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Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

FY18 Budget Message and State of the County Address
April 13, 2017

Speech Highlights

Budget Details (PDF)

​Council Chairman Quirk, members of the County Council, and fellow residents of Baltimore County, good morning.

Visitors to our Baltimore County website will find plenty of photographs. We put them there because each picture tells part of a story. There are images of a company joining our thriving business community, bringing new jobs and new economic opportunities. Images of a new neighborhood school opening, providing world class education to serve our ever-growing population. A groundbreaking for another affordable senior housing community, helping ensure our older adults can age with dignity and respect. A new nature center and new turf fields for young people – and kids of all ages. Retraining workers to find jobs in this technology-driven age. Each image is part of our broader story, showing the progress we have made together. And each gives us reasons to pause, to celebrate and to reflect.

What often strikes me when I stand with a shovel at a groundbreaking or hold those big scissors at a ribbon cutting is Baltimore County’s size and scope.

As county executive of Maryland’s third largest jurisdiction, I have the privilege to serve more than 830,000 residents who are committed to this place that we proudly call home.

Our dedicated government workers truly get the job done. They’re teaching in our classrooms, they are patrolling our streets, they are issuing permits and, sometimes, they are literally in the trenches. To all our government employees, for all of the ways you contribute to our success, thank you for serving our County well. Here’s more tangible acknowledgement of your hard work: The budget we are submitting today includes a 2% cost of living increase for all County employees, effective July 1.

I also want to thank the members of the County Council, our State delegation and Maryland’s federal elected officials for your continuing support.

So why do people want to live and work in Baltimore County? I’ve heard it time and time again – it’s our safe welcoming neighborhoods, quality schools, and the understanding that County government is meeting the needs of its residents and employers.

Keeping Communities Healthy and Safe

In Baltimore County, leading by example means helping to keep people secure and healthy. Our police, firefighters and paramedics understand that keeping the public safe requires community cooperation and mutual respect.

This is an especially tough time for our officers. I am very proud of the brave men and women in our police department. Total crime in Baltimore County dropped by 8% from 2009 to 2016. Our case clearance rates consistently exceed state and national averages.

Each week we train more police officers on the proper use of body cameras, and we are on track to have the program fully implemented by the end of September. This budget includes $4.3 million to complete the body camera roll out, including funding for additional evidence technicians in the State’s Attorney’s office.

Technology continues to improve public safety. Rob Stradling and his talented team in our Office of Information Technology are spearheading the effort. We recently implemented a backup 9-1-1 center that increases system reliability. In this budget, we are funding design for a new $27 million computer aided dispatch and emergency communications system.

We’ve also continued to witness the tragic surge in opioid overdoses. Like other jurisdictions in the state and throughout the country, we are providing additional resources to combat this alarming epidemic. We have trained and equipped all of our police and EMS responders with naloxone, a quick-response medication that reverses an opioid overdose, giving our first responders a vital tool to save more lives. Our Department of Health and Human Services offers free classes for anyone who wants to learn how to use this life-saving drug. Understanding that this is only the first part of a long-term solution to fighting substance abuse, we continue to study new strategies that expand access to evidence-based treatment, and to connect those who battle the disease of addiction with the resources they need.

We also are expanding services to people who experience homelessness. Two years ago we opened a comprehensive Westside Men’s Shelter, replacing trailers. A new Eastern Family Resource Center opens later this year 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. The new Center will double the number of these transitional housing beds. Our initiative to reduce homelessness includes outreach and workforce development services, rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing programs.

Clean Green County

Keeping us safe and healthy also means fighting for clean air and water, and serving as good stewards of our land. With 200 miles of waterfront and 2,000 miles of streams and tributaries in the County, we consider protection of the environment a sacred trust.

The Clean Green County initiative is restoring streambanks and shorelines, planting trees, even sweeping streets, all to protect the Bay. Baltimore County has over 64,000 acres of land in permanent conservation, open space that can never be developed.

Our single stream recycling facility has sold 174,000 tons of materials that otherwise would be in landfills, bringing in $23 million of sales revenue in its first three years of operation.

More than 200 County parks offer green spaces and recreation places. From scenic Lake Roland to new trails at Marshy Point, the County has funded a record $67.5 million in new parks, community centers and turf fields since 2010. This budget includes funding for a new regional turf playing field on the CCBC Catonsville campus, not only for college students, but so all the residents in Lansdowne, Arbutus and Catonsville can have home field advantage. We will also fund new turf fields for Randallstown and Perry Hall High Schools, and replace worn turf fields at Hereford, Lansdowne and Woodlawn High Schools. In all, we are funding $10.5 million for recreation, including $4.5 million for 90 maintenance and refurbishment projects throughout the County.

Last summer, we announced a County government solar project, a direct commitment to renewable energy. This solar initiative will return clean energy to the grid and save taxpayers $20 million over the next 25 years. Commercial building owners can also go green with our new PACE program, which provides long-term loans so high efficiency improvements can be made now, with zero upfront costs.

