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Commissioner Frazier: Howard Budget Ramrodded Through

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners is divided on the proposed budget.

Dissension among the Carroll County commissioners was apparent Tuesday during a presentation of the FY13 proposed budget in open session. The budget passed by a 3-2 vote.

The board voted to accept the proposed budget that is being presented to citizens in the coming weeks. Commissioners Robin Frazier and Richard Rothschild voted against it.

Ted Zaleski, director of management and budgets, presented the plan, pointing out significant changes from last year's projected budget and explaining the thinking behind some decisions. 

Upon the completion of Zaleski's presentation, commissioners Rothschild and Frazier presented what they called the "minority report."

Rothschild and Frazier said that their concerns with the proposed budget center on three issues.

They said they believe it is a mistake to plan on increasing revenues in FY 13 and FY14.

They also disagreed with how the proposed budget spends a $16 million surplus, saying the funds should be used to pay down debt and increase reserves. In the proposed budget, the surplus is used to fund a handful of initiatives including $1.4 million for employee bonuses, $900,000 for public schools and $8 million for agricultural preservation.

Their third major issue was that the budget plan “increases structural recurring costs” such as Maintenance of Effort for the Board of Education and county employee salaries. They say structural recurring costs should be addressed when there is proof that revenues are improving.

“This is not an issue of whether or not we believe we should give a raise to our employees who have gone without one for more than four years," Rothschild said. "The question is whether or not it is responsible to do it at this time."

Frazier added that giving teachers salary increases is not the commissioners’ job.

“This is not about teachers' raises because we don’t give teachers raises, the Board of Education does and they have to prioritize it in their budget just like we have to prioritize things in our budget based on the revenues we have,” Frazier said.

Commissioner Haven Shoemaker shot back that the ideas presented in the “minority report” were "irresponsible."

“If you adopt the Rothschild-Frazier approach, what this means for education is the lay off of 200 teachers, the closing of three schools, the closing of media centers across the county, the closing of Hashawha Environmental Center,  and a whole host of other things,” Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker said that economic development is tied to having a strong education system.

“We talk about how important economic development is for Carroll County. Well how are we going to attract business, how are we going to attract prospective employers to alleviate the tax burden on the residential tax payer, if our school system is not up to snuff?” Shoemaker said.

“What Howard’s proposed budget, that I wholeheartedly support, does is maintains the county on a conservative trajectory whereby debt is eliminated ... and it will also provide for tax relief this year,” Shoemaker said.

Frazier said she not only took issue with the budget but with the budgeting process, which she said was not thorough enough. She said the process did not allow her to adequately represent her constituents.

“My assessment of the budgeting process we went through is that the Howard proposal was ramrodded through," she said. "I felt like I had an inadequate opportunity to share some cost-saving ideas.”

Budget Highlights

The following budget items were highlighted in Zaleski's proposed budget presentation.

  • The property tax rate will be reduced by 1 cent
  • Carroll County Public Schools will see a $540,000 increase per year for the next five years and a one-time $900,000 increase in FY13
  • Community college funding will be held flat at $6.9 million
  • Public library will receive $8.8 million, an increase of $300,000
  • Nonprofits will be held flat in FY13, with a five percent reduction each year in FY14-18
  • Health department funding will be reduced $250,000
  • Economic development infrastructure will be reduced $250,000

 

Watch Tuesday's budget presentation in the attached YouTube video or in the video archive on the .Visit this budget page of the government website to view the proposed budget documents.

