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Kamenetz Announces Schools for Our Future Program in Budget Message

$1.1 Billion for School Renovation and Construction, Adding 11,000 Seats to County Schools

Towson, Maryland (April 15, 2014) – Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz presented the Fiscal 2015 Budget Message to the County Council this morning.

Below are highlights of the budget, including direct excerpts from the Executive’s speech.

The County’s General Fund Operating Budget subject to spending affordability for FY 2015 is $1.75 billion, an increase of only 3.85 percent above the previous year.

The FY 2015 capital budget is $175.7 million and adheres within sound financial debt ratios.

Holds Line on Taxes and Maintains Bond Rating

  • No increase in property tax rate – 26th year in a row
  • No  increase in income tax rate – 22nd year in a row
  • Maintains Triple AAA bond rating – one of only 38 counties in the nation to achieve this status

Labor Agreements

  • Two-year contract extensions with all bargaining groups
  • Fully funds scheduled increments and longevity increases
  • No layoffs or furloughs
  • Three percent bonus for employees this fall – agreement extends to Board of Education, Library and Community College employees as well.

Strengthening Employee Pensions and Health Care Systems

  • In 2012 Baltimore County took the important step of lowering the valuation rate for expected earnings from the County’s retirement system from 7.875 percent to 7.25 percent.
  • FY 15 budget reduces valuation rate to seven percent, one of the most conservative actuarial assumptions in the nation – the County includes $7.2 million in the budget to lower the assumed rate of return.
  • “In FY 15, we propose to increase the countywide appropriation for this Other-Post-Employment-Benefits (OPEB) cost by $6.4 million in order to fully fund the actuarially determined Annual Required Contribution. This action to make OPEB contributions now, rather than passing them on to later administrations, will allow the County to utilize an enhanced discount rate and save millions of dollars in future budgets.”

Technology Advances

  • “Baltimore County has become a regional leader in the use of technology to improve services in all phases of County government. This year’s capital budget includes more than $7.5 million for new technology projects. The expansion of our broadband capacity has allowed us to provide greater innovation throughout the County while saving us millions in reduced leasing costs down the road. This increased capacity allows us to bring Wi-Fi to every County school, a project that should be completed this year. The budget also includes $1.7 million to expand broadband services not just to schools, but also to libraries, community centers and senior centers across the County. It also allows us to implement Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephone service for our employees, including features such as direct dial phone numbers, individual voice mail, and caller ID. This transition to VOIP telephone service will be nearly completed in the coming year, providing $604,000 in annual savings for the County.”
  • “While we successfully have launched improvements to our code enforcement process, this budget includes $800,000 to improve the data systems in sectors of the Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections, allowing easier public access to County government.”

PAYGO Funding

  • “Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) funds are sources of funding that are provided to the capital budget that offset the County's need to issue debt. Instead of borrowing money and paying interest, we pay in cash. This year's total PAYGO funding amounts to $88.8 million to support additional capital projects in public works, recreation and parks, and school air-conditioning projects.”

Social Safety Net

  • “An important consolidation three years ago was the merging of the Department of Health and the Department of Social Services. I am pleased to include $648,000 for our “No Wrong Door” system to streamline the intake process for health, assistance, aging and homeless services. Our programming will help the neediest of our population to apply for services just one time, and that information can be accessed by multiple agencies to provide all needed services. Once again, the “No Wrong Door” program is an example of our use of technology to deliver services more effectively and efficiently while saving taxpayer dollars.”
  • “This budget also will allocate design funding to begin a new $24 million Eastern Family Resource Center on the grounds of Franklin Square Hospital, funded with $14 million in County funds, $5 million from the State and $5 million from MedStar. The facility will include transitional housing with separate shelters for men, women and families, as well as medical care and training assistance programs. The County will also construct a new $4 million Westside Shelter replacing the current structure on the grounds of Spring Grove State Hospital.”