We are improving our aging infrastructure to reduce the number of water main breaks and waste overflows. Baltimore County’s proposed capital budget includes $470 million to replace and reline water and sewer pipes in the County and upgrade regional reservoirs, treatment plants and pumping stations.

We know these significant investments are making a difference today and will help secure open space and cleaner air and water for future generations.

Educating our Children

We also know that it is vital to prepare every child for a world of rapid change and innovation. Think about it: the college class of 2017 was born in 1996. Dial-up internet access was starting to make personal computing quick, affordable and accessible. Google was a year old and the iPhone was still a decade away. What will be posted on job boards when today’s kindergarten classes start their job searches?

One thing we do know is that the jobs of the future will require a more highly skilled and educated workforce. The professionals in our Department of Economic and Workforce Development, under the leadership of Director Will Anderson, are focused on workforce development as the key to growing our economy, and they’re achieving great results.

A recent report prepared for the Department examines education from an economic perspective. The report studied the business sectors expected to generate the most County job growth over the next ten years, such as healthcare, information technology and financial services. Almost one-third of these new jobs will require a Bachelor’s degree or above.

Baltimore County Public Schools are committed to starting our kids off with a solid foundation. We have the 25th largest school system in the country, with more than 112,000 students, led by our energetic superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance.

Last year, the public school graduation rate rose to 89.2%, one of the highest rates in Maryland. That’s six straight years of increasing graduation rates as we keep our academic standards high. Equally impressive is that the achievement gap has closed. African American students in Baltimore County Public Schools are now graduating at the same rate as White students.

Our public schools are as diverse as our population. Six thousand County public school students do not speak English as their primary language. They proudly bring cultures from around the world and represent 130 languages – from Korean and Russian to Hindi and Farsi. Some students enter our classrooms speaking not a word of English. This budget adds 13 teachers in the English for Speakers of Other Languages, the ESOL program.

Today, 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, this budget also includes funds to hire 15 more special education teachers.

Our county has undertaken the largest ten-year school construction program in Maryland’s history. The $1.3 billion Schools for Our Future program is upgrading facilities and providing modern learning environments for our children and teachers. We’re building 16 new schools, 12 additions and seven major renovations. We’re well on our way – we’ve already opened four new schools and renovated or expanded six schools. And in case you were wondering, they all have energy efficient and cost efficient central air conditioning. Since 2010, the number of schools without air conditioning dropped from 90 to just 13 by this fall.

We have reviewed the capacity issues in our middle schools and the proposed budget will add additional seats to alleviate projected overcrowding in the northeast part of the county. Our budget funds planning and design for a brand new middle school in Perry Hall plus an addition at Pine Grove Middle School in Carney.

The Schools for Our Future program is also creating 10,500 construction-related jobs. While job creation is not the reason we are building new schools, we can all appreciate the additional contribution to our economy.

The County’s 2018 budget continues our commitment to education and life-long learning. More than $1.9 billion is included for public schools, libraries and our community college. That’s 60.4% of the entire County operating budget.

Education and Job Creation

The Community College of Baltimore County opened in 1957 with 53 students. Today, nearly 63,000 students enroll each year. As CCBC celebrates “60 years of brilliance,” their diamond anniversary, they play an even more valuable role in building a skilled workforce.

When we fund major renovations to the Health Careers and Technology Building at CCBC Essex, we are providing a twenty-first century learning center to train workers in high-demand fields.

Our County high school students also strengthen the pipeline of workforce talent. Graduates who enter the CCBC Fast Start program are guaranteed at least one scholarship a year when they enroll in the honors program. Honors graduates who maintain their grade point averages earn guaranteed admission to twelve Maryland colleges and universities to obtain their bachelor’s degree. This allows students to launch into the next phase of their learning path with some breathing room, so they can concentrate on their studies, not tuition bills. We are also moving forward with our Early College High School at Woodlawn, where students can graduate with a high school diploma and a tuition-free Associate of Arts degree from CCBC, within the same four years.

I want to acknowledge our champions of education: Superintendent of Public Schools Dr. Dallas Dance and Community College of Baltimore County President Dr. Sandra Kurtinitis, along with County Library Director Paula Miller. Their leadership and the hard work of thousands of teachers and staff make our County a premiere place to learn.

Creating Economic Opportunities

When I look back at the day I took office in December 2010, our County was battling fallout from the Great Recession. Property assessments had plummeted, reducing property tax revenue. Employment was fragile, reducing income tax revenue. We had to streamline county government, use technology to make it more efficient and effective, and be creative in order to achieve better outcomes and returns on investment.

At the same time, many businesses suffered losses, and some just didn’t survive. One of the largest blows was at the steel mill at Sparrows Point, where 2,200 people lost their jobs when the plant closed five years ago.

