As the County Council moves toward the end of its time working on the budget, it’s important the people of Frederick are aware of the things their tax dollars are paying for.
This year’s budget once again maintains a property tax rate of $1.06, the exact same rate as it was when we took office in 2014. We have successfully lived within our means.
For the fourth straight year, Frederick County Public Schools was funded at a level above maintenance of effort. FCC employees were given a step, and staffing has been added to the library system so that the beautiful new library in Walkersville can run all of its programs. In our capital budget, a new library in Myersville has been funded; residents there can look forward to a new building that, like Walkersville, reflects the heritage of the town.
Citizens and Montevue are running well. As promised, the revenue from Citizens is helping to pay for some of the assisted living expenses in Montevue — at no cost to taxpayers. As a matter of fact, if we had sold the buildings, the county would have needed to bring several million dollars to the table at settlement.
Two major park construction projects are in the works. Residents in the Jefferson, Burkittsville and Brunswick areas have long awaited the construction of Othello Park. It breaks ground this summer. Utica Park will also be upgraded as we begin Phase Two construction there. If you are a bike rider or enjoy spending time outside, we have set aside $4.7 million for the design and construction of trail projects.
A number of stream restoration projects, storm drainage improvements and reforestation projects are taking place as part of our Office of Sustainability’s effort to meet Clean Water Act mandates. These programs are not only green, they’re fiscally responsible. Our county would face fines from the state — at a rate of thousands of dollars per day — if we did not meet our requirements. While some on the council have said we should cut this and move the money to other areas of need, I think that decision risks our county’s long-term finances far too much for a potential short-term gain.
If you are driving into Middletown from the south, you’ll see the new Middletown fire station that is being built and should be finished and equipped later this year. In addition to helping our volunteer firefighters continue in their tradition of service, we are also adding more career fire and rescue personnel. We have added 75 new fire and rescue positions, as well as adding deputies and 911 call-takers. If you have an emergency, Frederick County will be ready and equipped to assist you.
Our budgets and money management have helped earn Frederick County one of the best bond ratings in the country. We are one of fewer than 50 counties in the U.S. that has an AAA rating from all three major bond rating companies. This saves us money for capital projects and other bond-financed items.
This is the final budget that the first elected County Council will complete. I have voted for all four budgets, and it has been my pleasure to help Frederick County move forward.
To read this article on The Frederick News Post, click here.
Saving senior residents money on their property taxes has united two oft-opposed Frederick County lawmakers.
Councilmen Jerry Donald (D) and Kirby Delauter (R) unveiled a joint proposal to expand the county’s senior property tax credit at the council meeting Tuesday. The agreement marks a compromise between competing proposals introduced separately earlier this year.
Delauter and Donald both expressed support for the soon-to-be amended legislation, which incorporates elements of each councilman’s legislation with the shared goal of strengthening the county’s senior tax credit supplement.
The county tax credit works in tandem with the Maryland Homeowners’ Tax Credit Program, which ensures that low-income homeowners of all ages don’t pay more than a certain percentage of their income in property taxes. Frederick County’s senior credit supplement offers another tax credit equal to 20 percent of eligible residents’ tax bills.
Residents must be 65 or older with a maximum $70,000 household income to qualify under current eligibility requirements.
The compromise legislation raises the maximum income limit to $80,000, a balance between the $75,000 Donald proposed and Delauter’s $85,000 threshold. Low-income senior households, those who earn $30,000 or less, would also see their savings double from 20 to 40 percent of their tax bills, a component of Donald’s original bill.
Other requirements — that net worth cannot exceed $200,000, not including property value and retirement savings accounts, and credits apply up to the first $300,000 of assessed property value — remain unchanged. Delauter’s bill proposed raising both of these requirements, which would have necessitated adding county staff to vet each applicant’s value, according to the county finance division.
The finance office analyzed each bill’s impact on county property tax revenue assuming the current 23 percent participation rate up to a maximum 100 percent of eligible senior households. An analysis of the new compromise proposal was not available Wednesday, according to Diane Fox, director of the county’s treasury office.
