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Kamenetz Budget: Fiscal Austerity, Investing in Schools and Recreation

$200 Million: Schools, $20 Million: Recreation Projects, No Tax Rate Increases

Towson, Maryland – (April 15, 2013) Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz presented the Fiscal 2014 Budget Message to the County Council this morning. The $2.8 billion Operating and $339 million Capital Budget once again holds the line on taxes, with 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. The budget would appropriate $200 million in capital improvements for schools, adding more than 3,000 new seats and wireless technology. Recreation programs would receive a $20 million boost for new fields, parks, and walking trails, and schools would continue to receive upgraded security features as well as a full complement of police officers in every middle and high school.

In his remarks, Kamenetz cited the County’s success in managing fiscal challenges since 2010. “Our ongoing analysis of agency functions and continued implementation of best practice policies allow us to streamline and consolidate operations,” Kamenetz said. “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.”

The County Executive reaffirmed his commitment to protecting employee benefits without burdening taxpayers with an unsustainable bill, and restated the County’s priorities: public safety, public education, and rebuilding the County’s aging infrastructure. “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,” said Kamenetz. “Think about this for a second. This County has not raised the property tax rate for a quarter of a century!”

The County’s General Fund Operating Budget subject to spending affordability for Fiscal Year (FY) 14 is $1.684 billion, an increase of only 2.94 percent above the previous year. While there is no cost of living increase for employees, it does fund increments and longevity increases. 

Budget Description

FY12

FY13

%Change

FY14

%Change

General Fund Operating Budget Subject to Spending Affordability (Ongoing Costs)

$1,593,711,904

$1,635,872,460

2.65%

$1,684,031,819

2.94%

General Fund Operating Budget (Including One-Time Expenditures)

$1,603,784,784

$1,657,479,154

3.35%

$1,724,591,528

4.05%

Total Budget (Excluding Enterprise Funds)

$2,641,681,830

$2,706,914,470

2.47%

$2,783,038,667

2.81%

Education

The County Executive’s budget once again funded the Baltimore County Public Schools and the Community College of Baltimore County at the important maintenance-of-effort level. 

The education budget makes a strong commitment to upgrading technology at all County schools, and the County Executive applauded Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance for his desire to improve instruction through the use of technology. “Dallas Dance is the most exciting and energetic school superintendent we have had in this County in a long time,” Kamenetz stated. “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 millennium.”

Education highlights:

  • Achieves maintenance-of-effort funding for the Board of Education, with an operating budget of $1.31 billion, 53 percent of the County’s operating budget
      
  • Adds 109.3 positions for teachers due to enrollment increase
       
  • Includes $4 million as the first phase of a $15 million, multi-year plan to upgrade wireless classroom infrastructure to ensure access to multimedia instructional resources at every school in Baltimore County.  The initial implementation will bring these upgrades to each and every high school.
       
  • Includes $1.3 million for state-of-the art technology at Norwood Elementary and Holabird Middle School, including a new STEM Academy, including curriculum and professional development
      
  • Includes $3.3 million for a new digital platform and curriculum in accordance with the State’s Common Core Standards for elementary school language arts. This program will allow teachers to individualize instruction based on students’ needs and is planned for expansion to other content areas and grades with science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and social studies connections and a current commitment of $5.8 million.
      
  • $1.3 million to fund full-time Advance Path credit recovery programs at Dundalk, Lansdowne, Overlea, and Woodlawn High Schools
      
  • $2.5 million for the second phase of the school system’s School Safety and Security Plan which includes the procurement and implementation of a comprehensive one-card staff and student identification swipe entry system and upgrades to school security cameras
       
  • Provide funding for an additional six police officer assignments to ensure that all middle and high schools will have full-time police presence.

Community College of Baltimore County:

  • Fully funded at Maintenance of Effort
  • Provides funding for full staffing of the Owings Mills campus of CCBC in the County Campus in Metro Centre at Owings Mills
  • Makes multi-year funding commitment to a new STEM building at the Catonsville campus of CCBC

School Renovation and Construction Funding

Image of the Baltimore County Funding for School Renovations graph.

“In the past decade, the State of Maryland has invested nearly $400 million in school renovation and construction projects in Baltimore County, for which we are grateful, with a requirement that the County match that $400 million,” said Kamenetz. “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 in the past decade. By our words and deeds — and especially with our tax dollars, the score of budgets in Baltimore County have been consistently focused on the needs of the school children of our County.”

Since 2010, Baltimore County has built, or has under construction, nine new schools or additions, creating more than 3,000 additional seats. In addition to the new schools and additions, in December 2010, more than half of Baltimore County’s 164 schools did not have air conditioning. When the projects in this budget are completed that number will stand at 27 percent. “This means that more than 26,000 more children will attend school in air conditioned buildings than did so in December 2010,” Kamenetz said. “By any standard, that is solid and steady progress."

$200 million for school renovation and construction:

  • $200 million for school construction and renovation funding, including $51 million from the State (anticipating $15 million in air conditioning funding) and $149 million in County funding to pay for:
    • A minimum of 700 new elementary seats in the York Road corridor
    • 700 new elementary seats in Owings Mills
    • A minimum of 500 new elementary seats in Catonsville
         
  • Complete funding for the 700-seat Mays Chapel Elementary School and 200 new seats at Sparks Elementary School.
       
  • Complete funding for the systemic renovation and addition at Hereford High School, and will provide funding for initial planning of a systemic renovation of Pikesville High School.
       
  • Funding toward a $27.5 million systemic renovation of Dumbarton Middle School, as well as toward a $16.2 million systemic renovation and air conditioning project at Overlea High School.
       
  • $32.5 million for major maintenance and site improvements across the system.
        
  • $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
  • 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.

Public Safety

With this budget, Baltimore County continues its support of public safety with just under $300 million in funding for police and fire. FY 14 funding highlights:

Police

  • Police budget of $192 million, a $4 million increase from FY 13
        
  • Implement the Field-Based Reporting Project (FBR) that allows for wireless reporting. In addition to creating numerous advances in time savings and data mining, this has also allowed the department to reassign 15 Criminal Information Processor positions. The Baltimore County Police Department will be the largest law enforcement agency nationwide to utilize field-based reporting.
        
  • The most recent five-year data shows that, statistically, violent crime dropped a cumulative 25 percent.

Fire

  • Fire department budget allocation of nearly $91 million, including $7 million in grants and in-kind services to our volunteer companies.
        
  • Continue to equip every ambulance in Baltimore County with a mobile hotspot allowing crews to have instant access to data collected by the 911 Center which will increase the efficiency of our emergency responders.
        
  • Continue to purchase new LifePak-15 cardiac monitor/defibrillators that send EKG data directly to the hospital. 
        
  • Two recruit classes in FY14 compared with one this past year –  newest class has 31 recruits, of which 35 percent are minorities; 13 percent are women; and 35 percent are military veterans.

Neighborhood Improvements

The capital budget will continue to reinvest in infrastructure projects across the County. For example, the County is increasing its road resurfacing budget by an additional $8 million, for a total of $28 million over two years, representing a 250 percent increase from three years ago. Key expenditures:

  • $8 million increase over the last year for road resurfacing, for a total of $28 million.
        
  • $19 million will be allocated for exciting recreational 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.
             
  • $4.1 million to complete improvements to the new Sollers Point Community Center in the Turner Station community, which will include demolition of the old high school and site improvements.
        
  • $2.8 million community center in Cockeysville on the grounds of Padonia International Elementary School.
        
  • $5.65 million (including $1.5 million raised by the Perry Hall Recreation Council and $750,000 in State funds) will be allocated for improvements to Gough Park, which will also include the construction of a gymnasium in Perry Hall.
        
  • $1.3 million for the rehabilitation of Rosedale Park, providing for expanded parking and environmental stabilization.
         
  • $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.
         
  • $880,000 to create accessible walking trails at Catonsville Community Park, Brady Trail at Marshy Point, and in Perry Hall’s Indian Rock Park.
        
  • $1.5 million for lighting upgrades at Perry Hall Elementary School, Jacksonville Elementary School and Hereford Middle School.
        
  • $215,000 to create a new playground at Robert E. Lee Park.
        
  • $250,000 in State funds to improve Battle Acre Park.
        
  • $175,000 in State funding for internal upgrades at Todd’s Inheritance.
  • $50,000 in additional funding Neighbor Space.

Technology

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.    

Social Safety Net

Referencing the County’s responsibility to provide its citizens with a social safety net, County Executive Kamenetz quoted former Vice President Hubert Humphrey who once said that, "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. In difficult economic times, 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,” Kamenetz said.   

Social safety net highlights:

  • Increases the emergency social services fund for the Department of Health and Human Services by more than 22 percent, which will help families avoid evictions and utility turn-offs, and provide for emergency medical expenses.
           
  • 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.  
         
  • Funds 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 each, plus $4 million in County funds, subject to a 2014 bond referendum approval by our voters.

Message Link

 The County Executive’s message is available on the County website at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/speeches