We were afraid that last night’s Board of Education meeting was going to turn into an ugly us vs. them shame fest.( If you want to watch the meeting, clickhere to get to FCPS’s TV channel). Thankfully, we were all so very wrong. First off let’s give an old yokel tip of the hat to Board of Education President Brad Young for setting the tone of last night’s meeting:
There has been a misrepresentation that this is an either/or situation. I don’t want to see this as one vs. the other. Both schools are needed.
This entire board 150% agrees that both schools are needed.
County Executive Jan Gardner also spoke:
We need to advocate together for our community’s needs. We are all in it together.
The Frederick News Post also reported that the speakers also kept that tone of togetherness. At the end of the meeting, it was reported, that the PTA Presidents exchanged contact information. Way to go ladies!
Brad Young, and others, have told us the main reason that we have these money problems is due to the prevailing wage. Back in 2014, the State passed a law that if they provided more than 50% of the school construction bill, wages need to be set at a certain level. This is why Frederick High’s costs have skyrocketed and also why these construction projects are in jeopardy. Now, before anyone villianizes the prevailing wage, let’s all remember to look at the big picture. We have a huge problem in this country of good folks working hard and not having enough money to pay their bills. If the prevailing wage measure helps with that, then it’s a good thing. We need to find a way to pay people well and get what our school system needs to educate our children properly.
So what can we do?
As we reported yesterday, we can petition Governor Hogan to release some of the education funds that he’s been holding on to. Click here to get to the petition.
Jan said she is going to work on raising the impact and school development fees so the developers pick up their fair share of the price tag. These builders shouldn’t be allowed to come into our county, make huge profits, and then leave us with clogged roads and overcrowded schools. When her bill comes to the county council, make sure they hear your voice. We suspect there may be, umm let’s see, at least three people who will be against this.
Email, call or visit our state and local officials. Here’s a nice listof all of them. Make sure they know how you feel about school funding in our county. Because……..
Last evening the council advanced a slightly trimmed budget to County Executive Jan Gardener. Ironing this out over the past week has been a titillating mixture of the painful boredom that goes along with budget crunching discussions, as well as fabulous fodder for this brand new local gossip blog. Critics have alleged for years that Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter have just been doing the bidding of Blaine Young, and people wondered what would arise as they moved forward without him in the executive role. They should work harder at shedding the puppet reputation, because watching them navigate the budget talks left the distinct impression that these re-elected councilmen were the least experienced at the table.
At one point, Councilman Jerry Donald asked about the impact of following Shreve’s suggestion to completely eliminate a $1.2 million allocation for snow removal. “What would happen if it snows?” he asked. “We’d pray it didn’t,” said Doug Browning, the county’s chief administrative officer.Frederick News Post, Bethany Rodgers
Chmelik voted along with them. They are obviously a block opposed to taxing, spending, and providing services, so that is no surprise. Chmelik kept his calm yesterday, though, and his demeanor is a departure from what has been seen in the past (and continues in the present) from his like-minded council members. Even in insisting that a stable tax rate was a tax increase, he did press the issue without so much as raising his voice. For that we find ourselves grateful. Big drama means more subject matter for us to pounce on, but for the sake of the county a cool head is a good thing. Bud (swing voter) Otis is like our very own local yokel Justice Kennedy. When some of his fellow council members were hell bent on cutting the permit office’s budget, he reminded them of the complaints they made to him concerning the amount of time it took to process permits. Otis brought up the reality that a budget cut would only cause things to get worse. This is the voice of reason that was sorely lacking in the last administration, and we are more than happy that Mr. Otis is there to fill this role.
As we at Frederick Local Yokel previously reported, #KirbyDelauter feels really bad about the horrible position that Frederick County teachers Jerry Donald and Jessica Fitzwater are in. They are not bad people mind you, they just have some Sophie’s Choice-like decisions to make when it comes to voting on FCPS’s budget. And he is not envious at all!
Well, Mr. Donald did not appreciate these accusations and it was on at last night’s meeting! First let us refer our dear readers to the ethics opinion that Mr. Donald referred to in his comments.
Pretty clear, huh? We would like to think so. Both council members Donald and Fitzwater have removed themselves from any leadership positions AND any other extra positions within the school system. They have also signed a Memo of Understanding that states they will take leave without pay while attending county meetings! It is clear to us here that both council members have been absolutely above board in all their dealings. We support their efforts and wish our other council members were as forthcoming.
Councilman Donald also made the very relevant point that the Board of Education sets salaries, not the Frederick County Council. The two council members who are also teachers have no way of knowing how the money they vote on will be distributed throughout the budget.
