Contradicting the Detractors
When the Board of County Commissioner's began preparation for the 2012 budget, it did so by not only addressing the $11.8 million general fund deficit, and the fire tax fund deficit, but also by addressing head-on the structural deficit, commonly called OPEB (Other Post Employee Benefits) trust fund.
When this board took office it started with a $31 million proposed base structural deficit. For FY 2012, the commissioners committed to fully fund the final year of the five-year phase-in model. While the county could have saved about $4.6 million in FY 2012 by converting to an eight-year phase-in, this would have prolonged the ramp-up period and ultimately would have cost the county more money through the loss of investment revenue compounded at a lower rate of return.
With the five-year ramp up now funded, the county can look forward to relatively stable OPEB contributions that should fluctuate only by changes in healthcare cost and the addition or reduction of employees.
The commissioners also kept a close eye on the county pension plan which is funded at over 80%. This is seen – and recommended – as the safe zone by county consultants and advisors. But the commissioners will continue to work to make improvements to raise this percentage.
If governments across the country are not addressing their structural deficits, their OPEB responsibilities and their pension plan, then they are just blowing smoke.
In a future column I will go into details of the county's pension plan and retiree healthcare costs and responsibilities for the county and the individual. To address these issues and to balance the budget, the commissioners had to make cuts and because of certain cuts already made, they have come under criticism for not being compassionate and caring for the poor and low-income population of the county.
I have always said "what right do we as county commissioners have to make a forced contribution on behalf of the taxpayer. It is their money, not ours." There are many worthy and wonderful non-profits and charities that you and I give to on a regular basis. But what gives the right to the government to pick and choose which non-profits and charities are worthy?
(A wonderful article that does a great job in looking at this issue is written by Dr. Walter Williams can be found here: http://appalachianconservative.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/walter-williams-quotes-on-government-capitalism-and-liberty/)
Below you can see what programs to aid the poor and low-income population are in the 2012 proposed budget. It provides proof that contradicts what some believe, that there is nothing in the FY2012 budget to assist these segments of our population.
Now, will reductions have to be made in the 2013 budget? Without question this will happen because there is a projected $16 million deficit and about a $3 million shortfall in the fire tax fund.
As I said during last year’s campaign, the next several years will be about the budget, the budget and the budget. I do have compassion – compassion for the taxpayer; and if we do not lower taxes by 10% before we leave office then we have failed.
FREDERICK COUNTY, MARYLAND
FISCAL YEAR 2012 (as of May 9, 2011)
DEPARTMENT RECOMMENDED ADOPTED
Health Core Services* 1,864,502 $1,932,916
(Admin, Dental, Personal Care, Environmental
Health Maternal Child Health, Communicable
Disease, Chronic Disease, Substance Abuse,
Mental Health Program 421,533 1,380,517
TOTAL HEALTH SERVICES 2,286,035 3,313,433
Transit 145,075 152,714
Citizens Services Administration 385,960 354,897
Department of Aging 332,141 408,824
Family Partnership 243,228 298,364
Head Start (Includes bldg maintenance of 4 locations) 94,000 151,527
Housing 289,008 393,843
Office of Children and Families 97,180 97,180
Child Advocacy Center** 254,826 268,825
TOTAL CITIZENS SERVICES 1,696,343 1,973,460
INDEPENDENT & OTHER NON COUNTY AGENCIES:
Social Services 747,610 1,078,771
Advocates for the Homeless 16,245 22,564
Cakes for Cause 5,625 7,500
Emmitsburg Early Learning Center 20,306 27,075
Frederick Alliance for Youth 6,586 0
Goodwill Industries 10,688 14,250
Heartly House/Healthy Families Frederic 10,875 5,000
Hope Alive, Inc. 4,335 0
MHA – CASA 4,275 5,415
MHA - Counseling Services 17,100 21,660
Religious Coalition - Pharmacy Assistance 43,950 58,662
Religious Coalition - Shelter Program 47,850 63,835
Seton Center 28,172 45,125
Villa Maria/Associated Catholic Charities 15,839 21,118
TOTAL GRANT-IN-AID 231,846 292,204
Transfer to Other Funds
Transfer to Grants
Department of Aging 908,775 928,437
Family Partnership 560,927 911,008
Head Start 0 2,256,569
Housing 13,324 11,752
Office of Children & Families 278,791 276,527
Child Advocacy Center** 8,361 32,953
Transit 1,491,147 1,592,256
Housing Initiatives Fund 483,915 324,073
Bell Court 111,951 100,496
* Although these agencies/departments do not target low-income households, approximately half of participants are low income.
** Although these agencies/departments do not target low-income households, the majority of participants are low income.