County education leaders back Gardner’s proposed budget | Budget And Tax

Leaders from the county’s education community, along with public school teachers, voiced support for County Executive Jan Gardner’s (D) proposed fiscal 2022 budget during a public hearing Tuesday.

Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Terry Alban and Board of Education President Jay Mason were among those who called in to the hearing. Alban said $7 million of the proposed budget would be used to help students recover from emotional, social and educational challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The overall proposed operating budget, which council members still have to act on, is about $717.2 million. Of that, about $365 million—51 percent—is allocated toward public schools, Frederick Community College and the county’s library system.

Gardner noted the spending plan makes a historic investment in education—including $20 million above the maintenance of effort for county public schools, which is the minimum requirement per state law.

The proposed budget also includes an additional $1.5 million above that mark for Frederick Community College, which was appreciated by FCC President Elizabeth Burmaster.

Burmaster said the college serves the community: 92 percent of its students live in the county, as do two-thirds of its 1,567 full-time employees.

The additional support will help keep tuition low and support the local economy, she added.

“FCC is an engine for workforce development and stimulating our economy,” Burmaster said.

Frederick County Public Schools teachers also spoke to the need to continue adequate funding for schools given funding drops in the past. That included Meagan Fogle, a Middletown resident who teaches fourth grade at Tuscarora Elementary School.

Fogle said she appreciated Gardner’s support as a county commissioner more than a decade ago when she spoke at a public hearing on the budget. But she added she never could have imagined she would have fewer resources as a teacher almost 15 years later.

Her request back then “pales [in comparison] to the support” the overall public school system needs now, Fogle said.

Charlie Berry, a music teacher who has spent the past 16 years in Frederick County Public Schools, echoed that view.

“Funding only at [maintenance of effort] only does damage to our community,” Berry said.

What’s next?

County Council members will hear a more detailed budget presentation from Chief Administrative Officer Rick Harcum and Budget Director Kelly Weaver at their April 27 meeting.

Then, from Wednesday through Friday of next week, the council will hold all-day budget workshops with county division directors and other leaders to review the budget in a more detailed fashion.

Council members can only cut from the overall budget, except for education. And they must act on Gardner’s proposal by May 31, or the proposed spending plan goes into effect.

On May 4 at 7 p.m., the council will hold a public hearing on the property tax rate. Gardner set it at $1.06 per $100 of assessed value, the same rate it has been in all seven of her budgets.

Weaver said Tuesday the constant yield tax rate, which would collect the same amount of property tax revenue as fiscal 2021, would be about $1.033 per $100 of assessed value.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel

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