Frederick commissioners eye cuts to housing and elderly programs

Loss of services could leave seniors, the poor and jobless without help, supporters say
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
10/11/2011
Christie Christian credits the Frederick County Department of Housing and Community Development with helping her and her three children from losing their home. Christian of Frederick said the department has been helping her pay her rent because she’s unable to work. “I’m on Social Security disability and my husband died,” Christian said. “We were always a two-income family, but I can no longer work. Without [the department] I couldn’t make it. They help with my rent because I can’t find a full-time job.” Christian said when friends question her circumstances she tells them “I’m low income, I’m raising a family, and I need help.” The mother of three told her story to Frederick County commissioners Thursday because she is worried that they will cut funding to the department. Commissioners are looking to cut programs that rely on federal and state grant money that is matched or exceeded by county tax dollars. They started talking last month about reducing the funding to all programs funded by federal and state grants in which the county provides a share of the money. The Frederick County Child Advocacy Center and the Frederick County Development Center’s Infants & Toddlers Program were discussed Sept. 26. Frederick County Transit Services and the Office of Children and Families were discussed Oct. 6, and Family Partnership, Frederick County Circuit Court and the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office were discussed Tuesday. Frederick County Workforce Services, Housing and Community Development and the Frederick County Department of Aging were discussed Thursday. The department of Housing and Community Development will receive $5.8 million in federal and state grants in fiscal 2012, and an additional $335,200 from the county. The county is not required to provide any money to keep the grants, according to staff reports.

Frederick does not have a ‘massive structural deficit’

Gazette
Kathy Rossen
08/11/2011
Over and over I hear the Board of County Commissioners refer to Frederick County’s “massive structural deficit.” The reality, though, is that this is absolutely not true. We have heard many experts, including one of the county’s own accountants, explain that we do not have a structural deficit. In fact, county revenue and the newly adopted budget have increased by $11 million over last year. The county’s coveted AAA bond rating was just renewed, further proof that there is no deficit. Frederick could not achieve this rating if we were facing the dire financial situation that some of the commissioners continue to allege. This board has slashed human, social, and citizen services, telling us that our county can no longer afford to carry this burden. They have already cut the county workforce, laying off many longtime employees. They are now threatening to further reduce the county workforce through privatization. Yet they easily found $89,000 to create a new position for political ally Ron Tobin. They readily paid $25,000 to Oliver Porter for what turned out to be nothing more than a fill-in-the-blanks sales pitch. One of the largest increases in the budget went to the Sheriff’s Office, which received a whopping $2 million increase. This is not about tightening our belts because we are broke. This is redirecting our tax money to further an extreme political ideology.

Kroll’s Exit

Frederick News Post
08/06/2011
The sudden departure of John Kroll, former head of finance for Frederick County, raises a few questions. Both Kroll and County Commissioner David Gray say that Kroll was forced out. Exactly what that means, we don't know. There are a number of possible explanations. It is also not totally clear exactly why this happened. Gray and Kroll himself believe that he was cut loose because a member of his department challenged Commissioners President Blaine Young's assertion that the county has a significant structural budget problem that requires serious budget-cutting.

Kroll's Exit

Frederick News Post
08/06/2011
The sudden departure of John Kroll, former head of finance for Frederick County, raises a few questions. Both Kroll and County Commissioner David Gray say that Kroll was forced out. Exactly what that means, we don't know. There are a number of possible explanations. It is also not totally clear exactly why this happened. Gray and Kroll himself believe that he was cut loose because a member of his department challenged Commissioners President Blaine Young's assertion that the county has a significant structural budget problem that requires serious budget-cutting.

Ex-director of finance: Frederick County budget woes overstated

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/02/2011
The county's former finance head on Monday challenged portrayals of Frederick County's fiscal woes that local leaders have used to support the need for budgetary overhaul. John Kroll, who said he resigned under pressure Thursday as director of the finance division, stood by his previous position that county budget forecasts show structural deficits that deserve attention, but added that "it's not as big a problem as it's been made out to be." Commissioners President Blaine Young has cited structural deficits -- which Kroll said occur when the county must use one-time revenues to cover for ongoing expenses such as salaries and benefits -- to explain why Frederick County leaders are exploring cost-cutting measures such as outsourcing large chunks of government services. The commissioners' look at privatization has triggered intense debate and a torrent of criticism from county employees. Kroll said he believes it is a "distinct possibility" that his departure from county government came as retaliation against him after an employee in his division publicly contested Young's statements about the structural deficit. Commissioner David Gray expressed a more decisive opinion.

