It would add more than $3-million to the fiscal year 2022 spending plan.
Frederick, Md (KM) Members of the Frederick County Council are considering a proposal to increase the current budget by $3,729,194. Part of the money would be used to establish two new departments within the Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources; The department of climate and energy, and the stormwater department.
Also, $2,203,435 would be used for clean energy projects such as the purchase of electric vehicles for the county.
These proposals from County Executive Jan Gardner are expected to address climate change.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Steve McKay asked why the Council is considering this funding request now rather than during the budget process which is expected to begin soon. “My objection right now–here and now– is why we’re doing it in this way outside of the normal budget process, and using one-time funds for recurring expenses which I’m told repeatedly we don’t do,” he said.
Chief Administrative Officer Rick Harcum says the County has a budget surplus so the money is available now. “You’re right. We could just take this into next year’s budget process, and delay all of this for six months waiting on a governmental process to take hold,” he said. “But why? Why not just do it now.”
In addition to purchasing electric vehicles at a cost of $350,000, the Budget Journal and the Amended Budget Process includes $100,000 to contribute to the design of microgrids and photovoltaic installations with a battery backup for a county facility, which could be 800 Oak Street; along with $650,000 for the buy down cost of photovoltaic installation with battery backup for a county facility, which could be at 800 Oak Street. There are also plans to use $300,000 to conduct an internal operational Climate and Energy Action Planning process with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; and $823,435.44 cents to help pay for a Greenhouse Gas Strategy and Climate Resilience Strategy which is underway.
Councilman Phil Dacey expressed his opposition. “More of the surplus should go back to the taxpayers. I’m still disappointed that we could not return more of the surplus back to taxpayers. But I certainly don’t agree with adding continuing spending using the surplus. It’s going to put into a deeper hole next year,” he said.
But Councilman Kai Hagen said climate change is real. “This is a climate emergency. We declared it a climate emergency. Or we agreed in our county resolution it is a climate emergency I should say,”; he said.,
The Council is expected to hold a hearing on this Budget Journal and Amended Budget Ordinance next Tuesday.
While they may not have agreed on these proposed budget changes, the Council expressed unanimous support for a new Council redistricting map which was developed by a citizens commission.
The panel decided to move the Libertytown and Unionville/Linganore Grange Hall Precincts from District 2 to District 5. Councilman Steve McKay, who represents District 2, supported the change. “And that’s coming from my personal perspective now whose losing predominantly Republican precincts. And that’s okay. If it makes it a little tougher for me, fine. I’ll have to be a better candidate because this is the right solution, the fair solution,” he says.
Also supporting it was Councilman Jerry Donald who represents the 1st District. “And even though we live in a bitter partisan time, and one that seems to be getting worse. I think what we’re about to do is a big deal. It’s not a small deal. Nobody else is doing this. I kid you not. Nobody else is doing this. We’re gonna play it fair,”: he said.
Donald is a Democrat who narrowly won his last two elections for District 1.
The Council is scheduled to vote on this map next Tuesday.
By Kevin McManus