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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mayor Proud of Keeping Taxes Level without Sacrificing Services

George Wenschhof

Mayor Randy McClement
When I asked Republican Mayor Randy McClement “what he saw as his most significant achievement(s) during his first term in office and what he would like to accomplish if reelected?” he spoke of keeping taxes level without sacrificing services.

Throughout the first four years as mayor of The City of Frederick, his number one issue was balancing a budget when faced with a significant deficit.  His first year, the city faced a $6 million deficit, followed by $8 million, $12 million and $9 million over the next three years.

Randy told me he changed the process to zero based budgets and as a result, every year the city came under budget.  During tough economic times, the mayor said city staff did an excellent job.

McClement said that while there are some indicators the economy is improving, he believes his focus, if reelected, will continue to be on the financial health of the city.  Randy noted that city housing permits were up by 800 and he was hopeful that next year state real estate tax assessments will increase, resulting in added revenue for the city. He told me the city was $6-8 million behind in road repair projects, that he would like to fund.

However, he was still concerned of the ripple effect the 20% federal government cut resulting from sequestration will have on the local economy.

On my facebook page, I mentioned I was interviewing the mayor and asked for questions. One question came from city resident Ed Hinde who asked: "What's his Vision for the city, and how does he intend to bring that to reality?"

Randy answered that vision and reality were two things.  The mayor added he wanted to maintain the charm and character of the town which were main reasons people visit and live here.

He also wants to keep moving forward with building economic vitality throughout the city and referenced the development of the small area plan for the Golden Mile and the East Frederick Rising plan on the east side.

In regard to the nearly $200 million underfunded city pension and other post employment benefits programs (OPEB), the mayor said he had created a citizens task force and a city employee task force to provide recommendations.

The recommendations that have been implemented will result in a goal of 80% funding for the programs within 20 years, which will be an increase from the current 50% funding level.  Randy said there was still more that can be done and he was considering additional changes.

As to economic development, McClement said completing phase II of the Carroll Creek project was a priority.  Randy was pleased to tell me the city obtained a $3 million federal grant, the city matched with all but $700,000 coming from the city with in kind services provided by city employees.

The mayor pointed out that when phase I of the Carroll creek project was completed it was estimated the economic growth benefit to the city was $50-51 million.

When it came to public safety Mayor McClement said he was pleased with his selection of Police Chief Thomas Ledwell.  When I asked him what he was doing to reach the funding level of 141 officers, he said the 2014 budget included funding for two academy trainings.  Current police levels are at 119.

In regard to the need to build a new police headquarters, the mayor told me due to changes in technology, he would rather have more officers than a new headquarters.

However, Randy said they have a study on what was needed and are always looking for a place to go.

He added they are currently evaluating the feasibility of consolidating some offices on an infill lot the city purchased from the Board of Education on Haywood Road.

Another question I received on my Facebook page came from Vanessa Rini-Lopez who asked: "As a fiscal conservative, how does he reconcile his support of a waste-to-energy (incinerator)?"

McClement told me he has never taken a position on the decision by the Frederick Board of County Commissioners to build an incinerator to handle waste disposal.  He added there would be a need to come up with an option other than trucking waste out of state.

During his term in office, Randy said the city has increased recycling and is moving to once a week trash pick-up for city residents.

At one point during my interview, I asked the mayor what he attributed to the large field of candidates running against him for mayor.  A total of six candidates are vying to replace Randy McClement as mayor; including two former mayors, two aldermen and one state delegate.

He agreed it was probably the largest field of candidates running for mayor in a city election and could not say why so many were running other than it was probably different reasons for different candidates.

The one hour interview went by quickly with many questions remaining to be asked.  The mayor has agreed to meet with me throughout the campaign.

Stay tuned.
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Anonymous said...

Interesting that Randy left out the detail that the unfunded Pension liability grew during the same time period from 78 to 100 million! How's that for balance?

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Randy left out the detail that the unfunded Pension liability grew from 78 million to 100 million over the same period of time. How's that for balancing a budget?