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Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

FY19 Budget Message and State of the County Address
April 12, 2018

Speech Highlights

Budget Details (PDF)

This is a somewhat bittersweet moment for me. I first walked into these chambers 24 years ago as a young council member in my 30s: single, no kids, a full head of hair and a bushy mustache. Today, I’m married and the father of two teenagers, with thinning hair. I grew the mustache to look older, and I shaved it to look younger.

It has been an absolute honor and privilege to serve more than 830,000 diverse residents who are committed to this place that we proudly call home. Over the decades, I've probably met with every single resident at least once, or maybe it just feels that way. Each had a story to share, a problem to be solved, a direction to be found. I’ve listened in schools, libraries, churches, and community centers. The input has helped shape our administration’s policies and programs. Topics have ranged from potholes to improving animal services, expanding the number of parks and playing fields, and, yes, air conditioning our schools.

Some topics are specific to a neighborhood, but, more often than not, the conversations have a lot in common.  

  • Giving our children an education that prepares them for success.
  • Creating jobs and economic opportunities.         
  • Keeping our communities safe and healthy. 
  • Modernizing our schools and maintaining our public infrastructure.
  • Enriching our quality of life.

We have been through a lot together since I became County Executive in December of 2010. We came into office when the Great Recession was hitting hard. But we worked smart, and we are resilient.

No one person can make a County great. Thank you to the members of the County Council, our State delegation and Maryland’s federal elected officials. When we work together, we get things done for the people we serve.

I want to acknowledge the tremendous partnerships we’ve built with the leadership and staff of the Baltimore County Public Schools, Library, Community College, the District and Circuit Courts, and the Sheriff’s Office.

I am particularly proud of our dedicated County employees. They get the job done, each and every day. In recognition of their service, this budget includes a 3% cost of living adjustment for employees, effective next January. Over the past four years, the County has funded a total of 10% in cost of living adjustments for employees, in addition to funding every step and longevity increase since 2010, with zero furloughs.   

Our Baltimore County department heads, deputy directors, my executive and senior staff bring a special commitment to their work. Their boundless energy, enthusiasm and dedication to making our County a better place is without parallel. The saying goes, “always leave things a little better than when you found them.” You have done that, and a whole lot more. Thank you.

Together, we’ve made tremendous progress toward a more innovative, responsible and efficient local government.

  • 15,821 new jobs have been added in the County since I became County Executive.
  • There’s been more than $5 billion in new private investment.
  • The County has invested $1.8 billion to modernize and maintain our aging water and sewer infrastructure, plus $129 million for roads and bridges.
  • We deployed new technology that improves service to our citizens and achieves significant cost savings. Baltimore County is now ranked fourth in the nation for use of technology in government.  
  • We have made an historic $1.3 billion investment to upgrade and modernize our schools.

County government has a special responsibility to ensure that our schools are safe and secure. We all have been shattered and heartbroken by shootings in schools around the country—and too-close-to-home here in Maryland. Enough.

School safety is not an afterthought in Baltimore County. Since 2011, we have invested $13.6 million to reinforce all school doors and windows, adding security cameras and controlled entry. 

With this budget, we strengthen our system by adding more professionals to help identify mental health issues that can lead to suicide and destructive behaviors. If adopted, the budget would add 22 social workers, 23 counselors and 18 school psychologists in Baltimore County Public Schools, plus additional pupil personnel workers, health assistants, and bus attendants. Nineteen more police School Resource Officers would be funded, increasing the County’s total to 84 officers. 

Educating Our Children

We are proud of Team BCPS, as we fondly call our school system. They have one of the highest graduation rates in the State. There is no disparity in the graduation rates between African American and white students. Our schools have earned national honors in music and arts education, digital learning, robotics, and more.

Our dedicated educators are fully committed to nurturing the next great class of creative thinkers. That’s why we have increased teacher salaries by 12% over the past eight years. Thank you for all you do.

Schools for Our Future is a groundbreaking capital program to modernize our schools, not just for today, but to meet future enrollment needs as our population continues to grow. This $1.3 billion initiative is building or rebuilding more than 90 schools.

Fifty one percent of next year’s total Baltimore County operating budget is dedicated to our schools. That’s more than $1.67 billion.

Why is education our #1 priority? Students are learning skills that prepare them to adapt to new technologies and ways of solving problems that we can’t even imagine. It is our obligation to make sure all of our children learn the skills they need to get good jobs and thrive. Today, that means more than a K-through-12 education.

