FY2015 Budget Highlights
The Board of County Commissioners adopted the FY 2015 budget on June 24th. The adoption date was postponed by several weeks to give any and all interested citizens, candidates and commissioners an opportunity to present any and all proposals for changes.
The commissioners did not receive any proposals, but they did receive plenty of criticism and opinions. Below is a summary of the highlights of the 2015 adopted budget.
· FY2015 Operating Budget is $525.6 million, less than a 2% increase (only 1.8% increase over prior year)
· For the first time in six years, county employees will receive a 2% cost of living adjustment and merit increase (reduced the county workforce by approximately 645 full time employees since FY2009)
· Fully funds the ARC (annual required contribution) for the pension and OPEB trusts and provides an additional $1 million county contribution.
· Pension Plan is funded at 90% on a market value basis.
· Fully restores the $1 million of funding to Frederick Community College that was previously cut.
· Expands the Senior Tax Credit and provides over $100,000 in additional funding to the Department. of Aging for a case manager position and contracted services based on the results of the “Needs Assessment of the Aging Population” study.
· Provides funding for five additional sheriff’s deputies ($650,000). Due to the reduction of the State Police troopers in Frederick County and increased calls for service, 17 additional deputies were requested.
· Two Licensed Practical Nurse positions for the School Health Program ($110,000) to assist with critical nursing support. Also funding for pay increases for Part-Time Non-Benefitted personnel including School Resource Officers, School Crossing Guards, Developmental Center and after school program funding for Office of Children and Families (OCF). These services are part of the $10.8 million of In-Kind Services provided by the county to the Board of Education.
· Additional funding to address the homeless issues in our community. Memorandum of Understanding agreements for Shelter Services funded by the Housing Initiatives Fund include:
Religious Coalition $174,500
(includes emergency cold weather as well as year-round operations)
Community Action Agency $75,000
Advocates for the Homeless Families $20,000
Other Memorandums of Understanding include:
Mental Health Assoc (2-1-1 Hotline & Counseling) $60,000
Town of Thurmont Senior Center $5,000
Soil Conservation District $79,335
Forest Conservatory District Board $650
On a positive Note: property taxes, our largest revenue source, are budgeted to increase 1.5%. This was brought about by an increase in our assessable base for the first time in several years.
The increase in the budget is primarily due to one-time pass-through revenues:
$2 million Board of Education sale of surplus properties
$1.8 million Sale of 520 N. Market St.
$3.9 million recordation taxes from Nursing Home Construction Fund
Overall increases in the budget during this Board of County Commissioners’ term are due to the actual consolidation of services and streamlining operations. The elimination of a separate fire tax and the consolidation of fire and rescue services into the General Fund accounted for an approximate $43 million increase in the budget.
The consolidation of the Division of Permitting and Development Review back into the General Fund in FY2013 increased the budget by $5 million since this was previously an Enterprise Fund reported separately. This $48 million increase to the budget was NOT an increase in spending.
Criticism of the Board of Education funding, and the fact that it makes up less of our total budget, is primarily due to the consolidation of these $48 million of services into the General Fund that makes the total pie appear larger. The school system’s budget has increased annually, but its percent of the total county budget has decreased because of the increase in the General Fund budget as the result of the consolidation of these services.
There are those who want to spend what we don't have; yet, when we ask for ideas and proposals the commissioners did not receive a single one. This is not surprising because this is the season we are in.