On Wednesday night, the Frederick County Board of Supervisors voted to adopt a $463.5 million budget for fiscal year 2020.
“I’m very very pleased with this budget,” said Chairman At-Large Charles DeHaven. “I think it’s the best we’ve done in the past few budget couple of budget cycles.”
Not everyone shared DeHaven’s view on the budget.
The budget passed four to three, with supervisors Robert Wells, Judith McCann-Slaughter, DeHaven and Shannon Trout supporting it. Supervisors Blaine Dunn, Doug McCarthy, and Gary Lofton voted against the budget.
The budget, which will fund about $13.8 million to the county schools, hit a sticking point with some supervisors over how the schools’ budget would be spent.
“The budget that we had we had two choices,” said Red Bud Supervisor Blaine Dunn. “The first was a choice in which the budget was there without categorical funding to schools. The second budget was the same budget with categorical funding to schools.”
Categorical funding would allow the supervisors to determine how the school board uses its budget, rather than letting the school board have free reign with the funding. The board ultimately voted against categorical funding.
Some, like Shannon Trout, who represents Shawneeland, think categorical funding would remove autonomy from the schools.
“The school board is independently elected,” said Trout. “So they should make the decisions on how they spend the money. Sure, they have to ask the Board of Supervisors for the funding, but when it comes down to it, they should be able to choose, ‘Okay we’re going to spend this money on capital, this money on operating.’ They should be able to make those decisions.”
But to Dunn, leaving the decision up to the schools is a mistake. He cited the lack of maintenance to Aylor Middle School as a reason the county needs categorical funding.
“By putting money into a categorical funding, which you know there are certain dollars that are going to be used for maintenance, it guarantees that the existing structures you have will be maintained,” said Dunn.
However, Trout argues the county has used categorical funding in the past, with less success.
But on a few fronts, the differing supervisors agree: public safety for the county is critical. Both Trout and Dunn pointed to the success of bringing School Resource Officers into every school. Similarly, both noted the positives of the growth to the county.
Dunn says within the past two decades, nearly 30,000 people have moved to the county. With the rate of growth, all three officials say the county needs to find a way to pay for the services for the residents, although with different views on how to accomplish that.
Trout believes raising taxes is a necessity to cover costs, while other members of the board would prefer to lower the tax rate, which as it stands is lower than other neighboring municipalities. For now, the board has maintained a real estate tax of 61 cents, which Trout considers a win.
“The board is very conservative,” said Trout. “Perhaps after election season in November, next budget season might be quite different.”