College opens up a lifetime of career opportunities. But the cost can mean a dead end for even the most motivated students. That’s why we launched Baltimore County College Promise. The program provides full tuition and fees for qualified students to complete an associate’s degree or workplace certification at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). This is a real game-changer for students from low-to- moderate-income families.

Since we announced College Promise just a month ago, CCBC has received more than 700 inquiries.

The budget I am introducing today includes $979,000 for the first year of Baltimore County College Promise – funding that will make college a reality for more than 1,100 students. This is a promise that will transform lives and make a vital investment in our future.

Creating Jobs and Economic Opportunity

Workforce development and economic development, together, drive our prosperity. With low unemployment and a tight job market, companies are ready to hire today. But chronic shortages of qualified workers remain in many high-demand fields such as healthcare, corporate operations and customer service. Companies tell us they need flexible, rapid-response training so a pipeline of qualified workers is ready to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.

We listened to our employers and launched Job Connector innovative $2.5 million program that brings a supply-and-demand strategy to workforce development. Job Connector partners with employers, labor unions, colleges and universities to build a job-ready workforce.

This employer-driven thinking helped us win competitive searches that are keeping key employers - and jobs - here in the County. Our competitors were not just locations in Baltimore or Maryland, but locations around the country.

Stanley Black & Decker is adding 400 new jobs here, expanding their footprint to White Marsh-Middle River. The Fortune 500 company’s Global Tools and Storage headquarters remains strong in Towson.

Care First Blue Cross is keeping 2,200 jobs in the heart of Owings Mills. One fifth of McCormick’s global workforce – some 2,000 employees – work in Baltimore County. This summer, 900 corporate employees will be moving to a new global headquarters in Hunt Valley.

Right next door to McCormick, Bank of America is adding 900 jobs– 300 hired last year, with 600 more jobs on the way. These marquee firms chose to stay in Baltimore County because we’ve created a welcoming business climate, with a superb workforce and responsive local government.

It’s not all about large businesses. The Baltimore County Boost Fund has loaned $4.3 million to small businesses in just four years, with a focus on firms owned by minorities, women, and veterans.

Transformative investment is happening all around the county. Baltimore County has seen well over $5 billion of new private investment since 2011.

Tradepoint Atlantic, the massive redevelopment of Sparrows Point, already is attracting name brands such as Under Armour, Fed Ex and Amazon to Baltimore County. There are more people working at the Point today than when the steel mill closed in 2012. Businesses are projected to add 17,000 new jobs when the global logistics hub is fully developed in 2025, just seven years from now.

Downtown Towson has 3,500 new apartments and town homes built or on the horizon, with fresh new entertainment, shops, restaurants and green spaces creating a more livable, walkable County seat.

Maryland Route 43 was extended to open land already zoned for business development. We built it and they came, bringing more than 3,000 jobs to Middle River. Just a little name dropping: BGE HOME, Mary Sue, and BreakThru Beverage. Soon, Stanley Black & Decker will be bringing hundreds more workers to Greenleigh at Crossroads.

The centerpiece of Owings Mills, Metro Centre, is the region’s only transit-oriented development, now bustling with shops, restaurants, apartments, office space, a community college center and a public library branch. The Foundry Row lifestyle center was built on the site of a closed factory. Mill Station, a new retail center, is rising where the virtually-vacant Owings Mills mall once stood.

This is economic development that is transforming job prospects and economic opportunity for the entire region.

Keeping Communities Healthy and Safe

In a time of overall prosperity, there are still too many who struggle to make ends meet. The true measure of a government is how we treat people who could use an out stretched hand to get by.

More than 98,000 people in Baltimore County are food insecure, including 30,000 children. Our proposed budget includes $550,000 to support the Maryland Food Bank. Their Food Pantry program serves 23 County schools, connecting children and their families with nutritious food throughout the school year.   

The County has expanded services to people who experience homelessness. Three years ago we opened a comprehensive Westside Men’s Shelter, replacing trailers. A new Eastern Family Resource Center opened last fall 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 Eastern Family Resource Center doubles the number of these transitional housing beds. Next year’s budget increases funding for all shelter services by five percent.

We are empowering older adults, caregivers and persons with disabilities to help them remain independent in the community. Our Department of Aging served over one million meals to seniors and helped more than 36,000 people navigate Medicare benefits over the past five years.