Fox noted that the new estimates would likely not differ dramatically from the prior calculations for decreased property tax revenue, which created a revenue shortfall of $242,328 to $1.24 million, depending on participation rate.
County Executive Jan Gardner (D) originally backed Donald’s bill in a memo dated March 15. She offered support for the compromise legislation in a phone interview Wednesday, noting it still favors Donald’s proposal and its benefits for the lowest-income seniors.
Just over 2,200 senior households in Frederick County benefited from property tax credits in fiscal 2017, saving a combined $623,370.06 in fiscal 2017, according to Fox.
The council will vote to amend one of the original bills based on the proposed compromise at an upcoming meeting, although an exact date has not been set, according to Ragen Cherney, the council’s chief of staff.
Read the article on the Frederick News Post here.
The Commission will hold a public hearing in March
BRUNSWICK, Md. - In an effort to make Frederick County, Maryland more livable, the Frederick County Planning Commission has approved the “Livable Frederick” draft comprehensive plan.
Residents from the county had an opportunity to meet with leaders to view the plan and ask questions to staff. The plan lists a series of goals and initiatives focusing on four main categories for the county: health, economy, environment, and community. The first public review was held in Brunswick and residents say they want to see the protection of agriculture and growth involved in the plan.
“The growth especially around Brunswick contained to the Brunswick city area because Brunswick is looking for growth and to improve the business situation and things like that,” said Frederick County Council member Jerry Donald, District 1.
The Commission will hold a public hearing in March before the plan goes to the county council.
For more information, click here.
Watch on Local DVM: www.localdvm.com/news/i-270/residents-participate-in-public-review-on-livable-frederick-draft-plan/937775663
Jerry Donald has served in office for 3 years
BRUNSWICK, Md. - Frederick County Council Member Jerry Donald scheduled meetings with constituents across Frederick County to hear issues and concerns some may have.
Donald made his way through towns like Urbana, Jefferson, Brunswick and Burkittsville. He met with a number of locals to discuss concerns and plans.
"I’m mostly here to give constituents an opportunity to talk to me. I don’t really come out with a big agenda to talk to them. I’m here to listen” said Jerry Donald, Frederick County Council District 1.
Part of the discussions concerned plans with developing several parks in the county.
"In Point of Rocks there are two parks going in one is a small community park down near the railroad tracks that’s going to have an amphitheater, a pavilion, it will be very nice" Donald said.
He also showed a preview of a regional park which will be connected by a series of trails. Donald also stopped in Burkittsville while one business owner says he’d like to preserve his town to keep their history alive.
"We like the idea of preserving ourselves, yet that always requires some attention and help from the county" says Paul Gilligan, Owner of P.J. Gilligan Dry Goods and Mercantile.
Many locals say they appreciated Donald’s efforts to directly connect with the community.
"I’m glad that Jerry has the energy to go out and look for community opinions to find out the concern to the local citizens, otherwise we often don’t come in contact with our local representatives” says Gilligan.
The park in Point Of Rocks is set to be completed by summer 2018.
Jerry Donald says he will continue his tour to stay connected with locals to get things done in Frederick County.
Watch on Local DVM: http://www.localdvm.com/news/i-270/a-frederick-council-member-reaches-out-to-locals-to-hear-community-concerns/784024349
Smoketown Brewing Station was the first business in the county to be awarded
BRUNSWICK, Md. - A small business in Frederick County, Maryland, has an opportunity to be a part of a tax incentive program to help revamp their small town.
“I really want to encourage other people to come and start more businesses. I need more businesses in town,” said owner of Smoketown Brewing Station, David Blackmon.
On Tuesday, Smoketown Brewing Station in Brunswick, Md., was the first business in Frederick County to receive the first enterprise zone certification.
"It is always important to get that first business to lead the way to make the difference, but it is really all about revitalization,” said Frederick County Executive, Jan Gardner.
The red doors and brick walls originally were an old fire station that was turned into a brewery, which will soon go under a renovation on the second floor to revamp Brunswick history.
"Many famous players: Patsy Cline, Duke Ellington, Roy Clark, Bob Seger, same upstairs. It is a great space and we need to bring that history back and start another history,” continued Blackmon.
