Baltimore County News
No income or property tax rate increase
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz submitted a budget for fiscal year 2018 that supports the County’s commitment to quality education, school construction, public safety, and recreation.
The $3.15 billion fiscal year 2018 operating budget presented to the County Council holds the line on current income and property tax rates, stays within the Council’s spending affordability guidelines, and balances the budget to assure the County maintains its top bond ratings. Baltimore County has not increased its property tax rate for 29 years and the income tax rate has not gone up in 25 years.
In an address to the County Council, Kamenetz emphasized how budget priorities support commitments to keeping Baltimore County a place where people want to live, work and learn. “We speak up for our priorities and what we stand for. That’s why we protect lives, build schools, expand job training, and open new parks and animal service centers. We plan ahead and budget conservatively, so we can invest in what’s important to the people who live and do business here.”
Below are highlights of the fiscal year 2018 budget Kamenetz submitted to the Baltimore County Council.
Investing in education
The 2018 operating budget continues Baltimore County’s commitment to education and life-long learning. More than $1.9 billion, 60.4% of the entire operating budget, supports public schools, libraries and the Community College of Baltimore County.
Schools for Our Future School Construction Program
In 2011, the Baltimore County Executive launched a $1.3 billion ten-year Schools for our Future program to address the school system’s dual dilemma of rising enrollment and aging infrastructure. The County is building, or is in the midst of building, 16 new schools, 12 additions and 7 significant renovations. Completed to date: four new schools and six major renovations or expansions. Baltimore County has contributed $2 for every school construction dollar from the State.
- The FY18 capital budget accelerates construction of four elementary schools, with initial funding for Bedford Elementary in Milford Mill, Colgate and Berkshire in Dundalk, and Chadwick, near Rolling Road and Security Boulevard. Colgate, Berkshire and Chadwick elementary schools are expected to open in 2020 with Bedford expected to open in 2021.
- To relieve projected overcrowding in the northeast area, the FY18 budget includes $7 million in planning and design funding for a new 1,500 seat middle school in Perry Hall and a 200-300 seat addition at Pine Grove Middle School in Carney. The new Perry Hall area middle school and the Pine Grove addition are expected to open in 2021.
Classroom Program Funding Highlights
- Six thousand County public school students, 5.3% of the total student population, do not speak English as their primary language. These students represent 130 languages, from Korean and Russian to Hindi and Farsi. The FY18 budget adds 13 teachers in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.
- Knowing more than one language is essential to being competitive in our global society. The Passport initiative starts conversational Spanish in fourth grade, when language is learned most naturally. There currently are 40 Passport schools, with funding in next year’s budget to add five more elementary schools to the program.
- To assure all students achieve their learning potential, the FY18 budget includes funds to hire 15 more special education teachers.
Keeping communities safe
Every week more Baltimore County police officers are trained on the proper use of body cameras. The Police Department is on track to have the program fully implemented, as scheduled, by the end of September 2017.
- FY18 budget includes $4.39 million for the body camera roll out, including funding for additional evidence technicians in the State’s Attorney’s office.
- The FY18 budget funds design for a new $27 million computer aided dispatch and emergency communications system.
Initiative to reduce homelessness
Baltimore County continues to expand services to people who are homeless. A comprehensive Westside Men’s Shelter opened in 2015, replacing trailers. A new Eastern Family Resource Center opens in 2017 with expanded health services, shelter beds for men and women, and resources for people in need.
“Women and children who need shelter often are victims of domestic violence and need a safe place to stay for weeks before they secure permanent housing. Our new Center doubles the number of transitional housing beds for women and children,” said Kamenetz in his remarks.
- FY18 budget funds completion of the Eastern Family Resource Center, a comprehensive facility that will double the number of transitional housing beds for women and children who need shelter.
Creating recreation places and open spaces
From new trails at Marshy Point to Lake Roland, the County has funded a record $67.5 million in new parks, community centers and turf fields since 2010. More than 220 parks, trails and waterfront recreation add to the County’s quality of life, with programming supported by 11,000 volunteers.
- The proposed budget includes $10.5 million in recreation funding, with $4.5 million dedicated to more than 90 maintenance and refurbishment projects throughout the County. Projects include resurfacing 31 tennis and multi-purpose courts and refurbishing 43 ball diamonds.
- The budget includes funding for new turf fields at Randallstown and Perry Hall High Schools, a new regional playing field at the CCBC Catonsville campus, and replacement of worn turf fields at Hereford, Lansdowne and Woodlawn High Schools.
Improving aging infrastructure
Upgrading and maintaining aging infrastructure reduces the number of water main breaks and waste overflows. Baltimore County’s capital budget includes funding to replace and re-line water and sewer pipes in the County and upgrade regional reservoirs, treatment plants and pumping stations.
- The capital budget includes $470 million for upgrading water and sewer systems.
- $38 million is budgeted for road resurfacing.
Holding the line on tax rates
Baltimore County has not increased its property tax rate for 29 years and the income tax rate has not gone up in 25 years.
- The FY18 budget maintains the current income and property tax rates.
- The balanced budget is within spending affordability guidelines to assure the County maintains the highest AAA bond ratings.
“Working with our dedicated County employees and officials, we continue to operate a government that is innovative, responsible and efficient,” said Kamenetz.
The County Council is scheduled to vote on the budget May 25, 2017.
The full text of the Baltimore County Executive’s State of the County/FY2018 budget address is available on the County website.