Frederick County Council Approves Increase In 911 Fee

The board also adopted several budget amendments.

Frederick, Md (KM) The 911 fee in Frederick County is going up. In a 5-2 vote on Tuesday, the County Council approved an increase in the fee from the current 75-cents per month to $2.25 per month. The county staff says additional money is needed to upgrade the current 911 infrastructure to meet the demands of a growing county.

Councilman Steve McKay voted in opposition. “I disagree with the notion that we should be treating 911 as an enterprise fund that effectively it should be self-supporting,” he said. “This is a core government function. That’s what people pay taxes for.”

Also voting “no” was Councilman Mason Carter. “If you presented it at 1.5, I would start thinking about this. But tripling this fee is a bit heavy,” he said.

Councilwoman M.C. Keegan-Ayer voted in favor. “We are growing hand over fist in the county, and we cannot continue to act as if we are still in the 1990’s. It’s not going to work,”: she said.

In expressing his support, Council President Brad Young said the county’s 911 center needs upgrades. “Several of us recently toured the 911 center, and it’s in vast need of some additional support in numbers of personnel and in pay to make sure that we have qualified people there,”: he said.

The new ordinance takes affect immediately, but the new fee won’t go into affect  until August 1st, 2023.

The 911 fee is part of a phone customer’s monthly bill.

Budget Amendments

The Council also took up  59 amendments to the proposed fiscal year 2024 budget. One amendment which was voted down would have reduced the proposed cost of living increase for non-union county employees from five percent at four percent. That was purposed by councilman Steve McKay. “We do have an extraordinary number of demands being put forth with this budget,” he said. “In that environment, it behooves us to look broadly and comprehensively at how we can not take a meat cleaver, but trim.”

Councilman Jerry Donald said the Council needs to draw the line when it comes to requests from county agencies. “If we don’t cut this budget a certain amount, we will be forced to raise taxes. That’s a fact,:” he said. “We’ve already made some tax cuts. I did not vote for those,  but  tax cuts were made this year.”

He proposed an amendment to reduce the cost of living increase for county employees to one percent, but withdrew it. . “My original amendment was more of a signal out to everybody in county government who knows what positions they need, and which ones they don’t,” he said. “Look if you want all these positions, this COLA is not going to happen. So maybe that’s not going to happen this year, but it needs to be a signal that goes out into the future.”

Council President Brad Young said he could not support this amendment. He said it would make it difficult to attract and retain good employees in county government. “We need to start to get our salaries to where not only we can continue to attract good employees but we can keep the good employees that we have,” he said. “We are a county that economically can support the minor changes that we put in the budget. Yes, everyone of them will impact me. Is it going to hurt? No, it’s not.”

This vote means the cost of living adjustment for county employees will remain at five percent in the proposed fiscal year 2024 budget.

The Council needs to approve a budget   for the next fiscal year by May 31st.

The County Executive proposed a spending plan for fiscal year 2024 which totals $893, 660. 311 and keeps the property tax rate at $1.06 per $100 of assessed value.

By Kevin McManus