With this new certification, Blackmon is able to undertake additional financial risk which will help his business succeed and grow for the new venue called, “Cannon.”
“He wants to bring that theme back, open up for social events, wedding receptions, and things like that,” said Mayor of Brunswick, Jeffrey Snoots. “So, everything that he sinks into this building would up his taxes, but he would get a tax break."
With Smoketown Brewing Station taking the first step, Blackmon hopes this will be a key to other businesses to get involved in revitalizing the city of Brunswick.
"It really rewards people who are doing things to revitalize downtown's,” said Councilmember Jerry Donald, who represents District 1 on the Frederick County Council. “We have downtown's that are distressed in other parts of the county. Brunswick is really coming back."
The new venue for Smoketown Brewing Station is set to open in the fall of this year.
The Brunswick Enterprise Zone was established to bring property and/or income tax credits to eligible companies “to invest a minimum of $25,000 in capital outlay or create at least one full-time position paying 150 percent of federal minimum wage for a period of at least six months.”
There is still time for businesses to get involved. Click here for more information.
Watch on Local DVM: http://www.localdvm.com/news/i-270/first-enterprise-zone-certification-awarded-to-local-brewery-to-revamp-town/758744187
The Frederick County Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to reinstate past funding for farmland preservation and park development, but rejected an amendment to increase agricultural land funding further.
Council President Bud Otis introduced a bill on Feb. 7, on behalf of County Executive Jan Gardner, to restore a funding level for parks and one of the county’s farmland preservation programs.
Previously, farmland preservation and parks each received 12.5 percent of the revenue from a recordation tax, based on real estate sales.
In 2012, in the the aftermath of the Great Recession from four years earlier, the county cut the levels to 10 percent for farmland preservation and 5 percent for parks.
On Tuesday, the council unanimously agreed to return the levels to 12.5 percent for both.
Before the measure passed, Otis tried to amend it to shift money from parks to farmland preservation. That would have put the levels at 15 percent for farmland preservation and 10 percent for parks.
The measure failed 5-2, with only Councilman Tony Chmelik joining Otis in the minority.
“When you go to the Farm Bureau meetings and you hear what they’re saying — there’s not enough money being set aside for agricultural preservation,” Otis said in an interview after the meeting.
Forty-one farms in Frederick County applied for agricultural easements in the last two-year cycle. The council approved a slate of applicants Tuesday evening, allowing the county to move ahead on them.
Otis grew up on a dairy farm in Indiana. He introduced the amendment to support Frederick County farms, an area that the county differs from neighboring Montgomery County.
Councilman Jerry Donald said during discussion of the bill and the proposed amendment that the council had to consider where Frederick County has grown. He estimated $9.3 million of park funding was lost between 2012 and 2017.
“I think it would be in our best interest to get these parks up and running,” Donald said.
The bill and amendment dictate the percentage of recordation-tax revenue that goes to different county funds. One fund is the county’s Installment Purchase Program, which places farmland in permanent easements and pays yearly tax-free interest payments and a lump sum at the end of a long-term loan.
The county has preserved 18,000 acres through the Installment Purchase Program and placed 56,000 acres overall into permanent agricultural easements through various programs, county Land Preservationist Anne Bradley said.
Frederick County’s goal is to place 100,000 acres in agriculture easements.
Otis said after the vote that Gardner did not support his attempted amendment.
However, Gardner said during a phone interview after the vote that Otis did not share his plan with her in advance.
“I did not know he was going to introduce this amendment this evening,” she said.
She said equal percentages for parks and farms strikes a good balance.
Gardner said she is open to increasing funding for farmland preservation, which has a demand the county cannot currently meet, but that conversation has not happened.
The bill calls for more money to go to parks and farmland preservation by reducing the percentage of recordation-tax revenue going to the county’s general fund from 68.3 percent to 58.3 percent. The remaining 41.7 percent will be divided up as 12.5 for farmland preservation, 12.5 for parks and 16.7 to support school construction.
For fiscal year 2017, the Installment Purchase Program was anticipated to increase $351,000, according to calculations by Lori Depies, director of the county Division of Finance, submitted as a fiscal note on Nov. 28, 2016.
