Majority Who Testified Support Property Tax Rate Increase For Frederick County

They spoke at a hearing Tuesday night before the County Council.

Frederick, Md (KM) There was a lot of support expressed Tuesday night to the Frederick County Council for a proposed property tax rate increase.

As part of her budget, the County Executive has recommended the property tax rate be increased  from $1.06 per $100 of assessed value to $1.11 per $100 of assessed value. That’s expected to raise about $21 million annually  in additional revenue which will be used for school construction. The county has a number of aging school buildings. Frederick County is also the fastest growing county in Maryland, and will need more classroom space as a result

Speaking in favor of the increase was Dr. Paul Lebo, the Chief Operating Officer for Frederick County Public Schools. “$21-million annually will provide incredible opportunities for addressing the four high schools that are due for capital renewal as well as many of our other aging school facilities,” he said. “Without this additional revenue, there is no path to meet our needs for school construction funds.”

Heather Goddard, who is teacher, also testified in support. “I’m willing to pay my share to make sure they teach my children in properly maintained schools. And I do think it’s a sacrifice that should be shared among us in the county,” she said.

Not everyone who testified in support was with the School System. Steve Hind, the President and CEO of Woodsboro Bank, calls  himself a “fiscal conservative,” but supports  the increase in the property tax rate. “This tax increase will enable Frederick County Public Schools to bring our older school buildings, including— I guess we have 33 facilities that are over 30 years old— up to modern design, technology and environmental standards. But also improving the functionality and capacity,” he said.

But there were citizens who spoke out against the proposed property tax increase. One was Jeff Holtzinger. “I’m asking you to give heavy weight to what I would say is the silent majority, the real property taxpayers who are trying to eek out a living and scape by. No time is a good time for tax hikes, but particularly with the inflation we’re all living with,” he said.

Another opponent is  Jason Miller of Mount Airy. “I agree that we have to make tough choices, and I agree that FCPS probably does need a lot of the stuff that they claim they need. But at the same time when inflation is at an all time high since 40 years, you’re asking the taxpayer to tighten their belt when the county isn’t willing to do so. So try cutting spending before raising taxes,” he said.

Hotlzinger also suggested the School System do a better job when it comes to capital projects. “It’s high time the county demands better management of capital projects by the Frederick County Public School System. There are savings there, I think, that can be had. And I think you have expertise here that would help them out,” he said.

The Council is expected to vote on whether to adopt the increased property tax rate at a later date.

By Kevin McManus