One Councilman weighs in.
Councilman Mason Carter
Frederick, Md (KM) This coming Wednesday, the Frederick County Board of Education is scheduled to vote on a fiscal year 2024 budget request to send off to the County Council. The proposed spending plan totals $938-million. “This year’s budget request represents a $116-million increase of the BOE’s current budget,” says Councilman Mason Carter. “And that’s a whole lot of money.”
The budget request also contains a seven-percent pay increase in teachers and other benefited employees.
Because this is a “large, large budget,” Carter says we shouldn’t “handcuff” other county agencies. “We already have a seven-percent increase on the books,” he says. “We have the union president asking for more than a seven-percent raise. We have to be very, very careful when it comes to our budget, especially our Board of Education budget which makes up around 51- to 52-percent of our budget every school year.”
During a hearing on February 1st, teachers said inflation continues to be high, and the increase in pay should mirror that.
Carter says his top priority in the budget is public safety. He wants the Sheriff’s Office to have funding for the personnel and equipment it needs, and the fire service should also have adequate funding. “With that, we also have parks, recreation and trails. We need to promote a healthy lifestyle by providing everyone in our county equal access to recreational space,” he says.
And Carter says he would also like money in the budget to repave the sidewalks in Libertytown. “If you haven’t been to Libertytown, make sure to go over there. Look at these sidewalks. They are definitely, definitely a safety hazard. They need to be redone,” he says.
County Executive Jessica Fitzwater is expected to release her proposed fiscal year 2024 budget in April. Then the County Council will go over it, and hold a public hearing. It must adopt a budget for the next fiscal year by May 31st, or the County Executive’s proposed budget takes affect. Fiscal year 2024 starts on July 1st, 2023.
One of the responsibilities of the Council is to set the property tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year. The current rate of $1.06 per $100 of assessed value has remained in place for years. But when property assessments go up, some residents’ tax bills also increase.
Carter says he wants to set the rate at the constant yield which is $1.0333 per $100 of assessed value. “Over the last few years, we’ve made cumulative surpluses of over $250-million. That’s $250-million of over taxation that needs to go back to the people. So I would 100-percent support a constant yield,” he says.
The constant yield rate would assure that the County receives the same amount of tax revenue in fiscal year 2024 that it receives in f.y. 2023. “Of all the taxes we pay, the property tax is one that we could potentially recoup over time. With property assessments rising, anything but a tax cut for our homeowners is a tax increase, says Carter.
By Kevin McManus