Park acquisition funding would increase by approximately $1.1 million, and unrestricted general funds would decrease by $1.4 million, Depies wrote.
Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan
Read on Frederick News Post: www.fredericknewspost.com/news/economy_and_business/agriculture/frederick-county-council-settles-on-equal-tax-revenue-shares-for/article_304ed172-bd64-5cf3-81b6-3a44dd8968f1.html
William Zimmerman, 21, has wanted to pursue law enforcement since he was little, potentially with the Drug Enforcement Administration. His desire stems from the drug addiction problems that plagued his family.
His teacher at Frederick Community College can give him real-life examples of drug cases, sometimes happening right down the street from Zimmerman or his classmates.
Lt. Clark Pennington, a long-time officer with Frederick police, has taught at the community college and Mount St. Mary’s University for years.
Pennington is among those who draw upon their local government service to teach in the classroom. They consider their real-world experience a boon for their students and a way to enhance their classes.
Lt. Clark Pennington, Frederick policeDepending on the class that Pennington is teaching at either the community college or the Mount, he’ll send students to watch a court case, tour the nearby jail, or join a police officer for a ride-along around the area.
This lets students experience true aspects of law enforcement. Besides teaching them and helping them understand the different levels of law enforcement, Pennington helps guide them on their career paths.
He started teaching at both schools about five years ago.
Pennington is being honored at the Mount on Saturday for his contributions, not only as a teacher, but as an alumnus of the college. He earned his bachelor’s degree there.
Across both schools, he’s taught introduction to criminal justice, public speaking, criminal investigations and police operations.
At Monday night at FCC, he opened his police operations course talking about the leadership styles of an organization.
The first half-hour was him talking about the pros and cons of an organization that’s more authoritarian or one that’s hands off.
He asked his students where they worked and what style their bosses used.
Sometimes, Pennington will bring in other public figures, such as Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith.
He’s formed these connections as a “practitioner in his field,” Pennington said.
Another perk? He can help them find a job later.
A number of his former students have joined the Frederick Police Department or another sector of law enforcement, he said. One ex-student was in the final phases of getting a job with Frederick police, and told Pennington he didn’t want to do street-level work. He wanted to work on cyber investigations.
Pennington supported that. Now, that student is pursuing his master’s degree.
“Whether they come work for us or some other agency, I just like seeing them further their goals,” he said.
Brad Young, Frederick County Board of Education president, Members of the Young family, which has held many positions in local politics, have taught at all levels in Frederick County. Brad’s mother, and his father, state Sen. Ron Young, were Frederick County Public Schools teachers. His mother was also a principal.
His parents’ experience in education made Brad interested in teaching. Fifteen years ago, when a friend suggested he interview for an adjunct position at Mount St. Mary’s, Brad seized the opportunity.
He had envisioned teaching at FCC, but he was a member of the Board of Trustees there and was not allowed.
Brad Young’s assignments the first few years were centered on the Mount’s Frederick campus, teaching classes such as macroeconomics and microeconomics. He runs his own financial planning business.
Later, he moved to the main Emmitsburg campus, teaching early-morning courses such as corporate finance. Now, he teaches classes on investments and personal financial planning.
Most of his students come from outside Frederick County, so they don’t recognize him as the school board president, Young said.
But he brings in examples from the school board about financial decisions. One is the importance of investing in long-term commitments like the school district’s Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) fund, money the school system uses to pay for employee benefits when the operating budget is overburdened.
Young speaks every budget season at the school board about what he believes is the district’s paltry contribution to OPEB.
His wife owns a liquor store, so he’ll also talk about how, theoretically, if new marketing dollars come in, they should be spent on the product with the highest profit margins — in this case, wine, not beer or liquor.
Students enjoy his classes, which are generally filled or waitlisted, Young said.
It helps that he brings cookies and donuts to class.
Once when Young was at Buffalo Wild Wings, a former student approached him and told him that he was a teacher now, too. The former student had adopted Young’s style in his classroom because it worked well.
“That’s one of the nicest compliments,” Young said.
“Inspiring someone to do what I do, that’s the biggest compliment. Having someone come back and say, ‘Professor Young, you helped me find my career path.’”
