They spoke Tuesday during a budget hearing before the County Council:
Frederick, Md (KM) Public testimony was taken Tuesday night by the Frederick County Council on the proposed fiscal year 2024 budget introduced last week by County Executive Jessica Fitzwater. The operating budget totals $893.6-million, a 12.8 percent increase over the current fiscal year 2023 budget. It sets aside $405-million for the School System, which is $35-million over maintenance of effort, and it’s $44-million less than what was requested by the Board of Education.
During testimony, School Board President Sue Johnson said it’s not enough. “I know that it’s been stated by the County Executive that is record funding for the School System. But last year’s dollar is not worth the same as this year’s dollar,” she said. “It is in our strong opinion that we’re looking at actually less money to operate this coming year.”
Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Dyson said the maintenance of effort formula is based on the September, 2022 enrollment statistics.. “So since September 30th, FCPS has gained over 250 students to the tune of over $4-million. We’re going to continue to grow. When we open our doors in August,. we will already be underfunded. For students sitting in seats in our classrooms, this is not okay,” she said.
School System officials said enrollment is expected to increase by 10 percent. They also said the proposed funding does not help deal with inflation, and students coming to classes with special needs, like being English learners or having some mental health issues “While I am grateful for the above maintenance of effort proposed funding for the upcoming fiscal year, it is simply not enough to keep up with inflation and the increased cost of providing services to our students and staff during this period of increased growth in the county,”: said Dr. Paul Lebo, the School System’s Chief Operating Officer.
About 40 people signed up to testify.
The Council is expected to hold budget workshops on May 3-5. 2023. A spending plan for fiscal year 2024 must be adopted by the Council by May 31st.
Other citizens testified on property taxes. Connie Onspaugh said property taxes are too high. “I was always told to live within my means, and I find this county is not doing that. It is great to save for a rainy day, but this is being greedy,” she said “The cost of property taxes is out of control and especially for our young adults and seniors. While the tax rate may stay the same, the assessments are very high.”
Also speaking was Mary Posey of Myersville. who said she has been watching the actions of the Council since 2014, when the County went to a charter form of government. “The message from the dais, even back them, was very clear: be grateful your assessments are going up. It’s hard to be grateful when it’s the Council that cashes in on rising assessments to fulfill nearly every cent of the County Executive’s proposed budget year after year,” she said. “I challenge you not to be the third rubber stamp Council since our 2014 transition to charter government.”
The property tax rate has stood at $1.06 per $100 of assessed value for many years. The Council will be holding a hearing next Tuesday, May 2nd, on whether to lower the rate to the constant yield of $1.01 per $100 of assessed value.
By Kevin McManus