Education

Baltimore County Public Schools Operating Budget Highlights

  • 90 additional teaching positions to support enrollment growth, the opening of Mays Chapel Elementary, and an increase in special education staffing;
  • $4 million dollars to complete the County’s investment in wireless classrooms;
  • $3.8 million dollars for instructional materials to support the digital curriculum;
  • $2.5 million dollars for the One-Card safety identification system;
  • $1.2 million dollars in start-up costs for the new elementary school in Owings Mills;
  • $171,000 to expand pre-K access

Schools for Our Future

  • Eighty percent of Baltimore County schools are more than 40 years old, and the school population is projected to increase by more than 9,300 students in the next 10 years, dating from 2010.
  • “Since 2010, we have opened or funded 10 new schools and renovated six schools with additions, creating 7,500 new or replacement seats, and the number of schools in Baltimore County without air conditioning will have been reduced from 52 percent to 22 percent.”
  • The FY 15 budget unveils Baltimore County’s $1.1 billion Schools for Our Future program, a school renovation and construction program that will meet the needs of our County’s educational facilities for the next generation.
  • “Building upon our significant investment in school construction over the last three years, Schools for Our Future will be a decade-long commitment to upgrading our school facilities and eliminating overcrowding in our classrooms. Today’s budget proposal designates a record funding request of nearly $460 million in County funds over the next three referenda for school renovation and construction. When combined with anticipated supplemental State funding of at least $240 million, the total investment in our County schools for the decade from 2011 to 2021 will be in excess of a billion dollars. Voters will have the opportunity to endorse this plan, beginning with a $158 million referendum request this November. These referendum bonding requests are more than double, and sometimes triple, the amounts approved by the voters during the past 10 years.”
  • Without this ambitious program, there will be a shortage of 1,400 seats in Baltimore County’s elementary and middle schools over the next nine years.
  • Under the Schools for Our Future program, those same schools would have 5,800 excess seats available, creating room for future enrollment growth.
  • Dependent upon County Council, Board of Education and voter referendum approval, this program funds 11,000 new or replacement seats all across the County.
  • At the conclusion of the Schools for Our Future program, 97 percent of all Baltimore County schools will be air-conditioned, including every single County elementary and middle school.

Southwest Area

“In addition to a newly renovated Catonsville Elementary School at Bloomsbury, the new replacement elementary school at Westowne, a new replacement elementary school at Relay and an addition to Westchester Elementary, this budget makes the following additional commitments to the Southwest area of the County, providing 3,356 seats and eliminating all projected overcrowding:

  • Fund a new, 700-seat replacement school for Lansdowne Elementary on its current site;
  • Fund 350 additional seats to resolve overcrowding in the elementary school communities located between Route 40 and Security Boulevard.

Central Area

Current and planned projects will eliminate present and projected overcrowding in the York Road corridor. This comprehensive plan includes:

  • Construction of a new, $3 million Community/PAL Center on the grounds of Padonia International Elementary School that includes a gymnasium and theater for dual use by the school, freeing up space for conversion to classroom seats;
  • Renovation to reopen a 600-seat Loch Raven Elementary School;
  • Conversion of the current Halstead Academy into a 500-seat elementary magnet preparatory school;
  • Construction of a 189-seat addition at Cromwell Valley Elementary School and a 200-seat addition to Sparks Elementary School;
  • Completion of additions to Stoneleigh (now 700 seats) and Hampton Elementary (now 648 seats) Schools that opened this past fall;
  • Completion of new construction of the 1,028-seat Carver Center for the Arts and Technology and the 451-seat West Towson Elementary School;
  • Opening of the new, 700-seat elementary school at Mays Chapel this August.

Northwest Area

Fund 2,150 new elementary school seats in the northwest area of the County by:

  • Construction of a new, 700-seat elementary school on the Ballard site in Owings Mills New Town;
  • Funding up to 750 new elementary school seats to relieve overcrowding in the Summit Park community and the Sudbrook Park/Williamsburg communities;
  • Funding  up to 225 additional elementary school seats to relieve overcrowding in the Randallwood/Imperial Gardens/Stoneybrook communities;
  • Funding up to 475 additional seats to relieve overcrowding in the Reisterstown and Cedarmere communities.

Southeast Area

Create 1,400 new elementary school seats in the southeast area of the County by:

  • Funding a new, 700-seat replacement school for Berkshire Elementary on its current site;
  • Funding a new, 700-seat elementary school in the Battle Grove/Charlesmont communities.