We have proven that good public policy can also make a difference in public health. We responded to escalating calls about rats infesting some of our neighborhoods. After this year’s successful pilot in 13 neighborhoods, we are adding 12 more neighborhoods to our rat eradication program. Over $1.8 million is included in next year’s budget to help keep our neighborhoods safe and clean from rats.

By reducing access to tobacco, we can break a deadly habit before it begins. Through aggressive enforcement, it is now much harder for underage kids to buy tobacco in Baltimore County. Fifty percent of County retailers sold tobacco to minors in 2014. Today, it’s just six percent.

It is not easy to control all addictive substances. Opioid overdoses killed 543 Baltimore County residents from 2016 through the first nine months of 2017. We can save lives with naloxone, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. The County launched an aggressive program to make naloxone widely available. Our Department of Health and Human Services has already trained 3,200 residents on how to safely administer this life-saving drug. 

We are also fighting the opioid epidemic head on, working through the legal system to hold drug manufacturers more accountable. Baltimore County is not immune to the challenges that come with drugs and juvenile crime. Our police officers understand that keeping the public safe requires community cooperation and mutual respect.

That’s why we launched Operation Connect, focused outreach by our police officers to local communities, particularly to our youth. Our police, firefighters and paramedics undergo rigorous training, with a renewed focus on mental health. Our Department of Health implemented a new program to assist individuals with mental illness who are incarcerated in the County detention center. The program coordinates inmate mental health services with reentry services and follow-up care, so there is a continued support system when they return to the community. 

Our police officers are equipped with tools and resources to support their work. Fourteen hundred officers have been fully trained and now wear body cameras. Computers in every police car provide information more quickly and reliably on the scene. Video dashboard technology provides public safety officials with instant access to video from security cameras at schools, libraries and other public facilities.

Baltimore County continues to be a very safe place to live. Since the beginning of 2018, there were five confirmed homicides in Baltimore County, down from thirteen over the same period last year. The early overall statistics for 2018 give us reason to be optimistic that crimes of all types will continue to decline in our county. 

Our volunteer and career firefighters and paramedics are dedicated to our safety. This budget increases funding for volunteer fire companies by 7.4%, bringing our support to $9.8 million next year.

We are grateful to our police, fire and paramedics, the women and men who respond to the call. We are also grateful for the sacrifices their families make so our responders can do this vital work. Please join me in thanking our entire public safety community. 

Sustaining a Clean Green County

It takes sound public policy to preserve our land and water resources and protect our County’s 200 miles of Chesapeake Bay waterfront. Baltimore County began implementing Smart Growth 50 years ago. Our planning, zoning and development decisions are firmly grounded in this core principle: 90% of our population lives on 30% of our land. 

Baltimore County has already placed over 65,000 acres of land in conservation, open space that can never be developed. These smart decisions don’t mean we are “built out.” We need 21st century places to live and work. But instead of extending public water and sewer through rural greenfields, we approve dense development and re-development in our more urban areas, such as downtown Towson, White Marsh, Owings Mills and Sparrows Point.

We protect the Bay through our Clean Green County initiative, restoring streambanks and shorelines, planting trees, and sweeping streets. Four years ago, we opened a new single stream recycling facility to keep materials out of landfills. Sales of recycled materials have already brought the County over $30 million in revenue.

Over eight years, the County has invested $1.8 billion to modernize and maintain our aging water and sewer systems. Our proposed budget includes nearly $27 million to maintain and improve water and sewer infrastructure and reduce water main breaks and sewage spills. 

Enriching Our Quality of Life

More than 200 County parks offer green spaces and recreation places. From trails at Marshy Point to new athletic fields at Spring Grove Park in Catonsville, the County has funded a record $68 million in new parks, community centers and turf fields since 2010.

The County is especially proud to support the Perry Hall Recreation Council volunteers who built Angel Park. From fundraising to sweat-equity, these volunteers built the County’s largest all-inclusive playground to accommodate children with special needs. It is truly uplifting to visit this barrier-free park.

The arts bind our communities together, open minds and build our creative class. More than 6,900 people work in creative businesses in Baltimore County, according to Americans for the Arts. Next year’s budget includes $3.9 million to support arts, humanities and cultural organizations in Baltimore County and the region.