Kathy April 25, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Kudos to Commissioners Howard, Shoemaker and Roush for drawing a line in the sand in the face of proposed irresponsible budget cutting. Yes we all want lower taxes and less public debt, but education, retaining good public employees, improving the quality of life and agricultural preservation are all more important right now than being able to say we can lightly reduce debt or cut another 3 cents off of property taxes. The County must look towards the future, and attracting businesses and residents (who come because of the schools, the infrastructure and the beauty of the County) will go further in the long run towards raising revenue then entrenching into panic mode and slashing essential programs and services.
David A. Grand April 25, 2012 at 12:22 PM
So much for the pretense of camraderie and like-mindedness among its members.
dugAhole April 25, 2012 at 12:34 PM
sir Rothschild states "The question is whether or not it is responsible to do it at this time". Is lowering taxes at this time a responsible thing to do. Anyone can make a case for their argument and this guy is the king of spin.
John D. Witiak April 25, 2012 at 12:39 PM
8:12 am on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 Commissioner Bartlett Frazier's belief that her brand of religion should be taught in K-12 offers little confidence that she will not salivate at the thought of her destroying public education and replacing it with private religious schools which teach that theocracy is better than democracy, especially with her own church's interpretation of God's Word telling us what we can and cannot believe. If she is as moral and pro U.S. Constitution as she claims she is, one would think that she would recuse herself from participating in any voting that has to do with the budget of Carroll County Public Schools. If she does not, Carroll Countians would be, in my view, just to demand that she does. does. budg
David J Iacono April 25, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Here are a few budget cutting ideas: 1. Instead of Frazier bilking the county for thousands of taxpayer dollars in commuting expenses, require her to use a county vehicle. Better yet, show some leadership and not charge taxpayers for travel expenses. Also, stop approving travel vouchers that include travel expenses for what are obvious personal junkets. 2. Stop hiring lobbyists and PR cronies and hire good teachers. 3. Stop conducting phoney envoronmental summits with phoney environmental speakers paying them and Baltimore County businesses with taxpayer funds . 4. Commissioners take a 10 percent cut in pay to show leadership in managing the debt. Show us your sacrifice. 5. For those commissioners who hate public employees, stay out of public office. Someone needs to tell them that they are government employees just like teachers and other county employees. 6. Go back to three commissioners elected on a county-wide basis and save the salaries of two commissioners and staff.
romeo valianti April 25, 2012 at 01:38 PM
How would Frazier know how her constituents feel about her voting on the County budget. She nevr appearead in any of the formums fearing someone might ask her a question that hae may havenot been able to answer as she knew from the first time she was over her head as a commissioner. One thing I give ms .Frazier credit for, she knows how to get reinbursed for her personal gasoline mileage allowance when she goes from home to the office or other areas that are not job related. Rigt on David Iacono you got ger pegged right.
I. DeFeo April 25, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I am relieved that this is the budget being passed instead of gutting schools and other things. However, I wish they would skip the tax cut and keep the money. We are already used to the tax and with decreased revenue, just keep it. Why can't they just be proud that they aren't raising taxes.
Roland Joseph Meerdter April 25, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Let us not forget the value of dissenting opinions without which a complete discussion cannot be had. Look to Maryland's government which is dominated by liberal Democrats who all have the very same opinion: Tax and Spend. Where has that taken this State in the last 70 years? Agree or disagree with the dissentors, there is much value in a full debate on every subject no matter how frustating it may be.
John D. Witiak April 25, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Maryland schools, Mr. Meerdter, earned its place as first in the nation. And CC Public Schools and N. Carroll HS's Principal. In my view our taxes were well spent by spending it on a seventy-year vision that includes yearly progress in the quality of the public schools. More, not less,funds need to be invested in education at all levels to ensure our nation's future. And your position on dissent? Definitely, as long as you maintain this position no matter who is in the minority in Carroll County... in particular.
Leza Griffith April 25, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Since when is a majority vote "ramrodding?"
Bonnie Grady April 25, 2012 at 11:43 PM
