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