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.
Director, Baltimore County Office of Budget and Finance
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s budget for FY 2017 continues the County’s tradition of fiscal responsibility and expedites important school construction and air conditioning projects at County schools.
The Baltimore County Council voted this morning to adopt County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's proposed budget for FY 2017 with only minor changes. The County’s General Fund Operating Budget for FY 2017 is $1.99 billion, an increase of only 1.27% above the previous year, and falls within the Council’s spending affordability guidelines. Highlights of this year’s Total Operating Budget include reaching multi-year agreements with almost all of the employee groups, an $8 million increase in the Maintenance-of-Effort funding of the Public Schools – including 104 new positions, and second year in a row of more than $100 million in PAYGO funding (cash from the Operating Budget) of the Capital Budget.
The FY 2017 capital budget is more than $373 million, including $127 million in PAYGO funds. 51% of the total ($195.7 million) is dedicated to school renovation and construction projects for Baltimore County Public Schools. This Capital Budget level does not reflect the $39 million supplement for accelerating school air conditioning that has been focus of several recent news reports. In July, the County Executive will ask the County Council to approve the supplement so that the final six air conditioning only projects can be completed by the fall of 2018.
Despite the rhetoric coming from some outside critics who have no knowledge of Baltimore County finances and our ability to fulfill on time our $1.3 billion Schools for Our Future promise, the upcoming supplement is not a reaction but a continued effort that began in 2011, i.e., to put all available dollars into school construction. Furthermore, the supplement will force Baltimore County to issue bonds in order to forward fund the State’s $44 million share of the cost. The additional $44 million brings the total FY 2017 amount the County will advance the schools on behalf of the State to $166 million. While the outside critics may focus on inventing motives for the County’s actions, they fail to respond to the real question – “When will the State pay off its $166 million I.O.U. to Baltimore County?”
I invite you to take a look at the comprehensive budget originally proposed by the County Executive. Meanwhile, here is the FY 17 adopted budget at a glance:
Over $3 million in grants proposed in FY17 budget
Recognizing that arts and culture are vital to our quality of life, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has proposed $3.27 million in grants to arts, science and humanities organizations in the fiscal year 2017 budget, an increase of $382,000.
“If we are to create the kind of Baltimore County that we want our children to be proud of, we must recognize the important role that Baltimore City plays in our county, in our region and in our state. That is why we continue to dedicate more than $3 million in next year’s budget to support regional arts and cultural institutions in both the city and County,” said County Executive Kamenetz.
687,000 visits to City arts and cultural attractions
From the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art and Center Stage to the National Aquarium, Baltimore Symphony and Maryland Zoo, County residents support arts and culture throughout the region. Last year, there were 687,000 visits by Baltimore County residents to Baltimore City arts and cultural attractions.
“Not only do the arts help create the wonderful quality of life we enjoy, they add jobs and generate economic impact,” said Kamenetz. “For example, in 2015 the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra alone added over $8 million to Baltimore County’s economy through dollars spent at County companies, property and income taxes paid by BSO employees and revenue from performances at Oregon Ridge in Cockeysville.”
“The arts are as important as the Orioles and the Ravens to attracting and retaining businesses and recruiting employees,” added Kamenetz.
Baltimore City’s cultural institutions complement County arts organizations such as the Gordon Center for Performing Arts, Towson University Center for Asian Art & Culture and Deep Vision Dance Company.