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Francis Scott Key Bridge Incident Updates
Watch the Recording of County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. delivering the Proposed FY25 Budget Message

Proposed FY25 Budget Message

Watch the recording of County Executive John A. Olszewski, Jr. deliver the FY25 proposed budget message.

View the Budget Message Book (PDF) and Download the FY25 Budget Message slides

Budget Message Speech

Good morning, Council Chairman Patoka, members of the County Council, esteemed colleagues in County government, honored guests, and residents of Baltimore County. It is my privilege to join you today to present Baltimore County’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget.

It’s often said that budgets are an expression of our values. The document I present today does exactly that: it reaffirms our tireless commitment to support all of our residents and uplift all of our communities.

I first stood before you in this very chamber five years ago to share the promise of a “better Baltimore County,” pledging “that by working together and looking toward the future with optimism, we can push Baltimore County to reach its highest potential.” As I deliver my sixth, and potentially my last budget as County Executive, I am proud to say that we have delivered on that promise. We truly have built a better Baltimore County.

Challenges Faced

Realizing this promise required us to overcome innumerable challenges — some historic and generational in scope — while others were literally footnotes.

We were first blindsided by an $81 million deficit, hidden in 5-point font on page 94 of a budget book. But we refused to let the shortsighted decisions of the past jeopardize our future.

Instead, we did what administrations before us had not: we were open and honest. We engaged the public. We leveraged the expertise of our employees. And we worked with leaders in every community to develop innovative, common-sense, and bipartisan solutions to get us back on track. We comprehensively closed that deficit while making record investments in our public schools, law enforcement, and core services.

We were on our way. Then, that early progress was swiftly challenged by a once-in-a-generation health crisis that threatened not only the safety of our residents, but our very way of life.

Again, we refused to give up or back down.

We again turned to our greatest resource — our employees — and implemented a pandemic response that drew statewide, bipartisan praise along with a vaccination plan that was one of the most efficient in our nation.

Today, our region is reeling from yet another shocking new challenge.

The tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge took the lives of our neighbors. It has threatened the livelihoods for thousands of our fellow residents. It has left a void in our harbor, in our skyline, and in our hearts.

This tragedy is personal for me and for so many others. The Key Bridge has been a symbol of our connections, our tight-knit community, and our culture.

We mourn the loss of hardworking neighbors we lost, we rally around the families impacted by the port closure, and we thank the incredible first responders and those already helping us to clear the channel, open the port, and rebuild our beloved bridge.

Today, we’re proud to be joined by some of the first responders who have been critical for the Key Bridge rescue and recovery efforts. Thanks for all that you do.

In the face of these uncertainties, Baltimore County will continue to do everything we can to connect residents with needed resources and to provide small business supports. We will do whatever is needed to ensure we all weather this disaster — and emerge from it even stronger.

That is what local government does.

As we look back at all of the challenges we have faced, we can see how they have, in many ways, demonstrated our resiliency — and how they have driven our efforts to create a government that better serves and supports our people.

Together, we strengthened our democracy. We passed historic lobbying reforms. We created, expanded, enhanced, and now are asking voters to enshrine the Office of the Inspector General into Baltimore County’s Charter. We established the first-ever Fair Election Fund — and this year’s budget provides the first $1 million towards our new public financing system set to begin with the 2026 election cycle.

We revitalized aging communities through massive, community-driven efforts to breathe new life into places like Security Square Mall. Meanwhile, we launched more targeted, place-based initiatives to help reimagine neighborhoods like Essex and, at an even more granular level, sites like Dundalk Village and Woodlawn Village.

We built a more modern government, creating Baltimore County’s first Department of Housing and Community Development and the first dedicated Office of Transportation. We later launched the county’s first free fixed-route transit service, the Towson Loop.

We established more responsive services, like BCStat, the County’s first data-driven performance management system, brought back bulk trash pick-up for the first time in three decades, stood up a 3-1- 1 program, and rapidly extended rural broadband to over 99 percent of all homes.

