Jim King 2017

Remember last year when our favorite State Senator, Charlie Trump, made a point of reminding Frederick County in neighboring Virginia that it was welcome to join West Virginia?

Charlie is a lawyer and politician from Berkeley Springs who obviously has a flair for the dramatic. It’s pretty much mandatory for both of his lines of work.

He’s a master at it, as that little reminder showed. The invitation is actually more than 150 years old, made at the time that West Virginia was organizing as a breakaway state from the Old Dominion.

The good folks to our east never took up the offer – and pretty much trashed it when Trump resurrected it last year.

“We share common values,” Trump argued in early 2020 as he made his case. “Frederick County’s residents have so much in common with West Virginia that our separation has never made sense.”

Values might be one thing, but cold hard cash could be pretty important too.

That was never more apparent than over the last 2 weeks as local government bodies on both sides of the state line polished up their budgets and set levy rates.

Our Hampshire County Commissioners passed a levy for our 23,000 residents based off a $10.1 million budget. That covers the cost of all the county offices, from sheriff to assessor.

Across the state line, Frederick County’s Commissioners set up the spending plan for their county of 89,000 people – not quite 4 times the population of ours in a land mass about 2/3 our size.

Their budget was $489 million – nearly 50 times larger than ours.

Wow.

Huh?

One big reason that Frederick County’s spending is so much bigger is that the county commission’s budget also covers the schools.

Schools were $194 million of the total $489 million.

But add our school budget ($35.2 million last year) to the commission budget of $10.1 million, and Frederick County still spends about 11 times the money we do on less than 4 times the people.

The Frederick budget included 5% pay raises for county employees and extra deputies for the sheriff. More firefighters were budgeted too (theirs are paid; ours are volunteers).

Money may not buy happiness, but it sure buys a lot of other things.

Of course Frederick County can lay such budget expectations because property values are higher there and incomes are too.

And boy does that county have jobs. Just check out the east-bound traffic on U.S. 50 any weekday morning. It’s where something like half our Hampshire workforce actually works.

No wonder Charlie Trump would like Frederick County to join our West Virginia union. What a 56th county it would be.

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