2014 Budget Message
April 15, 2013
- Fiscal Responsibility
- Other Education Initiatives
- Safety in Our Schools
- Baltimore County Meets the Demand for School Construction
- $200 Million More for School Construction and Renovation
- The Community College of Baltimore County
- Public Safety
- Neighborhood Improvements
- Use of Technology Makes Us More Efficient and Saves Money
- The Moral Test of Government
- Government for the Governed
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the County Council, fellow employees, and citizens of our great County. Let me take a moment to thank a few people who are here with us this morning. I first thank the Council members for your partnership in helping us guide this County.
With the conclusion of the recent General Assembly session, I want to thank the leadership of our delegation; in particular, Senator Kathy Klausmeier, Chair of our Senate Delegation; Senator Ed Kasemeyer, Chair of the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee; and Delegate and Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones for their support of the County's legislative agenda, along with the hard-working Senator Delores Kelley, Chair of Executive Nominations, and Senator Norman Stone, President Pro Tem Emeritus.
I also appreciate School Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance and CCBC President Dr. Sandra Kurtinitis for joining us this morning. Importantly, I must thank Director Keith Dorsey, Deputy Director Ed Blades, and the entire Office of Budget and Finance for their hard work in preparing today’s budget. They do an outstanding job.
My highest praise, however, goes to each and every County employee for their dedication to providing exceptional service for the citizens of Baltimore County. I don’t always get the chance to say thank you, but please know that the work you do makes a tremendous difference in so many lives.
And to all of our 815,000 citizens, I thank you for the honor to serve as your twelfth County Executive, and to present to you Baltimore County’s proposed $2.8 billion Operating and $339 million Capital Budgets for Fiscal Year 2014.
Twenty-nine months ago, the people of Baltimore County challenged us to lead in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Tasked with navigating declining revenues while serving our County’s largest population ever, we established a three-pronged approach to governing by applying the principles of Innovation, Responsibility, and Efficiency.
Our ongoing analysis of agency functions and implementation of best practice policies allow us to streamline and consolidate operations. Utilizing technology, we maintained core government services while reducing — without furloughs or firings — our government workforce to its smallest number in the past 25 years.
To our employees, we have asked much of you. However, despite the challenging strain on our budget, we have worked hard to protect your health and pension benefits by strengthening the Employee Retirement System. Unlike any other jurisdiction in this State, we have lowered the actuarial rate, raised the funding status, and continued payment of our OPEB liability. As a result, your promised benefits will be there when you retire, and without being a burden to our taxpayers down the road.
Through disciplined fiscal management, we continue to prioritize funding for our core tenets of public education, public safety and the rebuilding of our aging infrastructure. At the same time, we are attracting millions in new business investment throughout the County, including exciting projects in Owings Mills, Towson and White Marsh.
This is now my 19th year as a County official — spanning the tenures of County Executives Ruppersberger and Smith — and I can assure you, over these years, that both branches of government have been integral to our success. However, we must be ever vigilant in our continuing quest to streamline County operations, save taxpayer dollars and generate economic growth. I’m here today to ask you to stay the course. It’s working.
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin wrote:
Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality, nothing will do; with them, everything.
Baltimore County’s proposed FY 14 budget does just that. We balance our dedication to fiscal responsibility with our commitment to ushering County government well into this 21st century.
The County's FY 14 General Fund Budget, subject to spending affordability, is $1.684 billion, an increase of just 2.94% above the previous year. While there is no cost of living increase for employees, it does fund increments and longevity increases. Approximately 26% of County employees receive these adjustments.
As careful stewards of taxpayer dollars, we’ve worked diligently to again craft a budget with a bottom line that falls below the Council’s recommended spending affordability guidelines.
Remarkably, thanks to the industry of every one of Baltimore County’s employees, we propose no increase in the property tax rate for the 25th year in a row, and no increase in the income tax rate for the 21st year in a row. Think about this for a second. This County has not raised the property tax rate for a quarter of a century!
Once again, this budget continues to fund the Baltimore County Public Schools at Maintenance of Effort levels. The FY 14 Board of Education operating portion of the budget comprises 53% of the total County budget. When capital related items are included, total education funding exceeds $1.4 billion.
Respected statesman Nelson Mandela once said:
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
How prophetic are those words, especially given the limitless possibilities of today’s global reach. Yet, if we are to prepare our students to compete in the 21st century workforce, we must change the way we educate them to reflect our ever-changing world.