Councilman Donald used the words “transparent” and “crystal clear” during his remarks. He must be commended for the restraint he used in looking straight ahead the entire time. We know that if it were any of us we would have turned our entire seat to our left to make sure we were being properly heard. Hopefully, all this evidence will sink in and #KirbyDelauter will end his convoluted notion that teachers’ pockets are being padded by voting on the budget.
Rarely is one properly rewarded when they slip on over to that sticky appendage of a website known as the Tentacle. But Hooey Mama we hit the jackpot yesterday! Our esteemed Councilman #KirbyDelauter had a few things to say about Jan Gardner’s budget. (Spoiler alert: He doesn’t like it.)
#KirbyDelauter’s first problem is that the property tax is not being lowered, which in his mind is a tax increase. It is extremely confusing as to how leaving an assessment alone is an increase, let alone a hidden one, I guess math is really hard sometimes. The second item of contention is the one time transfer of $2 million to cover the assumption of county buildings that he doesn’t believe should cost any money because they sit empty. One quickie look at the Jan’s budget (and please, please don’t just take our word or #KirbyDelauter’s, read it here) and lo and behold here’s the explanation:
One-time transfer to create a 2.0 million reserve fund to cover potential budget impacts from litigation (Wynne Case) and 2.0 million to cover a prior assumption of revenue from the sale of County buildings that did not materialize.
A prior assumption of revenue? And from where did this prior assumption of revenue come from? It couldn’t have been the last budget put forth by #KirbyDelatuer & Co. could it?
But the best is yet to come. The prior board privatized the maintenance of county vehicles. Jan is reinstating two of those positions with an estimated $0 cost to taxpayers. Well let’s see what #KirbyDelauter has to say about this:
The previous Board of County Commissioners outsourced fleet services for maintenance, etc. It worked great and saved the taxpayer a substantial amount of money. The executive wants to hire a full-time maintenance technician. Anyone ever see Jiffy Lube, or Quick Lube, the Lube Center, or your local garage that does maintenance on cars and trucks? Again, would you hire your own mechanic, or take your car to Jiffy Lube? You make the call.
So where to begin with this little gem? First of all, a county budget cannot be compared to a household budget. It’s not the same thing at all. How many cars does the average American household possess? Maybe 2? So of course it isn’t feasible or necessary for us to have our own personal mechanic hanging out in our garage ready to change our spark plugs or fix our transmissions. The county possesses a fleet of 950. That’s more than Jay Leno, who himself owns maintenance equipment to do the work in-house. We have to expect that there is the NEED for daily maintenance on those hundreds of vehicles. As a matter of convenience and efficiency it behooves the county to have their own maintenance workers, rather than having them stand in line at the local Jiffy Lube.
Next on the rap sheet of complaints is this lovely little gem:
Here’s #KirbyDelauter’s take:
Let us not forget about the Lime Kiln rehabilitation at Fountain Rock Nature Park: $600,000 to do some masonry repairs to an old lime kiln that if you took a visitor there today, they would look and say, “That’s nice” If we spend $600,000 on masonry repairs, that same visitor will look at it and say, “That’s nice”.
Don’t put words in my visitor’s mouth #KirbyDelatuer! First, of all we are big fans of Fountain Rock (and Catoctin Creek) Nature Center and see the value of keeping these county treasures open and in good repair. Having visited the Lime Kiln on many occasions we know that it is in desperate need of repair not only for the possible liability issues (in which the county of course could be sued) but also because it is a tourist attraction and tourists bring money to our stores and restaurants. I once heard it explained, “We’re Open for Business!”
But the icing on the cake, the words that we cannot believe our eyes were subjected to were these:
We have two teachers on the County Council who will vote on millions of dollars that will help their coworkers as well as themselves.
I’m not saying they’re bad people, but they are in a bad position. If they vote for these added millions to the Board of Education, the taxpayers will scream foul, claim they’re padding their own pockets. If they don’t, it will be very hard for them to walk among their peers at their schools to say the least. I don’t envy them in that position.
Well Jessica and Jerry I am sure you are beyond relieved that #KirbyDelauter does not think you are bad people! You just do bad things, like pad your wallets with all those county funds angering the tax payers from Emmittsburg down to Urbana! This coming from someone who would love to pad his wallet with county contracts.
We value open, useful discussion in our government. Especially when it comes to how our money is spent. And if our esteemed councilman had some useful words we would surely listen. However, all he wants to do is say no, no, no. We suspect this comes more from his libertarian viewpoint that government shouldn’t exist at all than it does from any real concern of how Frederick County should function.