While Frederick City was sleeping
Last Thursday, the City of Frederick held its 2013 budget meeting. It passed 4-1, with Alderman Shelley Aloi (R) dissenting. A crowd of about 30 people were present when the meeting started, yet not one public comment was offered.
The agenda was altered a little to allow for comment on the Keller Property Annexation. A brief announcement noted that this item would be going through the planning process, leading the way to more city revenue – and less for county coffers.
Frederick and Myersville will be the initial participants in the new tax differential system, replacing the tax equity system. Understanding how this works is difficult for many, including the city alderman.
The county realizes that a duplication of services in four areas currently – roads, planning, parks, and police – will rendered the city citizens a 12.3 decrease in taxes paid to the county.
The city then uses this to its benefit, instead of giving the money back to the citizens, the aldermen raise the city’s property tax rate from $0.65 to $0.732 per hundred of assessed value, which is done to offset the $0.041 that the county has lowered city residents’ tax rate.
The city claims that there is then a savings, although they have raised taxes $0.082 per $100 assessed tax rate. With the county savings alone, a city resident will be expected to pay $1.545 per $100 of assessed value. Business personal tax rates remain unchanged at $1.55 per $100 assessed value.
Not one person spoke for or against the rise in city taxes. Could it be that people embraced savings, yet didn’t see the truth in the city’s spending problem?
Compromise, for the sake of a budget was next on the agenda. How do we spend the $3 million surplus? OPEB (or Other Post Employee Benefits) which is underfunded by $128 million will receive $400,000. Pensions, which are underfunded by $92 million, will receive $400,000, and $200,000 was provided for another pedestrian/bicycle path.
Another $13.3 million was spent for financing the airport, but the chatter on the dais was that is not their blunder, that the city is not being reimbursed.
After additional hiring of three police officers, cost of living adjustments for employees, additional employees for code enforcement, some charitable contributions, and more, only $1 million went to the fund balance, for potential emergencies or issues.
One hefty item is a new trash truck. This is “needed” to move trash collection to once a week.
The increase of spending resulted in a 66.91% debt service, or a $13.3 million increase in spending for fiscal 2013.
Mayor Randy McClement (R) stated he would not veto the approved budget because four aldermen voted for it. It takes four votes to override a veto, according to the City of Frederick Charter.
Proposals for one of the largest agencies, the police department, were brought forth by Alderman Kelly Russell (D), a retired city policeman.
Ethical considerations should be taken into account when a retiree is voting on pension funding or union bargaining. She stated that she was going to “push the edge of the envelope a little further, because I have to…” when bringing up more benefits for her fraternity.
Both Alderman Russell and Alderman Karen Young (D) advocated more funding for staff training and education. Apparently, they have never heard of management prepping successors. This concept is not commonplace in today’s world, yet it is the most effective and efficient way of promoting.
Alderman Carol Krimm (D) and Alderman Michael O’Connor (D) appeared to “go along to get along” for the sake of compromise. This leads me to ask: how much should one ingest for the sake of compromise?
Mrs. Young, in reply to Ms. Aloi’s concerns, stated that the city would have to broaden its tax base in order to make some of the cuts.
Isn’t that what the majority of the county commissioners are stating?
Of the approximately 880 non-profits that have tax free property, how many of them have a home in Frederick City?
The next agenda item was the question of increases in water and sewer rates by 10% across the board. Again we had a 4-1 vote, with Alderman Aloi dissenting.
“Is all of the money in the enterprise fund appropriately there,” Ms. Aloi asked several times – to crickets.
Along with this, the aldermen proclaimed that the state has socked it to them again, raising the Chesapeake Bay Restoration fee. If you, for any reason, can’t afford this, they implore you to file for a waiver.
I see no problems in waiving fees for outlandish taxation. This one should be waived across the board, with an attempt for nullification.
The final charge was for restoring the pension plan, which was vacated in 2002. The five year savings for the 25- and 30-year plan will be approximately $1 million. After the last fiasco, with city pensions, well…
If you have user-paid filings, or fall under Frederick City fees, take note there will be discussion at the June 7 public meeting of all city fees. Alderman Russell made it a point to bring all aspects to the table and specified cab fees.
It is very hard to envision that there was absolutely no public comment, although there was a little confusion as to when to comment. It was difficult, especially on the budget, to know when one segment started and where specifically to comment.
There was little to celebrate for the people of Frederick City when the meeting adjourned. Taxes in the city increased by 8.2%; spending increased by $13.3 million, a large property is now in the process of being swallowed up by “Smart Growth,” several items requesting funding will need to be revisited in three months; water rates went up by 10%, and there is going to be a swell to save the fish in the Chesapeake Bay, via the Restoration Fund.
Good grief, Frederick City! Wake up! Most of you just got the double whammy, from Maryland and The City of Frederick. At least we can thank the county commissioners for being prudent overseers of taxpayers’ money.
Retraining my brain for the future, conferring with my past…