Think for a moment, when you were growing up, of your bedroom at home, or even your college dorm. We had no smartphones, tablets, laptops, or Wi-Fi. Internet was science fiction. We didn’t even have microwaves or Xboxes. We had landlines — attached to the wall and with a rotary dial — and we wrote letters by hand to be delivered via “air mail.” During class, we occasionally daydreamed while the teacher’s chalk-dusted hand scribbled across the blackboard. We thought we were satisfied with just four channels broadcast on rabbit-eared televisions.
Nostalgically, that world is long gone. If our students are to achieve their potential, we must teach them using the same language of technology that they speak outside of the classroom.
Dallas Dance is the most exciting and energetic school superintendent we have had in this County in a long time. He understands this new reality, where we have to stop thinking of mere textbooks, chalkboards and traditional classroom models. He and I share a vision for our school system in which we identify the resources that students and teachers need to create modern learning communities for the current millennia.
Dr. Dance and I recently toured Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts in Dundalk, and I can assure you that the future is now. This 50 year-old school building (one of the oldest in the County) houses our school system’s most modern technology — and mindset. The engaging interaction between students and teachers at Patapsco is impressive, and I’m pleased to have the principal who initiated such an outstanding technology environment with us today, Mr. Ryan Imbriale. Ryan has created an amazing community of learners where Twitter feeds, QR codes and smartphones are as omnipresent in school as they are in students’ lives outside of the classroom.
Dr. Dance recently promoted Ryan to work with other principals to transform their schools in his new role as Executive Director for Instructional Technology. I can’t wait to see these collaborative learning communities instituted in every County school.
With that goal in mind, this budget includes $4 million as the first phase of a $15 million plan to upgrade wireless infrastructure and ensure access to every classroom in Baltimore County. This initial implementation will bring these upgrades to all of our high schools.
The budget also invests in a new digital platform and curriculum in accordance with the Common Core State Standards for elementary school language arts. This $5.8 million program allows teachers to individualize instruction based on each student’s needs, and will expand to other grades and content areas, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula.
I am also excited to see the latest technology implemented this fall at the new STEM Center at Norwood and Holabird Schools, where there will be full-building wireless access, whole-room audio and interactive software. With a $1.3 million investment, teachers and students will use laptops and tablets as standard features of daily instruction. And the new Norwood-Holabird model endorsed by our school system offers the east side a special “K to College on One Street” program in conjunction with our brand new Dundalk High School and our prestigious Dundalk campus of CCBC — a unique educational emphasis unlike anything else in the County.
There are other important educational initiatives in this budget as well. We’ve expanded the “On-line — On Time” AdvancePath Academy credit recovery and graduation program for Dundalk, Lansdowne, Overlea and Woodlawn High Schools. This successful program delivers curriculum online with support from teachers to help students recover credits and graduate on time with their classmates.
The budget also supports the implementation of a Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) process for new teacher evaluation. This approach, which relies on expert teachers to assist new or struggling staff members, has been used successfully in other districts across the nation. I thank TABCO President Abby Beytin and John Desmone, the Executive Director of CASE, for their efforts to collaborate in this worthwhile initiative with Dr. Dance.
As we know all too well here in Baltimore County, the journey to graduation for our students must be a safe one. All students deserve a secure learning environment that protects them while allowing them to focus on their studies and to grow as individuals.
Earlier this year, we funded $3.7 million in elementary school safety initiatives that include new security entrances and upgraded intercom systems and cameras. I am pleased that we continue our commitment to school safety with an additional $2.5 million to support Phase II of the school system’s Safety and Security Plan. This phase will include a comprehensive one-card staff and student identification and swipe entry system, and will also fund upgraded security cameras.
Baltimore County was an early pioneer of the School Resource Officer program, when we first placed police officers in every high school. Over the years, it was expanded to most of our middle schools. The SRO program has given police important investigatory opportunities, but also a chance for a mentoring relationship between officers and students. Because this program also offers a valuable public safety presence, I am pleased to provide funding for an additional six police officer assignments to ensure that all middle and high schools will have full-time police presence.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote:
The secret in education lies in respecting the student.
There is no greater way to demonstrate that respect than to invest in the buildings that they enter each and every day.
We grew as a young suburb in the 1950s and ‘60s, and that is when most of our schools were first built. Now, as an aging “first tier” suburb in this new century, we find ourselves with one of the oldest school inventories in the State. Indeed, over 80% of our schools are more than 40 years old.
In the past decade, the State of Maryland has contributed nearly $400 million to school renovation and construction projects in Baltimore County, for which we are grateful, with a requirement that the County match that $400 million. Instead, this County has invested roughly three times that amount — approximately $1.2 billion — for a total investment in our schools of $1.6 billion over the past eleven years. By our words and deeds — and especially with our tax dollars, the score of budgets in Baltimore County have consistently focused on the needs of our school children.