Our animal friends have a new, healthy place to stay as they wait for their forever homes. When I came into office, our animal shelter was, to be honest, not safe for man, woman or beast. Today, we have a $7 million state-of-the-art shelter in Baldwin, plus a spay/neuter program at new surgical sites across the county. Our adoption rates are at an all-time high. We regularly achieve 90% live release rates for cats and dogs, among the highest rates in the country. A new Cuddle Shuttle van goes on the road, making it easy to adopt a pet on the spot. To assure pet owners are responsible, next year’s budget includes funding for a new animal cruelty investigation unit in the police department.

Governing Responsibly

Good government needs good governance. This administration has been fiscally conservative, consistently earning Baltimore County the coveted “Triple Triple-A” rating, the best credit rating from all three bond rating agencies. Only 46 counties nationwide can say this. With our stellar credit rating, we borrow at the lowest interest rates, saving millions in interest costs. It is the responsible way to run government.

But leaders have to prioritize and make tough choices. We’ve streamlined County government, eliminating red tape, and deploying technology to help us do our jobs more effectively and cost efficiently. I wish we could upgrade every playing field, re-pave every road, and build new schools in every part of the county all at once. But at the end of the day, we have to balance the checkbook.

Mr. Chairman, members of the County Council, the fiscal year 2019 budget we are submitting does not increase property tax or income tax rates. This budget once again stays within spending affordability limits, and funds our schools above maintenance of effort level.

This is money well-spent for educating our children, keeping our communities healthy and safe, maintaining our infrastructure, and preserving our land and water resources.

Respect and Diversity

I’d like to share a personal story with you. My dad ran a neighborhood pharmacy in Overlea. He was known as “Doc K” of Kaye's Pharmacy. I worked in the drug store from the moment I was tall enough to reach the cash register, all through college and law school. I learned valuable lessons about business sense and common sense. I also got a sense of what it was like to walk in someone else's shoes.  

When I was first elected to the County Council, I met an Area School Superintendent by the name of Evelyn Chapman. Evelyn lived near my dad’s store at a time when African Americans were feeling the daily sting of Jim Crow. Despite changes in federal laws, stores still refused service to people of color. But, Evelyn told me, her community knew Doc K would not only fill their prescriptions, but treat each person with dignity and respect.

In his quiet way, dad demonstrated the equal worth of everyone, and, through example, passed his values to my brothers, my sisters and me. I hope that Jill and I are passing these same values on to our two sons. 

Baltimore County is much more diverse than when I was growing up in Lochearn in the 60s. Today, four out of ten Baltimore County residents identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian or bi-racial. Six thousand public school students do not speak English as their primary language.

Early in my administration, we made a commitment to diversify our public safety ranks, and I am especially proud of the progress we’ve made. Our last police academy class was 40% women or minority. The class of EMTs and paramedics that graduated last month is 60% women or minority. The Fire Recruit Class now in session: 67%. 

The Baltimore County Fire Department is recognized nationally as a leader in promoting gender diversity, with women now making up almost one quarter of its sworn members. The national average is just 4%. 

Last year, Assistant Fire Chief Jennifer Aubert-Utz became the highest ranking woman in the history of the Baltimore County Fire Department. At her promotion ceremony she stated, "I hope I can inspire other young women to pursue careers in community service." Assistant Chief Aubert-Utz, thank you for being an inspiration.

As a civil and moral society, we must acknowledge and respect everyone who lives here. In 2017, as a result of our Executive Order, county employees, including police, may not ask a person’s immigration status. Three years ago, before Charlottesville, we removed a symbol of hate from our community, renaming Robert E. Lee Park as Lake Roland. In 2012, I proudly signed legislation that added gender identity and sexual orientation to the county's existing anti-discrimination laws. I applaud Councilman Quirk and the Council for their leadership on that legislation.

I am proud of what we stand for in Baltimore County. Over the years, I’ve listened and learned that there are limits to what government can and should do. I’ve also learned that responsible, responsive local government gets things done for the people it serves.

Together, we’ve improved schools, made our streets safer, created jobs and protected the environment, all without raising tax rates. Moving forward, Baltimore County government will continue to support what is important to the people who live, work and learn here. 

Thank you for your support over the past eight years, and for the 24 years of opportunity to serve our county.

Respectfully submitted,

Kevin Kamenetz, County Executive

 

Kevin Kamenetz
County Executive

 
Revised April 12, 2018         

 

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Don Mohler
Phone: 410-887-2450

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