We led with our values, creating the offices of sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure those critical principles are embedded in the core of government — all while assembling the most diverse leadership team in our County’s history.

We took other, smaller — but still bold — steps too.

We ensured that residents could pay for county services with a credit card, made double-sided printing the default in Baltimore County and deployed intelligent electronic spreaders to bring the County in line with road salt best practices — commonsense actions good for both the budget and the environment.

We did all of this and so much more, by listening to one another and believing in what is possible. We must keep doing that in the future, as it is clear that our county and state will face new challenges.

We know that we face an uncertain budget future with the state, coinciding with the end of federal recovery dollars. At the same time, we face the same inflationary pressures that our families feel everywhere from the gas pump to the grocery store.

This has created, in many ways, the perfect economic storm.

But I will say it again: Baltimore County has never backed down before. And we won’t do so now.

This year’s budget is a measured and responsible path forward that sustains our historic progress, continuing to deliver on the promise of major projects across all of our communities.

While our budget accomplishes all this and more without any tax increases, we will be honest about the challenges down the road so that future leaders have the foresight and preparation to continue this progress — without the need to scour through footnotes.

A Budget for a Better Baltimore County

This budget, and our many years of progress, would not be possible without the partnership of our County Council. I am grateful to each of you for your collaboration. Even though we may disagree on certain issues, we remain united in our commitment to moving Baltimore County forward.

I also would like to express my deep gratitude for an amazing support network of friends and family, most especially to my daughter Daria and my wife Marisa.

And thanks, of course, also goes to our entire Baltimore County team.

This budget builds on their hard work, especially County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers, Director of Budget and Finance Kevin Reed; our entire Budget and Finance office; our department heads, and all our hardworking employees.

As we always do, the bulk of this budget invests in our most important asset: our employees. In recognition of their dedicated service to Baltimore County, we are continuing to provide midyear cost-ofliving increases, or corresponding future wage adjustments, for Baltimore County’s general workforce. This year, we are also doing right by our employees by ending a split in healthcare costs where those hired after 2007 pay more than those hired before that time.

We introduce this budget as we also prepare for our trailblazing CAO to enter into a well-deserved retirement. Stacy, it has been an honor to work alongside you and we wish you the absolute best in your next steps. There is no doubt that your shoes will be hard to fill, but I am confident that DPWT Director D’Andrea Walker will continue to the provide forward-thinking leadership that builds on your legacy.

At its core, our budgets remain driven by — and are a reflection of — the people of Baltimore County.

Together, we have fundamentally transformed how our neighbors engage with the leaders who represent them. For the sixth year in a row, we hosted our signature Budget Town Hall series to directly hear from thousands of residents about their concerns, ideas, and aspirations. At a time when so many are skeptical about government, it is more critical than ever before to engage directly with our neighbors, and not just listen — but ensure that our budget reflects and supports them.

No matter who may ultimately succeed me, I know the people of this great county will continue to demand their seat at the head of the table for years to come.

That’s what building a better Baltimore County looks like.

Investing in Our Students and Educators

As a former BCPS teacher, parent to a BCPS second-grader, and as County Executive, education will always be my passion and priority.

When we took office, we saw incredible needs. We knew we shouldn’t be held back by aging infrastructure, failing air conditioners, overcrowding, and a lack of investment in the most importance resources we have in our classrooms: our educators.

So, we went to work to improve our county’s education system from top to bottom.

That begins with investing in the talented professionals who educate our children. Year after year, we have done more than just say that this is a priority, we’ve demonstrated it.

Over the past six years alone, our administration has provided a total of more than $200 million beyond the state required maintenance of effort, ensuring we are making the investments to provide educators with everything they need to focus on student success.

As a result, we have taken Baltimore County teacher wages from the middle of the pack to among the highest in the State, helping us attract, retain, and reward the talented educators, athletic trainers, and support staff who nurture and guide our children toward a brighter future. That commitment continues today.

For the sixth year in a row, Baltimore County’s budget delivers another major investment in BCPS, providing $41 million above Maintenance of Effort. This budget not only delivers on BCPS’ request, but goes even further to deliver more bus drivers and more teachers to help reduce class sizes and give our children the attention they need and deserve to succeed throughout their educational careers.