In just a little more than two years, we have built or funded nine new schools and additions to schools, creating more than 3,000 additional classroom seats. We will have reduced the number of schools without air conditioning from the 52% when we first took office to 27%. This means that 26,000 more children will attend school in air conditioned buildings than did so in December 2010. By any standard, that is solid and steady progress.
While we are proud of our school construction record, now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Given our aging buildings and predictions of rising enrollment, there is still much work to do.
With this in mind, Dr. Dance, President Lawrence Schmidt and the entire School Board have undertaken a comprehensive look at the school system inventory. Team BCPS’ complete analysis will form the basis of a 10-year school facilities plan, which will allow us to discuss a long-term plan that best meets the needs of tomorrow’s students and today’s finances. Dr. Dance, I look forward to receiving your report this fall.
And yet, because our current needs are so daunting, we must continue to immediately invest in our schools’ pressing capital needs. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that this year’s budget appropriation of $149 million and an additional anticipated State contribution of $51 million will provide $200 million for school construction and renovation projects. We will expend this $200 million to help pay for:
- At least 700 new elementary seats in the York Road corridor;
- 700 new elementary seats in Owings Mills;
- At least 500 new elementary seats in Catonsville.
We will also complete funding for the 700-seat Mays Chapel Elementary School and 200 new seats at Sparks Elementary School, and with the soon-to-open Hampton and Stoneleigh additions, we will have added more than 3,000 new elementary school seats in the past two years.
This year’s capital appropriation will also complete funding for the renovation and addition at Hereford High School, and will provide funding to initiate the renovation of Pikesville High School.
I am also pleased to provide funding toward a $27.5 million renovation of Dumbarton Middle School, as well as toward a $16.2 million air conditioning project at Overlea High School.
Moreover, this budget contains $32.5 million for major maintenance and site improvements across the system, plus $5.4 million for roof replacements at:
- Chapel Hill Elementary School
- Cromwell Valley Magnet Elementary School
- Glenmar Elementary School
- Middleborough Elementary School
- Riverview Elementary School
- Scotts Branch Elementary School
We also anticipate future air conditioning projects to be announced upon the completion of the State IAC review process based on an allocation of Governor O’Malley’s dedicated air conditioning fund.
By the way, our success in obtaining record amounts of State aid would not have occurred without the skilled leadership of Director of Government Affairs Yolanda Winkler and her team, including Sam Moxley and Ethan Hunt.
Maryland’s largest community college continues to shine under the leadership of President Dr. Sandra Kurtinitis. This year’s budget includes funding for a new STEM building on the Catonsville campus, and of course, full staffing for our spectacular new County Campus at the Owings Mills Metro Centre, which opens this summer.
One of our three tenets of County government, besides public education and reinvesting in our infrastructure, is the need for strong public safety. This year’s budget proposal includes an increase in the Police Department budget, which now exceeds $192 million. This prudent investment is validated each and every day by our brave officers.
The County Police Department, under the solid leadership of Chief Jim Johnson, continues to use technology to improve its operation. It has converted all of the operating manuals, field and administrative, to electronic form, and the Field-Based Reporting Project (FBR) allows for wireless reporting.
In addition to creating numerous advances in time management and data mining, this project will save money by allowing us to reassign 15 Criminal Information Processor positions. Our Baltimore County Police Department will be the largest law enforcement agency nationwide to utilize field-based reporting.
And our investment is paying dividends by making Baltimore County one of the safest communities in the nation. The most recent five-year data shows that, statistically, violent crime dropped a cumulative 25%.
I also wish to congratulate Chief Johnson in his role as Chair of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, including his advocacy of the recently enacted Maryland law that bans assault weapons and high capacity magazines and closes loopholes on gun sales.
With today’s budget, we also continue our commitment to our firefighters and emergency medical services personnel. With a budget allocation of nearly $91 million, including $7 million in grants and in-kind services to our volunteer companies, Baltimore County remains committed to having the best-prepared and best-equipped fire department in the nation.
Again, by deploying technology, we will equip every ambulance in Baltimore County with a mobile hotspot, allowing crews instant access to data collected by the 911 Center, which will increase the efficiency of our emergency responders. Responders will also complete reports without returning to the station, meaning that ambulance crews will be able to accept additional calls for service.
I want to recognize the president of the Baltimore County Professional Fire Fighters Association, Mike Day, for his advocacy of these technology advances in the Department, and I thank Fire Chief John Hohman for his leadership of this department.
