Keeping Taxpayers in Mind
A few items we have discussed at the County Council meetings are the closing of Sabillasville Elementary School and the rehabilitation of the lime kiln furnace at Walkersville's Fountain Rock Park.
The first item is the closing of Sabillasville Elementary School. This ploy is used every budget cycle when the Frederick County Public Schools union wants to use this scare tactic to get their annual funding increases. I spoke out against the closing of this school for several reasons. First, it is simply just a ploy to get the masses in northern parts of the county stirred up and get these residents to support budget increases so this school does not get closed.
The school is not going to be closed; it was never going to be closed; it was never an issue, just a ploy. Second, here are the totals for improvements that have been spent on this school over the last seven years.
This is almost $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars in improvements to a school the powers-that-be consistently threaten to shut down during every budget cycle.
Who makes these decisions to spend this money when there would be any remote possibility of closing this school?
I personally sat down with Superintendent Terry Alban and gave her a list of items that would save the school system recurring monies. Things like outsourcing the plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and general maintenance items rather than carry hundreds of maintenance employees with salary, benefits, vehicles, insurance, and fleet maintenance, we could outsource on an IDQ (indefinite quantity) contract and only pay for the services provided. This would save millions of dollars that could be reallocated toward teacher salaries, putting the funds where it does the most good. These are real savings with real results that would reward the best teachers with the best pay.
I can't deal in ploys and scare tactics, I only deal in the reality of results.
The next item I would like to discuss is the Fountain Rock Park Lime Kiln rehabilitation. The total cost for this project is approximately $600,000.
We recently discussed this for some architectural costs and project management costs. The structure was built in the 1800's. Back around 2002 it had some major work done to it and structurally the kiln is sound. There are a few minor cosmetic issues that could be repaired for minimal dollars, but to spend another $600,000 on this project in these tight budget times is just simply irresponsible.
I requested that we remove it from the CIP (Capital Improvement Projects) budget and let those funds drop to the bottom line (fund balance) to be used for something more critical at this point.
When I was on the last Board of County Commissioners this item came up and we removed it and placed it out four years to a future CIP. This is what we should have done in our council vote recently. We need to recognize we can't be everything to everyone all the time. There has to be priorities and this, in my opinion, isn't a priority.
Frederick High School new construction is coming in over budget. These funds for Fountain Rock Park could have been transferred to that project and do far more good than a 150-year-old lime kiln that will be standing when my grandchildren have children.
The project at Fountain Rock will move forward since Councilman Tony Chmelik and I were out voted 4-2 to spend these funds on this project.
One of the reasons I voted against spending the funds on this project was simple: the Parks and Recreation Department solicited donations from the public to do the restoration of the lime kiln. They received less than $200 on a $600,000 project. My point to them was simple: if the public doesn't want to voluntarily donate their money for this project, then why should we take their money by force to do the project?
I was voted into office to make these types of fiscally sound decisions. I will keep making these fiscally sound decisions. I can't guarantee the rest of the council will vote this way, but I can only be true to what I told you I would do. I will look out for your dollars as I would my own. That is something you can count on.
Mr. Delauter represents Council District 5. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.