Frederick County Council Expected To Vote Next Week On Three Charter Amendments

The board will decide whether to move these measures forward as a referendum for  the November election.

Frederick, Md. (KM) – A vote is scheduled for next Tuesday by the Frederick County Council on whether to place three amendments to the Charter in a referendum for voters in  the November General Election.

One of the amendments comes form Councilman Steve McKay which would let the Council increase line items in the budget with two restrictions. “The increase must be matched by a corresponding decrease in order to keep the budget balanced,” he says. “The second is that the increase in the budget item may not result in the creation of a new office, project or program.”

The Council can only decrease the budget, but it cannot increase spending. The only exception is under state law, the Council can increase the budget for the Board of Education up to the amount requested by the School Board.

Another amendment proposed by Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater would give Councilmembers fringe benefits along with their salaries. “This Charter amendment proposal comes from actually our charter review commission from a couple of years ago ,” she says. “It was their second recommendation that Councilmember compensation–Article 2, Section 207–should remove the prohibition on providing fringe benefits to County Councilmembers as part of their compensation.”

The third amendment comes from Council Vice President Michael Blue, and covers binding arbitration, if it should become necessary, between the County and its career fire fighters. “This amendment seeks to clarify who has the authority to spend the taxpayer dollars when it comes to binding arbitration if and when an award is declared for the county to participate in,” he says.

Under binding arbitration, according to the Charter, a neutral arbitrator appointed by both parties can issue an award to be implemented as part of the budget process. It should be binding on the County Executive  provide that the decision is final  no later that March 1st.

The Charter also says The County Executive shall provide a budget for the following fiscal year that funds the arbitrator’s award. “Any arbitration award made pursuant to such an ordinance should not be binding on the County Council in accordance with Section 506 of the Charter,” Blue’s proposed amendment says.

The Council held a hearing on these three amendments, but no one  testified. “So I’m thinking maybe these ballot questions are not as controversial as we thought they might be,”: said Council President MC Keegan-Ayer.

By Kevin McManus