This budget also raises the starting salary of an educator in Baltimore County to $60,000 — fulfilling that obligation to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future — two years ahead of schedule.

I thank BCPS Superintendent Dr. Myriam Rogers for her renewed and strengthened partnership. She has been an open, accessible, and collaborative leader, and I remain grateful for all that she does on behalf of our students and educators every day.

Investing in Our Schools

Our educators and school support staff are vital to our children’s futures. But so too are the school buildings themselves. Failing to invest in these buildings tells students they’re not worth investing in.

We have come a very long way from the days when the county and state leaders squabbled over something as commonsense as air-conditioning. Today, every public school in Baltimore County is airconditioned, but that is just the beginning.

We have provided over $800 million towards our school infrastructure needs. This investment has helped us create over 3,000 new school seats to empower a new generation of student learning. The investment allowed us to open 7 brand new schools — with two more on the way this year.

Even as we celebrate these successes, we continue to deliver on the promise of other major projects like a new Lansdowne High School that is currently under construction; moving towards the groundbreaking of a new Dulaney High School and a like-new Towson High School, as well as a new Scotts Branch Elementary School — complete with millions more to support these projects in this year’s budget.

To ensure we can stay on pace with an ambitious capital program, including a new Career and Technology Education Center, needed additions to Patapsco High School, and meaningful overcrowding solutions in the southeast and the northeast portions of the county, we will be requesting the public to approve $331 million in this year’s referendum to keep all of our projects moving.

Investing in Higher Education

Education is an essential stepping stone for everyone — including those who wants to learn a new trade, expand their skillset, and earn higher wages for their family. More than ever, our community colleges have been a launching pad for students of all ages who want to pursue their dreams in higher education.

We have been proud to partner with the Community College of Baltimore County and President Dr. Sandra Kurtinitis to ensure that these doors are open for anyone looking for high-quality and accessible education.

That starts with freezing in-County tuition every single year that we’ve been in office, enabling students to pursue more opportunities close to home. This year is no different and we were proud to yet again hold these tuition costs in-place for a record sixth year.

Last year we went a step further to deliver life-changing results for Baltimore County residents when we announced a partnership that made near universal community college a reality, providing free community college for any Baltimore County family making less than $150,000 a year.

Even amid state cuts, we are proud to continue our commitment to deliver near-universal community college this year. Because a better Baltimore County sustains the progress we have made together.

Investing in Our Libraries

Much like our schools, our public library system is an incredible resource for learners of all ages. Libraries are community anchors in neighborhoods across the County where everyone is welcome to learn, discover, and be themselves.

Under the leadership of CEO Sonia Alcantara-Antoine, the Baltimore County Public Library system continues to be model for how a 21st-century library should operate with reading programs for our young people, digital literacy programs for older adults, and resources to help small businesses thrive.

We are proud to have eliminated all overdue fines to ensure that all our residents have equitable access to these life-changing resources.

Over six years, our administration has proudly invested more than $227 million into our public libraries and our FY25 budget builds on this legacy with over $35 million for new, upgraded, and improved buildings countywide.

Investing in Our Police

Building stronger neighborhoods means ensuring every resident lives, studies, and works in a community where they are safe and feel safe.

That starts with making the upstream investments that we’ve prioritized — better schools, better access to libraries, recreation programs, parks, youth activities, behavioral and mental health services, opioid treatment, and violence interruption programs. Eliminating the conditions that can push people towards criminal activity in the first place make all of us safer.

Safe communities also require responsive, respectful, and vigilant law enforcement.

Shortly after taking office, we resolved a years-long dispute by ensuring that our officers as well as our 911 personnel, correctional officers, and sheriff’s deputies received well-deserved pay increases that have now made them among the best-compensated in the region.

Over the course of six years, we've continued to make historic commitments in our police officers and we're currently engaged in discussions to increase officer pay to record proportions in the years ahead. We’ve invested in police stations county-wide, as well as programs that enable our officers to take their vehicles home with them.