@ David J Iacono: God bless you for your comments. Your courageous remarks are spot on. This best thing to come out of this proposed budget has been the faint breath of encouragement that Howard, Shoemaker and even Roush may be taking off the blinders and seeing Rothschild and Frazier for what they are: self-serving, my-way-or-no-way opportunists.
WatchingInMtAiry April 26, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Is anyone else concerned with the fact that the sleepy man of stone, Commissioner Roush now holds the deciding vote between the two camps? How can someone so disconnected hold the fate of the county in his hands...
Buck Harmon April 26, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Well said...
romeo valianti April 26, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Please dont call Commissioner Roush a man of stone. He worked at the cement company for such a long time, he is still stuck in cement.
Commissioner R Rothschild April 26, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Recurring county revenue is too small to fund a pension shift, increased education funding, and ag pres. The budget temporarily redirects cash flows: $8M of the surplus cash is thrown into ag pres, but $3M/yr of annual recurring ag pres & solid waste revenues are diverted to pay education increases & pensions. Ag Pres loses its recurring revenue stream but gains a 1x shot-in-the arm of cash. The same is done w/ solid waste funds. There’s no increase. The budget assumes recurring revenues increase enough in future years to pay the raises and pensions without continuing to divert ag pres & solid waste cash flows. But, revenues have been flat for 5 yrs. If they don’t increase there won’t be enough recurring cash flow to pay for the increased edu funding plus ag pres & solid waste. In other words, the budget pays 3 yrs worth of payments toward ag pres & solid waste using up much of our surplus cash (think of the cash as ‘savings’.) It temporarily diverts the usual ag pres & solid waste payments to edu and pensions. This permanently increases edu funding. BUT, after 3 years the annual payments into ag pres & solid waste need to start again. The problem is at that point we’ll have to pay ag pres, solid waste AND the increased edu amounts & we don’t know if we’ll have the revenue at that time to pay all 3 ongoing expenses. Using cash to increase spending creates risk, that's why I oppose using ‘savings’ to do this. -Commissioner Rothschild
David A. Grand April 26, 2012 at 10:13 PM
How, after damning the approved budget all to hell, did you miss labeling it as a "doomsday' one, the same that is said of the state's budget? It would've struck an ironic note. And no one would fault you for copycatting.
Native April 27, 2012 at 01:39 AM
I agree sir. At the current direction the state of maryland is headed, the counties will be lucky to have any extra cash in the next few years. I forsee more of a burden put on us as the democrats controlling the state try & pass the buck (& the bills), more & more to the counties. If anyone want to pin blame on any of the shortfalls (lack of education funding), look to the governor.
Native April 27, 2012 at 01:44 AM
The "doomsday budget" will be next year's or the one after. After the money dries up.
Edmund Klebe April 27, 2012 at 07:06 PM
@Mr. Witiak: And who determines this ranking of school systems? Upon what is the ranking based? Actual quality of the education provided or the quality of the "educational experience"? I'd suggest reading Mr. Stossel's latest book for a counter argument. @Mr. Grand -- as a letter in the Baltimore Sun pointed out a 1% cut in the proposed increase is hardly to be termed "doomsday".
dugAhole April 28, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Why are you voting a tax cut. The only benefit is to you for political purposes during reelection. This makes no sense.
Jordan Novgrod June 27, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Howard and the teachers unions successfully framed the debate on this budget as follow: "Raises for the teachers, who could be against that, after all they have not received a raise for over 4 years?" Unfortunately the data shows that they could easily afford raises for the teachers by getting rid of some of the bureaucrats in the Central Offices of the Carroll County Department of Education. A little known fact is that there are over 130 bureaucrats in this central office making greater than $90,000 while not a single teacher in the county earns that much. For a point of reference the New York City Catholic Schools have a total of 26 bureaucrats in their central offices, which by contrast are educating more students than Carroll County. It is extremely irresponsible to expect revenue to increase over the next five years. Which of you expects your housing value to increase over the next five years? With no change to the policies that lead to the housing bubble (mortgage tax credit, federal reserve 0% interest, interest only loans, and mortgage backed securities), I fully expect the housing prices to either stay flat or slide further. This will lead to less revenue and a great budget shortfall. Not to mention the maintenance of effort imposed from Annapolis, which requires counties to fund education at the same level or greater as the previous year. The budget increases money for "education" while enrollment is declining.

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