Northeast Area

Create 2,250 new elementary school seats in the Northeast area:

Perry Hall/White Marsh

  • Fund a new, 700-seat elementary school in the White Marsh community;
  • Fund 200 new elementary school seats to relieve overcrowding in the Perry Hall community;

Overlea/Rosedale/Middle River

  • Fund 650 new elementary school seats to relieve overcrowding in the Overlea/Rosedale communities;
  • Fund a new, 700-seat elementary school for the Middle River community.”

Public Safety

  • $280 million dollar budget for the County’s outstanding Police and Fire Departments.
  • Five additional police officers to support Towson’s new entertainment district.
  • In recognition of the service of our County’s volunteer fire companies, the Length of Service Award program (LOSAP) will be increased from $265 to $275 dollars a month.

Quality of Life Improvements

Reinvesting in Our Aging Infrastructure

We continue to implement valuable public works projects, in addition to the half-billion dollars we’ve invested over the last three years. This year’s capital budget includes the following programs:

Road Resurfacing

  • $63 million over the next seven years for the resurfacing of County roads.

Upgrading County Facilities

  • $6.5 million to construct a new Towson Fire Station – the County sold the existing fire station property at the corner of York and Bosley for $8.3 million;
  • $6 million for the renovation of the North Point Police Precinct at the former Eastwood Elementary School site – the total revenue from the sale of the North Point Government property was $2.1 million for one-half of the property plus an additional $4 million for construction of a new County community center, site improvements and field upgrades on the remaining County-owned parcel;
  • $6 million for the construction of a new Animal Services facility and dog park.

Parks and Preservation

  • $500,000 in design funding for new community centers in Loch Raven and Catonsville;
  • $2 million for agricultural preservation;
  • $3 million to purchase 257 acres to create Granite Park in the Woodstock area as a regional passive park, using County and Program Open Space funds;
  • $1.5 million for a therapeutic riding arena at the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture, using County, Program Open Space and private funds;
  • $2 million to install turf fields at Towson High, Dundalk High and the new Catonsville Regional Park to be located on the grounds of Spring Grove State Hospital.

Community College of Baltimore County

Again this year, we are immensely proud of the success of our Community College of Baltimore County, which continues to lead with the State’s highest community college enrollment. The beautiful new Owings Mills campus opened this year at the Metro Centre to rave reviews. This year’s budget funds CCBC at Maintenance of Effort levels, and also includes the following capital projects:

  • $4.5 million for the first construction phase of the Health Careers and Technology building on the Essex campus;
  • $2.9 million to complete the conversion of the former library at the Catonsville campus to a new science and mathematics hall;
  • $1.5 million for the restoration of the historic Hilton Mansion in Catonsville;
  • $1.1 million for the construction of a new facility to house the Veterinarian Technology program at Essex.”

Arts and Sciences

  • 39 grants totaling $2.7 million for venerable institutions such as the Baltimore Symphony, the Maryland Zoo, the National Aquarium, the Walters Art Museum, Center Stage, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Maryland Science Center.

County Executive Kamenetz concluded his message with a personal recollection from his childhood:

“I’ve heard it said that, ‘In golf and in life, it’s the follow-through that makes the difference.’ Forty months ago, we established a vision for our County that would lead us away from tough economic times and down the road of progress and prosperity. Working together, we’ve racked up a lot of miles on that road in a very short time. Together we have followed through on our commitments and kept our promises to not only each other, but also to future generations. And together, we will continue to travel that road with the goal of leaving it better than we found it, a task that can be accomplished only through innovative, responsible and efficient government. 

I realize that the words “innovative, responsible, and efficient” come out of my mouth quite a lot, and perhaps to some, they sound like lip service. But truth be told, I’ve carried those principles with me throughout my life. And in quiet moments of reflection, I often recall working side by side with my father at Kaye's Pharmacy in Overlea. The life lessons that my dad imparted without even knowing he was doing so still resonate with me today: Work hard. Spend your money wisely. Do well by doing good.

These aren't just values that were important to Doc Kaye, these values are the foundation for families and communities throughout Baltimore County, and they are the values that lie at the heart of the budget I present to you today. Thank you very much.”

Read the Message

The County Executive’s message is available on the County website.