April 20—Education officials on Tuesday asked Frederick County Council to approve the record investment in education that Democratic County Executive Jan Gardner included in a proposed $792 million budget.
Gardner’s budget, proposed 10% higher than this year’s, includes a $365 million allocation to the Frederick County Board of Education, the agency responsible for funding public schools in Frederick County.
“The proposed budget would advance our goal of increasing compensation for FCPS employees, improving services for students with disabilities, addressing enrollment growth, and addressing infrastructure needs,” said Brad Young, President. of the school board. Young is a Democratic candidate for one of two county council seats.
Gardner’s proposed investment marks a jump of about $35 million from this year’s award and represents a larger increase than in previous years.
The school board, however, had asked Gardner for $48 million more than it had received in the county’s budget that year. That includes $32 million to boost teacher and staff salaries in a school district that has consistently ranked among the lowest in the state in teacher pay and per-student funding.
Melissa Dirks, president of the Frederick County Teachers Association, also called on the board to approve Gardner’s proposal or increase it to match the school board’s request, which the board has the authority to do.
Council members, however, said the body had approved Gardner’s proposed investment in previous budget cycles.
More than half of Gardner’s budget goes to education. It includes more than $1 million for Frederick Community College for eligible staff salary increases and funding for Frederick County Public Libraries for teen programs and additional staff positions.
The second largest category is public safety, for which Gardner has earmarked about 20% of budget funds, including more than $500,000 for body-worn cameras for Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Its budget includes $17.5 million for the preservation of 100,000 acres of farmland across the county by the early 2030s, exceeding the county’s Frederick Livable Master Plan goal of reaching the threshold of 2040.
On Tuesday, members of the public also expressed support for Gardner’s investment in the county’s growing senior population. The county executive’s budget includes funding for the Meals on Wheels program, adding drivers and buses to county paratransit services, and continuing the Virtual Senior Center.
County council members also heard from members of the county’s Deaf community and Spanish speakers who said they feel left out of what happens in county government because meetings and services don’t include the language. American signs or Spanish translation.
American Sign Language translation was available at Tuesday’s board meeting, and Gardner included funding for the service as part of his budget.
She also included in her budget funding for a bilingual public affairs specialist position to improve outreach and communication with the county’s Spanish-speaking communities.
Council members have until May 31, in accordance with the county charter, to approve or amend the budget. If the board does not approve a budget by the end of May, Gardner’s proposed budget will go into effect when the new fiscal year begins July 1.
The nearly 700-page budget book is available online at frederickcountymd.gov/budget.
Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan