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Friday, December 20, 2013

Gardner Questions “State of the County”

George Wenschhof
Jan Gardner
Yesterday, Republican president of the Frederick County, Maryland board of county commissioners Blaine Young presented the annual state of the county report.
In a press release, Young stated “Board President Blaine Young said, “This year’s state of the county presentation provides a snapshot in time of where we stand today. In spite of continuing challenges to the economy, Frederick County is addressing the structural deficit and long-term fiscal challenges, yearly county income has increased, total employment has increased, unemployment continues to remain under six percent, new housing demands have increased, and school construction projects have been moved up in the funding process.
“We are making good progress and heading in the right direction as far as budget, jobs, public-private partnerships, public safety, agricultural preservation, land use, housing, transportation and many other areas. We have made many tough decisions over the years, because we were determined to live within our means and that is now the norm for Frederick County Government.”
“Frederick County is on stable, healthy ground. Compared with other jurisdictions, we’re in a position of stability with regard to our bond rating, our retirement fund and other post employment benefits. Our accomplishments over the last year have much to do with our cooperative relationship with our municipalities and the business community. We have made our point that we are ‘open for business’ in Frederick County.”
“We would like to thank County Manager Lori Depies, our outstanding division directors and all the employees for their hard work in serving the citizens of Frederick County.”The complete report on the state of the county is available on the Board of County Commissioners’ webpage at”
When I contacted former Democratic board president Jan Gardner, who is running for county executive, she told me she had watched their discussion on their fourth and final budget of their term.
She sent me an email saying “On the budget, the county is experience increasing revenues in all areas - property taxes, income taxes, and recordation taxes are all increasing.   Yet, they are projecting a $13.3 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year budget.  Why?”
Gardner added “So, while they tout bringing the fiscal house in order, they have really not done so.   They also tout cutting the number of employees but then this doesn't translate into a smaller budget.   They don't mention the impact of privatization or the number of contract employees.   They lead people to believe that cutting employees has saved the county money and that spending has gone down when in reality spending has gone up every year.   The last board to adopt a smaller budget than the year before was during the last two years of the Gardner Board.”
“There has been little new agriculture preservation and school construction is at the slowest pace in 20 years.   They are not building new schools.   
The county unemployment rate has always been consistently lower than the state and federal unemployment rate.”
“They have eliminated a number of development fees and permits (which now the taxpayers pay for) and they tout that housing starts are finally going up but if you look at the numbers almost 2/3rds is in the City of Frederick (where the fees still exist).   I find it interesting that the county has not picked up the pace of new housing starts and the City has when the County eliminated all the fees.”
“Another interesting item to me was the lack of information on WTE.   The slides were the same as last year except one was missing.   Last year they said they were looking for a new partner to replace Carroll County, expected permits in the Spring of 2013, and would re-run the financial with new energy/electricity costs.   They acknowledged that they were still waiting for permits but nothing was mentioned on finding a new partner or Carroll County getting out of the deal or running new financials.   It was basically just a description of the project.    I was really surprised that no one asked anything more about this since it is a topic of interest to the community.” 
Gardner concluded by saying “ Employee morale is at an all time low.  Education has suffered. Services to people in need have been wiped out. Young is selling county assets including buildings at a loss.   He just cut a deal to sell the former BOE building and adjoining IT building to the "lowest" bidder instead of to the highest bidder!   Even though some services have been cut and employee positions eliminated, spending has gone up for several reasons including privatization costing more and subsidizing development in the operating budget.    This is his 4th budget and he needs to take some responsibility for having a budget deficit when revenues are going up!”
Stay tuned.
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1 comment:

Boyce Rensberger said...

Jan Gardner is right to point out Blaine Young's misleading claims. What is especially duplicitous is Young's claim to have shrunk county government when its costs have only gone up.

The federal government used to do the same thing--lay off government employees and then hire private contractors to do the same work at higher cost.

~Boyce Rensberger