Chief Hohman is also to be commended for his efforts to ensure that the men and women of the Baltimore County Fire Department reflect the communities we serve. This year’s recruit class has 31 candidates, of which 35% are minorities, 13% are women and 35% are military veterans.
We are making real progress to diversify the County workforce, and I am committed to continuing our efforts. To both Chiefs, thank you and your departments for your hard work and dedication.
Our capital budget will continue to reinvest in infrastructure projects throughout the County. For example, we are increasing our road resurfacing budget by an additional $8 million, for a total of $28 million over two years, representing a 250% increase from three years ago.
We will also allocate $300,000 toward a $1.2 million project in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to raise portions of Bowley’s Quarter Road by three feet to mitigate frequent flooding problems.
As part of our commitment to recreational programming, $20 million will be allocated for exciting projects in all parts of the County.
- $3.4 million will be dedicated to the creation of a much desired regional park to be located at Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville. I thank Delegate Adrienne Jones for her work securing $400,000 in State funding, with the support of Senator Kasemeyer and Delegates Malone and DeBoy. I also thank UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski for his support as well.
- I am also excited to complete improvements to the Sollers Point Community Center in Turner Station, which will include demolition of the old high school and site improvements at a cost of $4.1 million.
- Continuing our investment in the recreational needs of young people, this budget will also fund a new $2.8 million community center in Cockeysville.
- On the northeast side of the County, $5.65 million will be allocated for improvements to Gough Park in Perry Hall, which will also include the construction of a gymnasium. This project would not happen without the generous $1.5 million contribution by the Perry Hall Recreation Council, with much thanks to them and their representative, Bill Paulshock, and special thanks to Senator Kathy Klausmeier for helping to secure an additional $750,000 in State funding.
- This budget also includes $1.3 million for the rehabilitation of Rosedale Park, providing funds for expanded parking and environmental stabilization.
- We will allocate $880,000 to create accessible walking trails at Catonsville Community Park, Brady Trail at Marshy Point Park, and in Perry Hall’s Indian Rock Park.
- Using State funds, an additional $215,000 will be invested at Robert E. Lee Park to create a new playground. The historic structure of Todd’s Inheritance will receive $175,000 in internal upgrades. Battle Acre Park will receive $250,000 in State funds, and the countywide Neighbor Space program will also receive an additional $50,000 grant.
- To allow greater nighttime access to our fields, this budget includes $1.5 million for lighting upgrades at Perry Hall Elementary School, Jacksonville Elementary School and Hereford Middle School.
In the beginning of this term, Baltimore County embraced the technology era in a big way with 23 initiatives to reduce costs, increase efficiency and expand service. As a result of the hard work of our stellar Office of Information Technology under the leadership of Director Rob Stradling, building permits are now automated; route optimizers save the County time and money; a customer service portal is improving response time for citizens; animal control and licensing issues may now be managed online; and tools like My Neighborhood and iWatch have made it far easier for residents to interact with County government.
This budget continues our commitment to technology. We have increased the operating budget and the technology fund for the Office of Information Technology, which allows us to:
- Upgrade software applications and infrastructure to eliminate obsolete systems while reducing maintenance and training costs.
- Integrate hardware, software and operating systems with human resources to improve efficiency and lower costs.
- Provide services and information to citizens by expanding online services, including access from mobile devices.
- Increase worker productivity by utilizing devices such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets and GPS technologies.
Vice President Hubert Humphrey notably said:
The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.
So while we continue to manage wisely, we remain committed to providing a social safety net for those citizens who need government to lend a helping hand, especially in this continued time of need. The stress and strain of making it from paycheck to paycheck is far too often a daunting task, and we will not forget those who need our help.
This budget increases the emergency social services fund for the Department of Health and Human Services by more than 22%, which will help families avoid evictions and utility turn-offs, and provide for emergency medical expenses.
In addition, using funds from the County's speed camera program, we will expand our Mobile Crisis Intervention Team from two teams to three. A crisis team pairs a County police officer with a clinical health professional to quickly respond to emergency situations, often in cases of domestic violence and personal crisis. This holistic approach will help individuals access mental health resources and avoid the criminal justice system.
I am also pleased to initiate the funding process for a new Eastern Resource Center that will provide healthcare and shelter on the grounds of Franklin Square Hospital. This partnership involves contributions by Franklin Square and the State of $5 million apiece, plus $4 million in County funds, subject to a 2014 bond referendum approval by our voters.
In conclusion, Thomas Jefferson once wrote:
The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness. Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors.
The budget that I present to the Council this morning embraces that spirit. May we continue to be guided by the innate wisdom and character of the people of Baltimore County. Thank you all very much for your time.