In 2012, I appointed the Sparrows Point Partnership to create a blueprint for bringing the next generation of jobs to eastern Baltimore County. That vision is rapidly becoming reality. The former Bethlehem Steel plant is being reborn as Tradepoint Atlantic, a global logistics, manufacturing and marine trade center. Host Terminals just announced an agreement to oversee the majority of Tradepoint Atlantic’s marine cargo operations. Go to the Point and you’ll see Pasha Automotive importing cars at the deep water terminal. FedEx Ground is opening this summer, bringing 300 new jobs. A massive Under Armour e-commerce facility opens next year, with one thousand more jobs. Activity is clearly moving toward our goal of 17,000 direct and indirect jobs within the next decade, adding more than $3 billion to the regional economy. That’s economic impact and economic opportunity on a transformational scale.

There’s more investment as we look around the beltway. Downtown Towson’s $1 billion of private development is reinvigorating the County seat, with more than 3,400 new apartments and townhomes adding to the urban vibe. Construction is underway for Greenleigh at Crossroads, a $750 million mixed-use neo-traditional community transforming the corridor along Maryland 43 in White Marsh-Middle River.

Metro Centre at Owings Mills, the region’s only transit-oriented development, is well underway. Stop by the Owings Mills Metro station and you’ll find the County’s largest public library, a community college campus, apartments, shops, cafes, offices, and even a Negro Leagues Baseball museum. Nearby, Foundry Row has opened with shopping, restaurants and Baltimore County’s second Wegmans. That’s a combined $1 billion of investment in the heart of Owings Mills.

We have a lot that is new, but the core of our economic development strategy is making sure we meet the needs of companies and workers who already are here. Recently, we faced competitive challenges when several major employers in the County were considering possible relocation.

I can proudly say we made our case and met the challenge. Baltimore County will continue to be home to three important headquarters: McCormick & Company, CareFirst, and the Social Security Administration, plus their broad networks of contractors and suppliers.

It’s not all about large employers. The Baltimore County Boost Loan Fund has loaned more than $3.1 million to small businesses since the program launched three years ago, with a focus on firms owned by minorities, women, and veterans. County grants to the business incubators at Towson University and UMBC help support more than 140 early stage and emerging companies. Many of these innovators are in the cutting edge fields of cybersecurity and edtech, which develops technology solutions to improve education.

Economic Strength, Fiscal Responsibility

As you can see, our local economy remains strong and growing. Since I came into office, Baltimore County’s unemployment rate has been cut nearly in half. That means 26,000 more residents are working.

In that time, Baltimore County has seen over $5 billion in major private development projects that are up and running, under construction or in the pipeline. New homes, offices and business parks are attracting residents and employers and adding thousands of construction and permanent jobs.

Steady growth builds our tax base so we can preserve our quality of life while keeping tax rates stable. I am pleased to report that this budget maintains the current income and property 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.

We have achieved all this as we balanced every budget and maintained the highest bond ratings in the country. Our excellent “credit score” saves taxpayers millions of dollars in interest costs we might have paid if our finances were not as highly rated. Baltimore County is just one of 44 counties in the United States earning triple-A ratings from all three bond rating agencies – the coveted “triple Triple-A,” meaning the experts say we are fiscally well-managed.

I want to thank everyone in the County Office of Budget and Finance, especially Director Keith Dorsey and Deputy Director Ed Blades, for their tireless commitment to fiscal responsibility. And the glue that holds all of our fortunes together is County Administrative Officer Fred Homan, who has faithfully served this County for more than 38 years.

Today we present a budget that continues the progress of the past six years. We plan ahead and budget conservatively, so we can invest in what’s important to the people who live and do business here.

But Baltimore County does not operate in a vacuum. Policy and funding decisions at the State and federal levels have direct and often lasting impact. We will continue to fight for the resources that Baltimore County residents need and deserve.

Enriching our Quality of Life

I’ve resided in Baltimore County all my life. I was born in Lochearn, am a proud graduate of Campfield Elementary, and now live in Owings Mills with my wife Jill and our two teenage sons. What I love about our County is that from almost any neighborhood, it’s less than thirty minutes to the Middle River waterfront, to scenic horse farms in north county, or chic restaurants in downtown Towson. I love that McCormick products, fine wines and craft beers are made here. I love that Baltimore County is home to the Ravens Under Armour Performance Center. I love that we enjoy all the arts, culture and professional sports right next door in our beloved Baltimore City.

I respect that Baltimore County residents embrace our diversity. I recently signed an Executive Order to protect the civil and religious rights of all County residents. The order states that no County employee, including the police, can discriminate against any individual by virtue of their immigration status. No one can be detained in our jail beyond their release date without a court order. As I signed the Executive Order, I was joined by members of the Latino, African- American, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and LGBT communities. Together, they are what Baltimore County looks like today.

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. Serving as your county executive has been the greatest honor in my life. Working with our dedicated County employees and officials, we continue to operate a government that is innovative, responsible and efficient.

When I reflect back on our pictures, that is the story I see.

We are committed to keeping Baltimore County a welcoming place where people want to live, work and learn. And we always lead by example.

Respectfully submitted,

Kevin Kamenetz, County Executive

 

Kevin Kamenetz
County Executive

 
Revised August 25, 2017         

 

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Kevin Kamenetz
Phone: 410-887-2450

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