For police officers and firefighters alike, we have brought back a program that helps with recruitment, retention, and keeps more of our public safety leaders on the job for longer.

These efforts are complimented by innovative and bipartisan legislation like Baltimore County’s SAFE Act, which helps keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and the SMART Policing Act to modernize or policing practices. And just last week, we joined partners in Annapolis like Speaker Adrienne Jones to ban dangerous “Glock switches,” helping to keep illegal machine guns off our streets.

Our budget builds on that record, including over $22 million for a new and improved Wilkens Precinct, millions for upgrades to our support operations and, just like with our schools, our planned referendum requests more than $25.5 million for renovations and additions at the Essex Precinct. In addition, nearly $1 million, and 38 positions, are included in this year’s budget to support the expansion of the school crossing guards program.

This budget also supports regional assets across the County and throughout Greater Baltimore like the Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland where I’m proud to say we’ve doubled our investment to continue supporting these dedicated heroes.

Thank you to Chief McCullough and all the men and women of the Baltimore County Police Department for their hard work and dedication to our communities. Today, this incredible department celebrates 150 years of service in Baltimore County and we’re thrilled to congratulate them, invest in them, and continue to partner with them for years to come.

Investing in Firefighters and Emergency Services

Our firefighters and emergency service professionals under the leadership of Chief Rund rush into danger each and every day — putting their lives on the line to save others and keep us safe.

From the beginning we’ve invested in better facilities and equipment for these heroes to ensure that their gear keeps them safe, including nearly $75 million for vehicles and new apparatus, a second set of turnout gear, and nearly $5 million for equipment washing stations.

This budget moves us forward with $11.5 million to complete the long-awaited new Catonsville Fire Station and there will be $22 million in this year’s referendum for Sparrows Point Fire Station to continue supporting those heroes.

Much like our police officers, we are continuing to work with our labor partners on a long-term agreement that will significantly increase salaries for the brave men and women of our Fire Department and take steps to begin implementing the findings of an independent, third-party evaluation to improve services.

Recognizing that our volunteer Fire Companies remain a vital public safety partner, we have taken steps to help them save lives by allocating $1 million in federal grants to volunteer fire associations, boosted medic-attended pay rates, and providing a second set of turnout gear for high response volunteers. Throughout our time in office, we expanded their revolving loan fund and are proud to do so again this year, to a total of $2 million to support our volunteers.

Investing in Transportation

Making our communities safer and healthier with connections to great schools, parks, and community anchors is a priority and it’s also the reason that new families are excited to move to Baltimore County.

Our connections make Baltimore County stronger and more vibrant.

Nowhere are those connections more evident than in our roadways that guide residents towards new careers, education opportunities, and to the most important place – home.

Since the start of our administration, we’ve directed over $100 million for road resurfacing, curb, and gutter projects that our residents depend on with additional funds in this year’s budget to continue this progress countywide.

Continuing to use data and best practices to inform our decisions, we recently rolled out Baltimore County’s new PAVER system, a technology that enables us to scan our roadways and ensure that our resurfacing decisions are made equitably and responsibly.

Investing in Sustainable Solutions

Sustainability is a core part of our vision for a better Baltimore County.

When we took office, Baltimore County lacked a Climate Action Plan as well as a Chief Sustainability Officer and too many environmental programs had been left to wither on the vine.

We made immediate changes; restarting beloved initiatives and embarking on new ones to move our county into a greener future. We restarted our glass recycling program, and have since expanded to textiles, electronics, and even oyster shell recycling opportunities as well.

We invested millions into Operation ReTree and our Urban Street Trees programs to ensure that historically underinvested communities aren’t left behind and have equitable access to greenery. To date, over 55,000 trees have been planted countywide under this administration — with even more on the way this year.

For years, our neighbors along Back River struggled with midges — a constant nuisance for homeowners, boaters, and visitors alike. Together with our state partners, we started a first-of-its-kind effort to address those annoying insects and have seen incredible success to date. This budget incorporates both our successful midge mitigation and Urban Street Trees efforts into our operating budget, enabling us to sustain our commitments for years to come.

