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As Long as We Remember...

December 10, 2010

Living by One’s Commitments

Shawn Burns

Finally President Barack Obama has announced a pay-freeze for federal employees. It’s long overdue. Now, to the president’s credit, since he took office two years ago, he has had a pay-freeze in place for everyone in his administration. But still, he waited too long to institute the same pay-freeze across the board for all federal employees.


Many have and will complain as to the unfairness of it all. But too bad. You’re not being asked to take a pay-cut. You’re not being forced into a furlough situation. And you’ve been fortunate to keep your job and benefits while millions in the private sector have lost their home, retirement and job in the last two years. All-in-all, federal employees have a great deal to be thankful for this holiday season.


Locally, leading up to the General Election, many rumors swirled around Frederick County. One of the big ones went something like this: If you elect Blaine Young, Paul Smith, Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve to serve as county commissioners, county employees will lose benefits, face salary reductions and/or be fired.


Well, it appears that rumor was at least partially true because benefit cuts for county employees began coming to fruition only hours the commissioners were sworn in December 1.


Only, our newly elected county commissioners have started making the cuts at the top. And that means starting with them.


In a 4-1 vote (Mr. Gray voting against), our new commissioners voted to eliminate county commissioners from participation in the county’s pension plan. As Mr. Young said, during the campaign – and during their first official meeting – “This is a service position. Not a career.”


Although the new commissioners voted to do away with the pension plan for themselves, their motion must still face a public hearing before it can actually be eliminated.


In the past it cost taxpayers approximately $7,110 per commissioner per year for their pension plan. In a matter of minutes, our new board saved taxpayers $35,500 annually and $142,200 over the course of their four-year term in office. Not a bad start out.


Also during their first meeting, our commissioners passed a motion 3-2 (Mr. Gray and Mr. Smith opposed) to reduce the commissioners’ expense accounts from $2,500 annually to $250.


Again, within hours of being in office, our newly elected commissioners saved Frederick County taxpayers $11,250 annually and $45,000 over the course of their four-year term.


Now critics will complain that the amounts aren’t that significant in terms of the overall deficit that Frederick County is facing. I beg to differ.


In their first meeting, the majority of the board proved that they are listening to the voters. They made a statement. They showed that they are ready and willing to deal with the tough economic decisions that are facing Frederick County. And, right out of the starting gate, they have said that everyone must be willing to sacrifice during these difficult times.


By cutting $187,200 (over four years) of benefits for county commissioners, these new county leaders are also making perfectly clear that “business as usual” isn’t going to cut it with them.


Gone are the days of commissioners “donating” taxpayer money from their expense accounts to their favorite charities. Gone are the days of commissioners demanding special order laptops, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.


And gone are the days of commissioners having the attitude, “Well, it’s only $40,000 out of a $250 million dollar budget.”


To be sure, our new commissioners will make mistakes, and will cast votes both individually and collectively over the next four years that will leave us scratching our heads. But as of right now, our commissioners have come out of the gate strong.


Maybe, just maybe, we will have county commissioners for a chance who live and lead by the old Harry S Truman motto: The Buck Stops Here.



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