Frederick County Council Turns Down Budget Amendments Tuesday Night

They would have reduced the spending plan by $6.55-million.

Frederick, Md. (KM) – A total of 13 amendments which would have reduced Frederick County’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget were turned down Tuesday night by the Council. The amendments proposed by Councilmen Steve McKay and Phil Dacey would have trimmed the spending plan of $792-million by $6.55-million, and they say that  would have provided some property tax relief for citizens.

One amendment proposed by Councilman McKay would have cut the School System’s appropriations by about $1.4-million. He noted that the Board of Education’s requested funding had been reduced by $15-million. “The going-in proposal was well short of the Board of Ed’s request. There was a significant cut before it even came to us, $15-million,” he said. “So this was a very, very modest reduction of $1.36-million. So that was the rationale for it.”

“Any sort of cut to this–and saying that it’s a modest cut when it’s  $1.4-million–it’s actual students, it’s actual classrooms and it’s actual staff that we’re having a terrible time recruiting and retaining right now,” responded Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater, whose also a teacher.

Another amendment proposed by Councilman Dacey would have reduced salary adjustments for county employees from 12.5% to just over 10%, saving the county $3-million. “By my calculations, this will reduce the increase to 10.2% a more modest 10.2%,  even though 10.2% is pretty high,” he said.

Chief Administrative Officer Rick Harcum replied that under this proposed budget, employees would receive a 3.5% cost of living increase, and 3% merit pay. “The effect of taking about $3-million out of this budget would take that three-and-a-half-percent COLA {cost of living adjustment} down to about a half-percent, in an environment where inflation is running at 8%,” he said.

Hacum also said the county is losing ground to the private sector when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees.

Other amendment would have deferred some  requests for staff  into the next year. An amendment to delay funding for a proposed Rose Hill Manor Park Carriage Museum was withdrawn.

McKay said County departments made good arguments for their requests for increased funding. “But it is our responsibility to also put that other constituency on the table here, and that’s the taxpayer,” he said. “It’s really easy to spend all the revenue that we collect. It’s really hard to give some of it back.”

Harcum responded by saying citizens have many chances to offer input on budget decisions. “There is an opportunity to hear from the public from the taxpayers from this. So it’s not like they’re shut out of the process,” he said.

The Council is expected to adopt a fiscal year 2023 budget later this month.

By Kevin McManus