Investing in Agriculture and Open Space

Preserving greenspace remains a key priority so that we can continue to build sustainable communities, enhance our recreation opportunities, and protect the more than 70,000 acres of agricultural and open lands that are central to Baltimore County’s past — and our future.

In addition to our evolving work to support and promote local farms, we’ve also established our first-ever Agriculture Advisory Board, built a dedicated Agricultural office, which will be further enhanced year with an additional fellow, and have or are in the process of acquiring over 314 acres of new open space for residents to enjoy – including the planned acquisition of the former C.P. Crane property in Middle River which we were excited to announce earlier this year.

Investing in Recreation and Parks

Our Recreation and Parks Department has been a force for public good for 75 years.

Throughout my term, we have provided historic levels of funding for Recreation and Parks projects to support residents across Baltimore County and ensure the department continues to be that steady force. Including this year’s proposed capital funding, we have delivered a staggering six-year capital investment of nearly $220 million in new parks, park acquisitions, park enhancements, critical facility renovation programs, and more.

As a result, our administration is delivering seven major new parks across Baltimore County within the next year — including finally cutting the ribbon for our newest skatepark at Hazelwood and the new Sparrows Point Park. In addition, we will be opening two brand new, state-of-the-art Recreation Activity Centers in Rosedale and Middle River this year to ensure residents are better connected with opportunities to play, compete, and learn.

This budget includes $12.3 million for park development and enhancements, $4.4 million for park acquisition, $1 million for recreation facility renovations, and $2 million for athletic field and ball diamond renovations and enhancements. In addition, we are allocating nearly $10 million in federal funding, bringing our total capital investment to approximately $30 million this year alone.

A critical partner in this work are the recreation and nature councils who contribute thousands of volunteer hours to help provide much-needed support for programs across our county.

As a former rec sports kid and more recently as an assistant coach for my daughter’s soccer team, I know just how vital these opportunities are for all our children. But as County Executive, I have learned for as much as we’ve invested in capital infrastructure, we have much more to do. Including the need to modernize our practices and ensure legal compliance.

This year’s budget makes a major down payment on rightsizing the department’s historical underfunding with an expansion of over $6 million, representing a more than 30 percent increase, into our recreation department. This expansion will provide considerable new county positions and will mean safer parks, improved services, and better experiences for children and families alike.

This will mean that we will better support our Rec and Nature Councils with more resources and solutions such as providing goals, lining fields, and ensuring a world-class, consistent experience throughout Baltimore County. It will mean increased access to programs and spaces at 23 community and recreation activity centers that were formerly open by permit only. And it means increased hours for camps, afterschool care, drop-in programs and more as well as expanded opportunities at places like our cherished Banneker Community Center and Oregon Ridge Park.

As we always have, the Department will continue to engage in ongoing and collaborative discussions with Councils and the public to identify how we can work together to provide modern, equitable and transparent services for everyone — regardless of zip code and for the next 75 years and beyond.

Investing in Our Seniors

Our older adults, who make up approximately a quarter of Baltimore County’s population, are a vital part of our communities and our lives. Investing in them and their ability to age with dignity is a priority for us.

In our first year in office, we launched No Senior Eats Alone Day to combat social isolation, created the BCAUSE program to fund necessary safety modifications, and partnered with the Baltimore County Volunteer Center to create new opportunities for people to connect and give back.

Since the start of our administration, we’ve invested more than $27 million to construct new senior centers and improve existing ones, including an $8 million expansion of the Woodlawn Senior Center which will open later this year.

We are continuing this work with funding for needed improvements to Parkville Senior Center’s parking lot so we can deliver on our promise to seniors in every community as well as our referendum request to keep the Hereford Senior Center and Jacksonville Senior Center projects on track.

Investing in Housing Opportunities

We are continuing to invest in attainable housing throughout the County so that residents can achieve their dreams of home ownership, put down new roots, and live without the fear of eviction hanging over them.

