They also listened to comments on revised police accountability board ordinance.
Frederick, Md. (KM) – There’s a considerable amount of money in for education in the Frederick County Executive’s fiscal year 2023 budget, and that was greatly appreciated by School Board President Brad Young. He spoke Tuesday night during a County Council hearing. “The proposed budget will advance our goal of increasing compensation for FCPS employees, enhancing services for students with disabilities, and addressing enrollment and supporting infrastructure needs,” he said.
Frederick County Teachers Association President Missy Dirks says the amount for education still falls short of the school system’s needs. “Previously requests have not been adequate. Yet even with the BOE limiting their request, the FCPS budget has not been fully funded,” she said. “It will take years to address the significant gaps in the school system which affect everything from class size, the competitiveness of salaries, support to students, and even the founding of our OPEB or retiree health.”
OPEB stands of Other Post Employment Benefits.
Also testifying was Tom Powell, the Interim President of Frederick Community College. “The need for our community college has never been more urgent than right now, ” he said. “Our charge is help our students pursue the American dream.”
He asked the Council to fully fund FCC’s proposed budget to provide competitive salaries for employees, technology upgrades and brick and mortar projects on campus. “And a special request that we’ve made to the Executive about the Miller Children’s Center and we’ve decided if you care to fund that, the County Executive will be working with our new President, Dr. Annesa Cheek, who will be here in July, to figure out a way that that center may do a better job in serving the employees of Frederick County,” he said.
The Miller Children’s Center is located on the FCC campus and provides child care to kids in the community.
There was also a call for full funding of the Frederick County Division of Senior Services. Thea Ruff, who chairs the Senior Services Advisory Board, said there needs to be increased funding for “Meals on Wheels.” “Last year, Senior Services Division delivered over 29,000 meals,” she said. “It assists seniors at the greatest risk of malnutrition due to food insecurity which is more than doubled in size since the pandemic.”
She also asked for a new stand alone senior center. “It’s strongly needed as all four current seniors are inadequate in size and amenities to meet the needs and the interests of today’s older adults. You should visit them and see what they look like,” she said.
The County Executive’s proposed budget totals $792-million which is $365-million more than the current fiscal year. It retains the property tax rate at $1.06 per $100 of assessed value. $402-million is set aside for education, including public schools, FCC and the publics library system. There’s also $152-million appropriated for public safety which includes law enforcement and fire and rescue.
The County Council is scheduled workshops on the budget Wednesday through Friday, April 27th through the 29th from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM each day.
Police Accountability Board
The Council also heard testimony on a revised bill to set up a police accountability board. The measure increases the number of panel members from nine to 11, and set aside one seat for an African-American, and another for a first- or second-generation immigrant.
Michael Augustine said this change would contradict another change in the bill which says the board shall as close as possible reflect the racial, gender and cultural diversity of the community. “Members of marginalized communities such as the LGBTQ and deaf community do not have an equal opportunity by not having a legislative seat on the board,” he said.
Kimberly Scott, who represents an organization called “Moving It Forward Together,” responded. “I urge the County Council to do their due diligence to ensure that minority groups will be included as part of this selection process,:” she said. “We are largely affected by police accountability.”
Mary Astredeo of New Market said the membership should be further expanded. “A representative from the NAACP like Calvert County has done. Somebody from the ACLU. Probably a mental health representative either from the Health Department Behavioral Health or the Frederick County Mental Health Association,” she said.
Other citizens asked the County’s Equity and Inclusion Officer, Michael Hughes, be made a member.
The ordinance also sets aside two seats for the City of Frederick, and one each for the City of Brunswick and the Town of Thurmont. All three jurisdictions have their own police departments. Mary Ann Ford represents the RISE Coalition, and she had some concerns about this. “We again see the municipalities—not only having a seat on the board but in the selection process—as having an overrepresentation on a process that should be much broader in terms of representing the county,”; she said.
And Mike Morse said more equity is needed. “The selection process to apply to our situation now, needs a broader professional geographical, cultural prospective than it now has, ” he said. “There’s lots of equality by no equity.”
Members of the police accountability board must be trained in police procedures, but See Raven said it should go beyond that. “Successfully complete training in equity, cultural diversity, anti-racism and inclusion,” she said. “As the liaison to the board, surely the current Equity and Inclusion Officer, Mr. Michael Hughes, can provide guidance in finding those training resources.”
Under state law, the County is expected to have a police accountability board in place by July 1st. Among its duties, the board will receive complaints about police misconduct from the public.
By Kevin McManus