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As Long as We Remember...

July 21, 2011

Privatization: Down to Work

Blaine R. Young

Now that the lighting rod has been removed, can the real discussion start? How ‘bout really looking at the value of public private partnerships instead of the all-or-nothing approach that has been portrayed via the PPP Associates analysis?


As most everyone has presented, there were only two choices before the commissioners – either adopt the PPP evaluation lock-stock-and-barrel, or do nothing.


The PPP Associates report was just that – an evaluation from two individuals who have seen the success first hand and have been involved in creating this new form of service delivery to the citizens. Because this all or nothing approach was the focus and acted more of a distraction, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to remove the report as the focal point. They will continue to move forward with discussion, looking at cost saving measures that will include public private partnerships and opportunities outside of such outsourcing to reduce spending.


Right now many are trying to evaluate which side should declare victory – neither. All sides should now work together to make sure that victory can be declared for the taxpayer.


There were many great suggests from employees on how to reduce spending and save money. Here are some of them.


1.)    Reduce the number of holidays. Right now county employees get 13, plus elections days.

2.)     Reduce the amount of sick leave. Right now 0–2 year employees get 9.75 days and the numbers grow as the years of service grow.

3.)     Reduce the amount of annual leave. Right now 0–2 year employees get 9.75 days and the numbers grow as the years of service grow.

4.)     Increase the amount employees pay for health care.

5.)     Increase the contribution that non-uniform employees make to the retirement plan. Right not employees make a 4% contribution of the defined benefit and county taxpayers make a contribution of 18% of the employee’s salary.

6.)     Switch from a defined benefit for new employees to a 401K plan with a matching contribution.

7.)     Look at furloughs and/or across the board pay reductions.

8.)     Transition the rest of the work from a 35-hour-work week to a 40-hour-work week.

9.)    Continue to move forward with looking at implementing hybrids and pilot public-private partnerships opportunities.


These are just some of the 40-plus suggestion that were made by county employees at the two public hearing the commissioners conducted.


Close to 100 employees spoke and over 600 where in attendance to offer feedback. This was wonderful and productive for the most part. Now, we will get feedback from the public on ways to reduce spending.


Other employees wondered why the county, Frederick City, the Board of Education and Frederick Community College have duplicating departments? Why can’t consolidation be done to save money?


Many have made this argument for years and I agree. Hopefully all were listening. It is all taxpayers’ money and it is not efficient for the citizens and taxpayers to continue to build fiefdoms.


Information was also presented from a member of the finance department that we are not in a crisis mode and the structural problems being presented are not accurate. The information presented by the finance and budget office has not been altered or changed by any commissioner and the information presented has been posted on the county's website and has not changed from the last Board of Commissioners to this one.


There is always an argument about fund balance; some call it surplus. In my opinion if it is surplus, then it should not be used to balance the budget unless it is only used on one time expenditures and not recurring expenditures. The first priority should be to rebate it to the taxpayers.


Beyond fund balance you still have to take into account all the transfers used to balance the current fiscal year budget and the last one.


In 2011 over $10 million in transfers were used to balance the budget. Money was grabbed from any account available – the bond reserve, recordation, etc.


In FY 2012, the current spending plan, we used a $3.2 million transfer from Frederick County Public Schools. Do we really think that will continue?


I believe that before these commissioners leave office, there was be requests from the Board of Education for millions above the maintenance of effort standard. Let’s hope not.


We are not living in stable times and we should not treat them as such. The financial information presented to the commissioners – both past and present – by the Finance Division is accurate. I hope. If not, then the taxpayers have been defrauded. I think it has been accurate, but questions will be asked to make sure.


As I have said, the work of these commissioners will be all about budget, budget and budget. We should not focus on the next election but the next generation. The goal is to reduce the size of government, reduce spending and redefine the role of government.


So, was the PPP Associates report a waste of money? The commissioners voted 4-1 to spend $25,000 on it. The “no” vote was that of Commissioner C. Paul Smith, not that of Commissioner David Gray as many have thought.


We have gotten more suggestions from the county employees to reduce spending than at any time in county history. They have come – not from directors and other upper management employees, but from a diverse range of employees with different perspectives.


Some people will argue that the PPP Associates was a waste and inaccurate with the only real way to find out if the cost ratios where correct in it is to test it with Requests for Proposals (RFPs).


I think the majority is ready to move on and start the real discussion and be part of the solution.


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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