We passed the HOME Act to eliminate discrimination by source of income — model legislation that has since become State law — and we passed a foundational housing package that is enabling us to eliminate blight and build better-connected communities.

We saw this work come to fruition earlier this year when we partnered with MCB Real Estate and Goldman Sachs to announce the largest attainable housing deal in Baltimore County’s history. This is a major step forward and is a model for how we can continue to deliver innovative housing solutions.

Our budget this year builds on that promise with an additional $3.3 million for the Housing Opportunities Fund to support projects like that MCB deal and literally build on our success in the years ahead. Because of efforts like this, we’re confident that we’re not only going to meet but exceed both our moral and legal obligations.

Investing in Government Services

Just as every resident deserves vibrant communities, secure housing, and access to world-class schools and open spaces, they also deserve an inclusive and equitable government that addresses their needs directly.

That’s why we’ve codified our Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into law, named Baltimore County’s first Chief of Immigrant Affairs, and created the New Americans Task Force to help address the concerns of our immigrant communities who account for more than 12 percent of our residents.

To continue ensuring that our government services work for all communities, this budget also funds expansions of our Immigrant Affairs Offices with an additional fellow and funding for enhanced translation and language services. This means that that every department will have its own budget to ensure translation services for all residents.

Preparing for Our Future

This is another historic, balanced budget. One that is keeping our promises and responding to the demands of our communities.

It’s what a better Baltimore County is all about.

But a better Baltimore County means being honest regarding the future. And so, even as we celebrate this budget and what it’s able to do, we acknowledge that Baltimore County will face tough decisions in the years ahead.

The reality is this: For decades, Baltimore County failed to invest in our capital resources. F

or example, much like we did with our comprehensive review of school facilities, we recently completed a survey of all our government buildings to identify a long-term path to modernize our buildings after decades of underinvestment.

And similar to the billions of dollars we identified in unmet school building needs, we have also found hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred investments and maintenance across our county. These disinvestments affected priorities like parks, senior centers, athletic fields and the other assets we hear about at our town halls. But this also impacts the equally essential — roads, trash and recycling facilities, and other assets that make this County run.

These needs are significant, and inflation will only continue to make projects even more expensive. Every years, residents decide whether to authorize borrowing to pay for these critical investments.

This year we will request nearly $600 million in borrowing authority.

Because of inflationary pressures and to simply meet our immediate needs, this is $244 million more than originally anticipated. It is an amount that is necessary to ensure that priority projects — already committed to — remain on track. Without these funds, much demanded and needed projects: senior centers, police stations, firehouses, and any number of schools, would be delayed or deferred for years, if not outright cancelled.

We think voters should, and will, approve this borrowing. But if they do, these funds must be paid back. Doing so will be difficult, if not impossible, without new resources or significant reductions in existing county services in the years ahead.

But we shouldn’t be afraid of or shy away from these challenges. We have faced — and overcome — far more difficult ones before.

That’s what local government is supposed to do: come together and solve problems. That has been the promise on which we have centered ourselves and delivered since day one.

My unwavering belief in this work is rooted in the Fourth Chapter of Ecclesiastes which reads in verses 9 and 10: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls down and has no one to help them up.”

I have no doubt that we will continue to keep that promise to be there for each other in Baltimore County. Because that is what makes not just our county better, it is what makes us better.

It’s how we overcame fiscal shortsightedness and a culture of mistrust. It’s how we persevered during the most dangerous public health crisis in a century. It’s how we have come together and will rise from the tragic collapse of the Key Bridge.

With sustained collaboration with our County Council, the school system, state leaders, community stakeholders, and the public we’re proud to serve, we will continue transforming the Baltimore County we love into the better Baltimore County we’ve always deserved.

Because the truth is, even when you’re the best, you can still be better.

It’s my hope and prayer and we are always striving, together, to be an even better Baltimore County. Thank you and God Bless.

Respectfully submitted,

John A. Olszewski, Jr. County Executive

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Office of the County Executive

400 Washington Avenue
Mezzanine Level
Towson, Maryland 21204


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County Executive

John A. Olszewski, Jr.