Budget Hearing Brings Out Large Crowd To Winchester Hall Wednesday Night

Most were teachers and support employees demanding competitive pay and benefits.

Frederick, Md (KM) The first floor hearing room at Winchester Hall was crowded Wednesday night as Frederick County Executive Jessica Fitzwater took comments from citizens on a proposed fiscal year 2025 budget.

Many who spoke were teachers and school support employees who asked that the Superintendent’s proposed spending plan of $991-million be fully funded. Melissa Dirks, the President to the Frederick County Teachers Association, said the Frederick County School System is a good school system, but it’s at a crossroads. She said one path leads to improved educational opportunities for students, and increased economic value to our communities; and the other leads a loss of great educators, overcrowded classrooms and a lack of resources for programs.

“FCPS is not at this crossroads because of poor planning. It is because of forces beyond their control, namely chronic underfunding, unprecedented growth and a national teacher shortage exacerbated by inflation driving up costs,:”: she said.

Sherill Greeting has been an FCPS teacher for a long time, and she said the School System needs to offer competitive salaries and benefits. “As shown by   the recent, unprecedented growth, Frederick County is clearly the place live in the state,” she said. “Employees, however, should be able to both work and be able to afford to live here.”

The County Executive also heard from Sharon Eberg, the President of  the Frederick Association of School Support Employees, which she says has 2800 members in 190 jobs in the School System. “Support employees working 15 plus years for FCPS do not even make $20 per hour,” she said. “Yes, the argument has been that you have great health insurance. However, the consistent increase in the cost of health insurance has support staff concerned that they may now not be able to afford the health insurance. Oftentimes, they don’t have the extra money for co-pays.”

Also speaking was Karen Saul, an employee with the Transportation Department, who said support employees do not have make a living wage. “I’m asking you to show the people of neighboring counties and states that we care about the success of our students. That we care about community and the growth,” she said.

There were other citizens who testified as well. Chuck Johnson, the President of the FOP Lodge 102, asked that the County Executive include three-and-a-half million dollars in the budget for the Sheriff’s Office for a 20 percent pay raise for deputies; ten percent one year, and the other ten percent the next year. “Based on our current pay, the Sheriff’s Office is seeing a reduction in applicants because our pay is no longer superior to other surrounding agencies,” he said.

Johnson also asked that County Executive Fitzwater sit down with the FOP to help put together a better contract for their members.

The County Executive is expected to release her proposed fiscal year 2025 budget on April 15th.

By Kevin McManus

By Kevin McManus