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.
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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
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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