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  1. Blog: Baltimore County budget approved by County Council

    Keith Dorsey
    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:

    Thu, 26 May 2016 20:52:00 GMT
  2. Baltimore County to forward-fund State share, complete remaining school central air conditioning upgrades by 2017

    County expects to be fully reimbursed $166.4 million for advanced state share

    Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced that the County will advance the State's share of school construction funding to expedite central air conditioning for every remaining elementary and middle school classroom by fall 2017.  The remaining schools had been scheduled to receive central air upgrades over the next three fiscal years, delayed in part due to the failure of the Governor to advance funding for the State’s share of school construction projects. 

    In 2011, Baltimore County embarked on a $1.3 billion Schools for our Future program, the most ambitious school construction initiative in the history of the State. The County is in the home stretch of constructing 15 new schools and 11 additions, while adding seats to eliminate current elementary school over-crowding while also modernizing schools. During the program, a backlog of 90 schools without central air is eliminated.

    Under the current program, for every one State dollar received for school construction, Baltimore County has invested two County tax dollars, more than the one-to-one customary match.  In the proposed FY17 budget, the County included $121.8 million to forward-fund a majority of the State’s share of the school construction program.  The cost of the remaining air conditioning upgrades is $83 million, with $45 million due from the State and $39 million due from the County, after accounting for past County payments of $15 million.  

    Now, the County proposes to further advance the State's share of the remaining $45 million expense to complete by 2017 central air upgrade projects in every county school that is not otherwise slated for replacement or major renovation. Due to the size of the high school facilities, those projects will be completed by August 2018.  Therefore, the County will be forward-funding $166.4 million on behalf of the State, and will seek timely reimbursement.

    After reviewing year-end budget projections for the school system, Schools Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance approached County Executive Kamenetz about the possibility of utilizing $20 million of surplus funds to forward fund the installation of central air conditioning. The County Executive agreed, thanking Dr. Dance for his budgetary management that helped allow the County to expedite these projects.

    "Our students and teachers deserve a climate controlled and energy efficient central air conditioning system, and not window units from Home Depot, as suggested by the Governor and Comptroller.  Despite the fiscally irresponsible suggestion by Governor Hogan that Baltimore County waste money on temporary window air conditioning units, we insist on installing central air systems," said Executive Kamenetz. "Last week, Governor Hogan withheld $10 million of State funds as ransom so that we would capitulate and install window units. It's ridiculous that we have to advance the State’s share of funding to do the job right the first time."   

    After factoring in costs to bid electrical upgrades and state procurement costs for window units, Baltimore County officials believe they can install central air in the same time frame it would take to install portable window units.  "For the Governor to suggest that window units could be installed this summer, knowing full well that under State procurement law it would take at least sixteen months, is disingenuous," said Kamenetz. "Shame on the governor for not stepping forward with the state share to complete the job in a timely manner."

     “I am deeply appreciative of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and his staff and their efforts to collaborate with us to find long-term solutions to our infrastructure needs," said Dance. “Through sound fiscal management, along with the County Executive and County Council's support, this plan allows us to not only provide central air conditioning in our buildings but to further accelerate our efforts."

     The remaining schools to receive central air upgrades, subject to council approval, are:

    • Franklin High School
    • Golden Ring Middle School
    • Kenwood High School
    • Middle River Middle School
    • Southwest Academy
    • Stemmers Run Middle School

    “I thank members of the County Council, our State delegation, and the Board of Education who have been supportive of our comprehensive approach from the beginning,” concluded Kamenetz. “The success of our program has been a true team effort.”

    Wed, 18 May 2016 21:28:00 GMT
  3. CVS coming to downtown Towson

    CVS Pharmacy is coming to downtown Towson.  The store will be at the center of downtown at Towson Commons, at the corner of York Road and Chesapeake Avenue.  The more than 9,000 square foot store will include a full service pharmacy, and a wide range of high quality health, beauty and personal care products.

    “Downtown Towson has many amenities – shopping, restaurants, entertainment and parks. But for those who live, work and visit here, what’s missing has been the convenience of a pharmacy and drug store,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “CVS fills that need at Towson Commons. This is a prime retail location with a growing customer base. Over 3,000 new apartments and townhomes are built or under construction in downtown Towson.”

    The new CVS Pharmacy is expected to open in fall 2016.

