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Baltimore County News

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Date: Apr 2019

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. today submitted a $3.4 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 that supports the County’s commitment to quality education, economic opportunity, sustainability, healthy and safe communities, and transparent and accountable government. The proposed budget for FY 2020 addresses a structural shortfall while making record investments in education, investing in sustainability and diversity, and providing funds for key priorities that will move Baltimore County forward.

In his address to the County Council, Olszewski emphasized his unwavering support for education, saying, “Investments in our kids are investments in our future. This budget proposes historic investments in education. It invests more than $32 million in new money in our schools, one of the largest ever increases over Maintenance of Effort.”

He also highlighted new investments in sustainability and diversity, addressing the opioid crisis, supporting public safety personnel, the first-ever line item for bike lanes and pedestrian features, and record investments in road resurfacing and traffic calming.

Below are highlights of the fiscal year 2020 budget County Executive Olszewski submitted to the Baltimore County Council.

Proposed Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Highlights

The budget proposed by County Executive Johnny Olszewski for FY 2020 addresses a structural shortfall while making record investments in education, sustainability and diversity, and supporting key priorities that will move Baltimore County forward. The total proposed FY2020 Operating Budget is $3.4 billion.

Education

  • Dedicates record funding to education—Total proposed education budget is more than $1.8 billion. The proposed BCPS budget is $32.1 million over Maintenance of Effort (MOE).
  • Provides a two percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for BCPS educators, in addition to a three percent COLA received at the beginning of calendar year 2019
  • Provides funds for 70 more classroom teachers to accommodate enrollment increases, 50 more special education teachers, 21 more ESOL teachers, 16 more school counselors, 15 more social workers and four more psychologists
  • Increases the number of schools that provide free breakfast
  • Cuts $1 million in funding for STAT program devices, adjusting the ratio to one to five for students in kindergarten through second grade
  • Provides County portion of capital funding for all remaining Schools for our Future projects—These projects can’t move forward until the state provides its share of funding
  • Provides planning and design funds for a new Lansdowne High School

Economic Opportunity

  • Freezes in-County tuition at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC)
  • Expands eligibility for the College Promise Program:
    • Increases household income eligibility from $69,000 to $85,000
    • Increases amount of time a student is eligible, from within two years of high school graduation to within five years of graduation
    • Applies to students who need additional support to be college ready
  • Provides remaining funding to finish construction of the state of the art Carol Eustis Center for Health Professionals at the CCBC Essex Campus
  • Dedicates more than $1.8 million to promote tourism in the County

Healthy and Safe Communities

  • Establishes a new position of Opioid Strategy Coordinator to work across agencies to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the opioid crisis
  • Provides funding for two new school-based Police Athletic League (PAL) Centers through the Department of Recreation and Parks
  • In response to the settlement of a longstanding lawsuit from the Fraternal Order of Police, provides $13 million over two years in back-pay for officers and provides step increases and grade changes for officers—Increasing pay for officers and making compensation more competitive with surrounding jurisdictions
  • Provides planning and design funds for a new Wilkens Police Precinct building—The oldest precinct in the County
  • Equips all career fire stations with commercial grade washing machines to clean firefighter gear of carcinogens and other residue
  • Adds $500,000, for a total of $1.5 million, to the volunteer fire company grant fund
  • Provides all correctional officers with their own set of protective gear, so they no longer have to share gear

Vibrant, Livable Communities

  • Creates the position of Chief Diversity Officer, to ensure the County applies an equity lens to all decisions
  • Creates the position of Chief Sustainability Officer, who will lead all of the County’s efforts on environmental sustainability, including efforts to reduce the County’s contributions to climate change and increase resilience in order to prepare for the effects of climate change
  • Provides funding to hire a deputy in the Department of Public Works who will oversee comprehensive transportation planning
  • Includes the first ever capital project for bike lanes and pedestrian access—$1 million
  • Provides funds to begin planning a Towson Circulator pilot program
  • $37 million for road resurfacing and curb and gutter maintenance
  • $2 million for traffic calming
  • Provides funding to launch 311 in Baltimore County to streamline service calls and increase convenience for County residents

Transparent, Accountable Government

  • Funding for the establishment of the Office of Ethics and Accountability, created by legislation proposed by the County Executive
  • Establishment of an Open Budget platform to improve constituent engagement
  • Provides funding to set up a performance management system
  • Contributes $35 million to OPEB—The fund that provides health and life insurance benefits for retired County employees
  • Retains a 10.3 percent fund balance—Critical for maintaining the County’s AAA bond ratings

Commitment to Critical Investments

  • Identifies more than $20 million in savings
  • Adjusts the local income tax rate from 2.83 percent to 3.2 percent, bringing the County to the same income tax rate as the state’s other large, diverse jurisdictions. For a resident earning $50,000 per year, this amounts to around $15 more per month.
  • Requires developers to pay their fair share of the costs associated with new development by establishing a Development Impact Surcharge on new residential and commercial development.
    • Residential:
      • $10,000 per single family home
      • $7,500 per townhouse
      • $5,000 per apartment or condo
    • Commercial and office: $1.50 per square foot
    • Industrial: $.80 per square foot
  • Increases the hotel tax from eight percent to 10 percent, and proposes levying a tax on short-term rentals, such as those through Airbnb
  • Replaces lost revenue as a result of the declining use of landlines by establishing a tax of $3.50 on cell phone lines
  • Establishes a one percent fee for cable accounts to fund Public, Educational and Government (PEG) programming

“This budget is about what I’ve learned to value growing up here. It’s about the kind of Baltimore County I want to live in, the kind I want to raise my daughter in,” said Olszewski. “It focuses on the right policies and programs that will build the better Baltimore County we all want.”