Commissioner: Kroll resignation ‘retaliation’

Frederick News Post
Patti S. Borda
07/31/2011
The resignation of the county finance director Friday was punishment by county leaders against employees who speak out in public, Frederick County Commissioner David Gray alleged Saturday. "It has retaliation written all over it," Gray said. The county announced the resignation of John Kroll at 4:13 p.m. Friday. Gray said Commissioners President Blaine Young and commissioners Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve forced Kroll out of his job over disagreements about statements of the county's financial condition.

Frederick commissioners look at eliminating county grant-funded programs

Head Start was the first to go, more possibly to follow
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
07/07/2011
Head Start will likely not be the only grant-funded program to get axed by Frederick County commissioners to reduce the size of government. Commissioners are looking at all programs funded by federal and state grants in which the county provides a matching share of money. In the case of Head Start, the federal government put in $2.1 million and the county another $2.3 million, a funding match it was not required to make to keep the program running.

Who benefits?

Frederick News Post
Kathy Rossen
06/29/2011
The privatization report delivered to the Frederick Board of County Commissioners from Georgia consultant PPP supposedly outlines how to save substantial money. However, the report does not include any examples of an existing government undertaking such a large privatization project. Only newly incorporated towns with no existing government services had attempted this before, with questionable results. Five cities contracted with PPP, which appears to be closely allied with CH2MHill, to provide new government services through private contracts. Most of those cities did not renew PPP contracts because of cost. The cities found that some, if not all, services could be provided cheaper in-house or elsewhere. This BoCC has continuously stated that they intend to run Frederick County as a business. While that sounds great on the surface, the reality is that government and business are fundamentally different. A business exists to make a profit, and government exists to serve its citizens.

Nonprofits warn programs will suffer due to cuts

Young says more cuts to come in 2013 as county continues to struggle with less revenue
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
04/21/2011
Frederick County residents who depend on help to pay for medical prescriptions, a warm bed at the Cold Weather Shelter, or counseling for mental illness could find themselves turned away. The Religious Coalition for Emergency Needs in Frederick County this week outlined the impact of budget cuts proposed in the county's $448 million operating budget for fiscal 2012.

Residents need the truth about the budget

Gazette
Kai Hagen
03/31/2011
If you have only read Commissioner Blaine Young's spin on past budgets and the budget process, you might think the previous board didn't balance every budget, or that taxes had been raised, or that the new board has been reducing the size of the budget, or that some of the cuts they've made (such as Head Start) were unavoidable. But none of that is true. And Frederick County residents deserve to know the truth

BoCC priorities disappointing

Frederick News Post
Jim Racheff
02/26/2011
The Board of County Commissioners recently discussed the reduction of fees that residential developers currently pay to partially offset the negative financial impacts of their activities. So how will taxpayers shoulder these additional burdens -- which would essentially amount to a permanent tax increase for residents and businesses -- in the face of a multimillion-dollar deficit?

Debate on Head Start has lost sight

Gazette
Bob Rosensteel
02/24/2011
Far too much attention is being focused on whether Frederick County Commissioners C. Paul Smith and Kirby Delauter said that a woman's place is in the home. Ideally, yes, but not realistic. We are losing sight of the broader implications of what they said in the context of the Head Start program. Their comments were offered after the parents told how they needed the program and begged for it not to be cut.

Frederick commissioner questions Office of Sustainability

Office says county saves nearly $500,000 per year by encouraging green practices
Gazette
Katherine Heerbrandt
12/13/2010
Frederick County government has achieved major savings by going green, but at least one commissioner is not yet convinced that those savings are large enough or sustainable enough to warrant a separate office.

Candidates clash at final forum

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
10/27/2010
In a last-minute push for votes, candidates at a Tuesday night Frederick County commissioner forum went into attack mode on some of the biggest issues facing the county. Candidates disagreed on the effects of land use policy, how much the budget has been cut and whether the next board should reverse a decision to build a regional waste-to-energy trash incinerator. Ten candidates are running for five slots on the commissioners board.