter Review Commission will be considering proposals to make changes to the document which determines how county government works. “The Charter itself prescribes that there should be a process every ten years to take a look at it, see what might need improvement, what has worked and not worked well,” says Commission member Walter Olson.
One issue the Commission is discussing has to do with how the budget is crafted. “Should we look at, for example, giving the Council the power to add or transfer funds. Currently as in most Maryland counties, they can subtract funds, but they can’t add or transfer. So that’s one of the questions we’re looking at,” he says.
The budget is put together by the County Executive who releases the spending plan in April shortly after the General Assembly adjourns for the year. That way, the county knows how much state funding it will receive for the next fiscal year. After the budget is introduced, the Council has a short period of time to absorb what’s in the budget, and to schedule hearings and discussions before the May 31st deadline. If the Council cannot adopt a budget before that date, the spending plan originally introduced by the County Executive goes into affect.
Olson says the Commission will be looking at that issue. “Our County Council generally have day jobs and that’s makes all the harder for them to do the intense attention that they would need in order to kind of swing their weight as a competing branch of government,” he says.
The Commission is also looking at the current process for replacing the County Executive should that person has to step down, or dies in office. “There is a process for appointing a successor, but should the voters have a chance to weigh in if it happens in the first two years,” says Olson.
Changes to constituent Services is also under consideration, especially when it comes to citizen complaints to Council members about county government. “Those things are routed to the administration, and the members of the County Council often feel they don’t have enough involvement that the person got their problem solved,” says Olson. “There’s language in there that restricts them from a lot of contact with county employees.”
Olson says the Commission will consider recommendations for changing the charter until December 1st. “We’ll be spending weeks bringing the proposals,whatever they are, to the public, getting that public feedback, letting the public shoot down bad ideas that we may not have seen the faults in,”: he says. “And then revising or withdrawing proposals based on what the public tells us.
Olson says the final proposals will be presented to the County Council, which will vote on them They will be sent to the general election ballots for citizens to decide.
The Charter Review Commission’s next meeting is Thursday, November 7th at 7:00 PM at Winchester Hall.
By Kevin McManus