The County Council will hold a hearing on the budget on April 30 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers. The vote on the budget is scheduled for May 23.

View the full text of the Baltimore County Executive’s FY2020 budget address.

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Joanne Rund will serve as the county’s first permanent female fire chief

County Executive Johnny Olszewski today nominated individuals to fill several key roles on his leadership team. He has nominated:

  • Joanne Rund – Fire Chief
  • C. Pete Gutwald – Director of Planning
  • David Lykens – Director of Environmental Protection and Sustainability
  • Ed Blades – Acting Director of Budget and Finance

“We are working to make Baltimore County more innovative, transparent, and responsive to the needs of residents and communities, and that requires assembling a top notch leadership team. These individuals will play a critical role in our efforts to build a better Baltimore County together,” Olszewski said.

Rund joins Baltimore County after serving for 32 years with the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, most recently as Howard County’s Assistant Chief of The Bureau Occupational Safety & Health. She brings decades of experience in the emergency services field in a career/volunteer combination system. Before joining the fire service in 1987, Rund served as a volunteer Emergency Services Provider (EMS) in Carroll County. She holds numerous certifications in the field of health and safety, has obtained the National Fire Academy’s Advanced Safety Officer Program certification, and serves as Associate Faculty at the University of Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, and Region III Coordinator for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Advocacy programs. Rund is the first permanent female Fire Chief in Baltimore County’s history.

Gutwald joins Baltimore County following decades of planning and land use experience. He most recently served as Director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Annapolis, following nearly 10 years of service as the Director of Planning and Zoning for Harford County. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Baltimore.

Lykens has served as the department’s acting director since December 2018, after previously serving as deputy director since December 2014. He has worked in Baltimore County since 1988, starting as a Natural Resource Specialist before working his way up to Director. Lykens holds bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Natural Science and a master’s degree in Biology from Towson University.

Blades will serve as acting director of Budget and Finance following the retirement of Keith Dorsey, who has served in the role for 35 years. Blades has worked in Baltimore County government since 1993, beginning in the Office of Budget and Finance as a Budget Analyst and has served as deputy budget director since 2012. In that capacity he has implemented various budget and financial software system upgrades and developed reporting structures to generate efficiencies in data collection and analysis. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from UMBC and a MBA from the University of Phoenix. 

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Baltimore County is well-positioned to significantly increase the economic impact of tourism in the County, and should step up marketing and promotion efforts in order to attract more visitors and maximize its potential according to a new study (PDF) conducted by Johnson Consulting for the Baltimore County Department of Economic and Workforce Development.

Citing Baltimore County’s strong foundation of resources and assets, the study projects that expanded investments and strategic improvements to the tourism sector of Baltimore County could generate approximately $7 billion in tourism spending over a 10-year period.

“The results of this study could not make it more clear: Baltimore County can—and should—be a world-class tourist destination and I’m committed to making that a reality,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “Baltimore County must do more to take advantage of our vibrant, diverse opportunities so that we can expand economic opportunity in every community and transform our County into the destination we know it can be.”

While Baltimore County is a large, diverse community which boasts a number of historical sites and unique attractions and a convenient location to waterfront, the Johnson Consulting study found that the County is behind other markets in terms of amenities like bike and hiking trails, regional performing arts, convention-expo facilities and sports-recreational facilities.

The study performed a comprehensive economic and market analysis of Baltimore County’s tourism sector and made a number of recommendations to improve the County’s competitive tourism position and enhance the County’s tourism products and assets, including:

  • Expanding the role of Baltimore County’s Office of Tourism within the County Department of Economic and Workforce Development with an increase in dedicated full-time staffing
  • Creating Arts and Cultural Districts to create subarea identities in the County
  • Leveraging Baltimore County’s unique access to waterways and existing historical and heritage assets to distinguish Baltimore County from its regional competitors
  • Promoting Baltimore County’s emerging Craft Brewery and Winery industry, including promoting the new Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House
  • Supporting the expansion of and upgrades to the Maryland State Fairgrounds to expand operations and annual economic impacts
  • Increasing hotel revenue to directly support marketing and branding of the hotels in the County in order to lengthen the stay of current visitors and attract new visitors
  • Commissioning a Financial Feasibility Study to explore the development of an amateur sports complex which could generate annual economic impacts of $25 to $30 million
  • Enhancing the role of the Baltimore County Tourism and Promotion Advisory Council to provide stronger oversight on agency strategic and annual destination marketing-business plans with required budget levels and to increase ongoing communications with visitor industry and community tourism leaders. This effort should engage the State’s existing marketing efforts and leverage grant funds that can be earned from the State.

To accomplish these recommendations, Baltimore County must embrace the emerging tourism industry as a fundamental pillar of economic development for the County.

“We’re thrilled to see that the new administration understands the clear ROI that investing in tourism can bring to Baltimore County’s tax base. We’re clearly entering a new era in economic development in our County,” said Hal Ashman, Chairman of the Baltimore County Tourism and Promotion Advisory Council. “Our tourism stakeholders, which represent hotels, restaurants, craft, marine trades, waterfront industry, and arts and cultural interests, are excited to work beside the County Executive to move Baltimore County into the next generation of tourism success.”

County Executive Olszewski is carefully reviewing this study ahead of submitting his first budget on Monday, April 15.

Review the complete study (PDF) and other reports and publications on the Department of Economic and Workforce Development website.

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Revised September 11, 2017