Jerry Donald, Middletown High School teacher and Frederick County councilman. The walls of Donald’s Middletown classroom are splashed with political memorabilia, buttons and posters from Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, going back decades.
He’s taught for more than 29 years, mostly courses related to government and history. Except for a brief stint after college, he was not involved with politics himself.
That changed when he was sworn in as a councilman in December 2014, one of the first under Frederick County’s new form of charter government.
Donald must maintain bright lines between his councilman duties, his opinions and his students.
Teachers can’t preach or impart their political views in Frederick County Public Schools, per district policy. Donald said he never did that even before he was elected.
He can, however, weave examples from around Middletown into government concepts he teaches.
When he started his lessons on zoning, he pulled up a Frederick County zoning map. On the projector screen, he identified places in the Middletown area that were zoned residential, industrial, agricultural. He pointed out that the town of Middletown controls its own zoning.
Donald has talked about the Middletown Streetscape project and how it’s funded.
He didn’t quite realize the workload of his teaching and government schedules. Donald gets to Middletown High by 7:15 a.m. every morning, then leaves for his second job. Tuesdays, when the County Council meets, are lengthy.
Donald started out briefly with Washington County Public Schools, but was laid off. His next jump was to the Frederick County school district, teaching at Heather Ridge. It was an unexpected turn — teaching math to students at Heather Ridge with specific emotional and behavioral needs.
In an interview, Donald thoughtfully described his Heather Ridge experience with Heather Ridge as “interesting,” saying he encountered students from troubling home backgrounds, who had experiences with drugs and crime.
He later moved to Linganore High School for more than a decade before reaching Middletown High.
Some in the community, including a few council colleagues, have called for Donald and Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater, also a public school teacher, to recuse themselves from voting on the budget. Critics say the money Donald and Fitzwater approve for the Board of Education funds their raises.
Donald disagrees, countering that under his agreement with the school board, any day he takes off from his teaching job to work as a councilman must be unpaid. If he secured a raise of about $1,000 last year, he lost out on about $1,500 in pay to attend county budget hearings.
He prefers the funny moments when he thinks about his favorite memories as a teacher.
When Donald used to teach a philosophy class, he told students to write a letter to themselves in five years. He mailed it to them, and still does.
One student put $10 in his envelope and said he would buy himself a drink in five years when he was 21. Donald broke out laughing.
“I have two jobs,” he said. “And I like both of them.”
Follow Jeremy Bauer-Wolf on Twitter: @jbeowulf
Read on The Frederick News Post: https://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/education/learning_and_programs/taking-their-government-experience-to-the-classroom-officials-who-also/article_2327e7e8-0a7e-554a-979a-1d834789a02c.html
As we are now into our third year of charter government, and about to enter our third budget season, you will hear some members of the County Council talk about how things have gone over the past two years.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind:
One, you will hear about taxes. The fact is that your Frederick County property taxes are at a rate of $1.06 per $100 of assessed value, the exact same rate they were when we took office on Dec. 1, 2014. During the previous four years (the years councilmen Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve were commissioners), if you lived in most parts of the county (including all of my district — Middletown, Brunswick, Rosemont, Burkittsville, Adamstown, Buckeystown), your taxes went up by about 5 cents per $100 when the Frederick County fire tax was merged with the rest of the budget. The president of that Board of County Commissioners said at the 2011 Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner, “You will see a reduction of taxes or we have failed.” Well, when it came to your property taxes, they failed.
Two, our budgets over the past two years have led to improvements in public safety. We have added people to Emergency Services (911), we have added over 50 career firefighters and we gave the sheriff’s office a new pay scale so that it could attract and retain quality deputies.
Three, we are building much-needed elementary schools in Urbana (Sugarloaf and a new Urbana building) and Butterfly Ridge in Frederick.
Four, we are building parks in Point of Rocks and the new Othello Park in the southwestern part of the county near Burkittsville, Rosemont and Brunswick.
Five, we have put over 1,000 acres into agricultural preservation in an effort to keep the agricultural character of Frederick County alive. We have also added back into the budget staff dedicated to helping agriculture. We have listened to the farmers when they have had concerns about bills before the council.