    Retail-focused brokerage firm MFI Realty is the leasing agent for the 115,000 square feet of retail space at Towson Commons.  “Towson Commons is in the heart of a prestigious retail market with pent-up demand. We envision a mix of amenities to serve the many different customers in downtown Towson—residents, students, professionals and destination shoppers alike,” said Michael Stoltz, director of leasing for MFI Realty.

    "CVS will fill a need in downtown Towson, which is growing with new homes, restaurants and other businesses.  It will occupy a long-vacant corner and help bookend the redeveloping Towson Commons complex,” said Councilman David Marks.

    Downtown Towson has seen more than $1 billion in recent private investment, including more than 3,000 apartments and townhomes that have been recently built or are under construction. New residential projects include The Palisades, Promenade, Towson Green, The Flats at 703, Towson Mews, The Winthrop and Southerly Square, plus residential towers in the mixed-use Towson Row development.

    More than 55,000 people live in greater Towson, with over 48,000 people working at companies including GBMC, General Dynamics, Goucher College, MileOne, Sheppard Pratt, Stanley Black & Decker, Towson University, University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center and Whiting Turner.

    Wed, 18 May 2016 19:00:00 GMT
  4. Flats@703 adds to downtown Towson residential choices

    Shovels are in the ground again in downtown Towson as construction begins for the Flats@703 apartments.

    A seven story building at 703 Washington Avenue will have five floors with 105 apartments plus two floors of parking. An elevator wisks residents to a rooftop deck that overlooks downtown Towson, with a relaxing gazebo, water feature and seating. Residents will enjoy an open and airy fitness center with strength and cardio equipment and a resident club room with areas for gaming, lounging and charging up. Street level features include landscaping, bike racks and benches echoing the style of the downtown Towson streetscape.  

    Federal Realty Investment Trust is developing the downtown Towson property bounded by West Joppa Road, Washington Avenue and York Road. 

    3,000 new apartments and townhomes in downtown Towson

    "It’s exciting to see the momentum for downtown Towson living growing, with more than 3,000 new apartments and townhomes already built or under construction,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “People living in the Flats@703 will enjoy all the downtown Towson lifestyle has to offer -- walking to shopping, restaurants and entertainment, strolling through the Historic Courthouse gardens and biking to your job at GBMC or Stanley Black & Decker.”

    “Federal Realty is very excited to break ground on this project,” said Brian Donley, Director of Development for Federal Realty Investment Trust.  “We greatly appreciate working with Baltimore County and local community members to achieve a complex well-suited for the area.”

    Federal Realty Investment Trust (NYSE: FRT) owns and develops properties nationwide, including The Avenue at White Marsh and Bethesda Row.  Federal Realty's 90 properties include over 2,600 tenants in approximately 21 million square feet, and 1,500 residential units.  

    “You can really feel the energy when construction starts on a new project. This particular project was finalized after lengthy discussions with the community, and it will be a strong addition to the northern arc of downtown Towson,” said Councilman David Marks.

    Over $1 billion in new private investment

    Flats@703 adds to the more than $1 billion in recent private investment in downtown Towson, including more than 3,000 apartments and townhomes that have been recently built or are under construction. New residential projects include The Palisades, Promenade, Towson Green, The Flats at 703, Towson Mews, The Winthrop and Southerly Square, plus residential towers in the mixed-use Towson Row development. 

    More than 55,000 people live in greater Towson, with over 48,000 people working at companies including GBMC, General Dynamics, Goucher College, MileOne, Sheppard Pratt, Stanley Black & Decker, Towson University, University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center and Whiting Turner.

    About Federal Realty Investment Trust 

    Federal Realty is a recognized leader in the ownership, operation and redevelopment of high-quality retail based properties located primarily in major coastal markets from Washington, D.C. to Boston as well as San Francisco and Los Angeles. Founded in 1962, our mission is to deliver long term, sustainable growth through investing in densely populated, affluent communities where retail demand exceeds supply. Their expertise includes creating urban, mixed-use neighborhoods like Santana Row in San Jose, California, Pike & Rose in North Bethesda, Maryland and Assembly Row in Somerville, Massachusetts. These unique and vibrant environments that combine shopping, dining, living and working provide a destination experience valued by their respective communities. Federal Realty's 96 properties include over 2,800 tenants, in approximately 22 million square feet, and over 1,800 residential units.

    Wed, 18 May 2016 17:20:00 GMT
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