What is the purpose of the Charter Education Coalition?
Charter Education Coalition members are a broad array of organizations and individuals that reflect the variety of interests in our County: community and civic leaders, Republicans and Democrats, business and labor, education and public safety, even “soccer moms and dads!”
We are all volunteering our time to focus on one important goal: Help Frederick County citizens make informed decisions about Charter Home Rule government by providing information about the features and benefits of this proposed form of government
What is a Charter?
A Charter is a document that spells out the powers, duties and structures of government and the rights of citizens. It is often compared to a constitution at the local level. 40 percent of American counties have adopted a Charter form of government. A Charter is only put in place if voters approve it in an election.
How is Charter government similar to municipal governments in Frederick County?
All municipal governments in Frederick County operate under a Charter.
- Locally elected city councils set policies, ordinances, fees, tax rates, and a host other local laws, procedures and rules.
- An elected Mayor or Burgess serves as the executive of the municipal government, manages its business, administers its laws and serves as the spokesperson of the community.
- While municipalities must comply with certain laws, rules and regulations of the County and State, they have the right and responsibility for operating their community as the local residents decide.
What is the proposed Charter of Frederick County?
The 25-page draft Charter calls for:
- Seven-member County Council, five elected by district and two at-large seats;
- Council members elected to four-year terms and able to serve no more than three consecutive terms, at a salary of $22,500 per year;
- County Executive elected to a four-year term and able to serve no more than two consecutive terms, at a salary of $95,000 a year;
- County Executive, elected at the same time as the Council members, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the county; and,
- Elected County Executive is responsible for an annual report to update residents on the status of the county.
Specifically, the Charter outlines:
- Number, compensation, powers and duties of an elected County Council;
- Responsibilities of an elected County Executive;
- Procedures for enacting local laws;
- Government policies relating to budget, finances, and administration;
- Referendum procedures for all or part of laws enacted by Council; and,
- Revisions to the Charter document.
What happens to the current County Commissioners when Charter takes effect?
The Board of County Commissioners remains in place until the 2014 elections. In 2014, voters will elect a new County Executive and County Council and the Board of County Commissioners will no longer exist. Current members of the BOCC will not become Councilmembers. They must run for election along with all other candidates.
What will be some of the responsibilities of the County Council?
- Approve budget submitted by County Executive
- Appropriate money to fund the capital and operating budgets
- Set the local property tax rate and other local fees
- Approve land use plans, area master plans, and sector plans prepared by the Planning Board
- Act on zoning changes
- Exercise oversight over County programs to ensure efficiency and effectiveness
- Approve capital improvements, public services, and fiscal policy programs
- Enact all County laws and amendments to the Code
- Set the tax rates required to fund the County budget
- Confirm major appointments made by the County Executive
- Direct and review the annual independent audit of County government operations
What benefits can voters expect to see in moving from Commission to Charter Government?
Home rule, flexibility, efficiency, local decision-making, checks and balances and a separation in government responsibilities between more clearly defined legislative and executive branches, are the primary reasons for considering a Charter form of government.
How would government change under Charter?
If the proposed Charter is passed, it would replace the current five-member Board of County Commissioners with a seven-member County Council elected from council districts and two council members elected at-large.
There would be an elected County Executive, thus creating two branches of local government – legislative and executive -- with checks and balances, much like our country’s government with a Congress as the legislative branch and the President as the executive. All Frederick County municipalities operate under a Charter government with a Town Council and a Mayor or Burgess, and county government would be similarly structured.
What if citizens want to reverse something the County Council or County Executive decides?
In order to bring most issues to referendum, a petition signed by seven percent of the county's registered voters must be submitted. Of course, budgets, taxes, short-term borrowing and revenue bonds would not be subject to referendum although long-term bonds could be challenged, but only with a petition signed by 15 percent of the county's voters.