Six, I know bond ratings are boring to most people, but good ones do save Frederick County money. In 2016 we became one of fewer than 50 counties (out of over 3,000) across the U.S. to have AAA ratings by all of the major bond rating companies. Of course this congratulations can be spread to previous county officeholders, but it was predicted by Councilman Delauter in his article in the Emmitsburg News-Journal in November 2015: “Mark my words, your taxes will go up over the next three years and our bond rating will go down ...” Wrong on both counts.
Seven, many of us on the council, members of both parties, as well as the executive, have had town meetings giving the opportunity to citizens to talk about their issues. I have personally had over 30 of these, usually in Middletown, Brunswick, Jefferson, Point of Rocks and Urbana. I have also attended numerous town meetings to meet with municipal officials in my district. I know some others on the council and the executive have done the same.
Eight, we have kept a public trust by retaining the Citizens and Montevue facilities. We promised to do this in the campaign, and after much hard work it was accomplished. Before County Executive Jan Gardner finishes her fiscal 2018 budget, I encourage my fellow council members to talk with her so that they can have input into this year’s budget. She invited all of us. We should all take the opportunity to continue to move Frederick County forward.
Jerry Donald represents District 1 on the Frederick County Council.
Read the article on Frederick News Post: https://www.fredericknewspost.com/opinion/letter_to_editor/some-facts-to-keep-in-mind-as-county-prepares-for/article_59a439ca-b200-5cb9-ba2d-7f703ebd45a4.html
It was a bit of a “ruff” meeting of the Frederick County Council on Tuesday, as Frederick County Division of Animal Control representatives and a Democratic councilman introduced possible changes to the county’s animal welfare law.
They say this would reduce the workload for Animal Control and improve the health and safety of pets.
Frederick County Councilman Jerry Donald, who made the suggestions, said that last year, Animal Control officers responded to nearly 1,000 calls a month.
He hasn’t introduced local legislation, but said in an interview on Tuesday he intends to do so soon. Donald said he wanted feedback from council members before drafting a bill.
Donald brought to council members on Tuesday three initial proposals. One is that pets be leashed at all time off their owner’s property, or they would be considered “at large,” or roaming.
Current county code defines an animal “at large” when it’s off an owner’s property, and not under the watch of someone who could physically restrain it. It does not require a leash.
Donald also suggested reducing the length of time a dog can be tethered, from 10 hours consecutively in a 24-hour period to four hours.
He offered possible changes to the county’s pet licensing requirements, too.
Pets older than 4 months must be vaccinated against rabies, then licensed with Animal Control. A pet that is spayed or neutered costs $7.50 a year to license, and an unaltered animal costs $15. A household would pay a maximum of $40 for licenses.
Donald and Animal Control representatives proposed that if owners had not yet spayed or neutered their animals, they not be allowed to use this blanket $40 option.
This would incentivize county residents to spay or neuter their animals, reduce intake to the local shelter run by Animal Control and its operating costs, said Sgt. Dave Luckenbaugh, a county Animal Control officer.
Luckenbaugh said loose animals could run into people, vehicles and wildlife. Requiring that they be leashed would reduce these risks and reduce service calls for officers, he said.
Possible changes to the tethering requirement could benefit the health of the dogs, who are more often exposed to the elements and parasites, Luckenbaugh said. This would encourage families to bring their dogs inside for more socialization and possibly reduce dog bites, he said.
Councilman Billy Shreve (R) was the most skeptical, calling for more data from Animal Control before he made any decisions.
He asked whether some of the proposals, such as the reduction from 10- to four-hour tethering, had been proved effective through data.
Shreve said most people don’t know about the requirement to license their pet. Luckenbaugh agreed.
Linda Shea, director of the Frederick County Division of Animal Control, said license fees don’t generate enough revenue for the department, which has tried to inform people of the requirement twice since 2005 — once on county tax notices, the other through postcards that proved not to be cost-effective.
Councilman Tony Chmelik (R) questioned whether the county could improve how it handles licensing and the process could be “cleaned up” in some way.
Owners can license their pets at the county shelter on Rosemont Avenue, through some veterinarians, or mail in an application.
Read the article on Frederick News Post: