Frederick County Council Hears Testimony On Proposed Fiscal Year 2025 Budget

Citizens ask that more than $50-million be restored to the FCPS funding request.

Frederick, Md (KM). About 25 people signed up to speak Tuesday night during a Frederick County Council hearing on the County Executive’s proposed fiscal year 2025 budget.  . They were asking that the Council  put back the more than $50-million funding request from the School System which  the County Executive took out of her spending plan..

Dr. Cheryl Dyson, Superintendent of Schools, said there will be consequences if this funding is not restored. “Without additional funding, our Board will likely have to look at reductions in what we offer students, including program offerings and class size,” she said. “We will also not be able to fulfill our interest in securing competitive wages for our employees.”

The School System’s Superintendent of Fiscal Services, Heather Clabuugh, had similar comments. “When schools start  in August, we project welcoming nearly 1250 more students as our total enrollment approaches 49,000,” she said. :”Without additional funding, these students may experience a vastly different educational opportunity than the FCPS class of 2024.”

The budget proposed by County Executive Fitzwater for fiscal year 2025 totals $982 million which is 10.17 percent more than fiscal year 2024, says County Budget Officer Kelly Weaver. The County Executive’s proposed spending plan sets  aside $436.7 million for the Board of Education which is $17.7 million more than the School System’s allocation for fiscal year 2024. But it’s $52.8 million short of what was requested by Superintendent Doctor Dyson.

School Board President Karen Yoho said without that funding, it will be difficult to offer competitive salaries to attract and retain employees for the local school system. “If our budget is not fully funded, we risk becoming less competitive in a county where we have a nationwide teacher shortage. We must ensure that we continue to do all we can to attract the best and brightest employees to work in this great community.”

The Council heard not only from teachers and education officials, they also  from a support employee. Karen Soul works in the School System’s Transportation Department. “We ask that you please reconsider the proposed budget by our Superintendent, and increase funding for FCPS so our staff may receive a true cost of living increase so we can continue doing what we love, and that is shaping young minds in Frederick County,” she said.

Two of the speakers called on members of the Council to show not just by words, but by actions, their support for education. “When you campaigned for election, the majority of you cited making investments in our students and public education as a priority. Now it’s time you show us that you meant it,”: said Missy Dirks, the President of the Frederick County Teachers Association.

Rodney Wade has been teaching for 13 years in Frederick County Public Schools. “I know that education is a priority for you. Prove it by not just running on promises to fund our schools, but by actually funding them. Our children are worth it,” he said.

The County Council is expected to hold workshops on this budget on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, April 24th, 25th and the 27th.

Property tax rate.

Prior to the hearing, the Council announced it will hold a hearing on the proposed property tax rate for fiscal year 2025. Budget Director Kelly Weaver told the Board the current property tax rate is $1.06 per $100 of assessed value. But the County Executive has  proposed raising it to $1.11 per $100 of assessed value. “Because the proposed fiscal year 2025 real property rate are greater than the current property tax, the county must advertise and hold a public hearing,” she said.

That public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, May 7ths at Winchester Hall beginning at 7:00 PM. Weaver said the Council could vote on the tax rate that night, or hold it at a later date.

County Executive Executive’s proposed fiscal year 2025  tax rate of $1.11 per $100 of assessed value is expected to bring in $21.5 million in additional revenue annually which will be placed in reserve for school construction projects.

By Kevin McManus