Budget Proposal: Increased Funding, Increased Tax, Homeless Initiative
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman released an operating budget proposal of $898.8 million on Friday.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman Friday proposed to the Howard County Council a "lean" $898.8 million operating budget, crafted under the assumption of a worst-case scenario in the state's recent budget impasse.
Under the proposed budget, Howard County Public Schools, Howard Community College and the Howard County Library System would receive $526 million–a 2.7 percent increase from last year.
The Howard County Police Department would receive $180 million–a 3.5 percent increase over last year’s budget. Non-education funding would collectively increase 1.2 percent from last year, according to the proposal.
"Our budget is responsible, lean and not without sacrifice," said Ulman in a press release. "For the sixth year in a row we have been able to improve our priorities of public safety, education, and quality of life without raising property or income taxes."
Howard County’s property tax of $1.014 per $100 in assessed property value stayed the same in fiscal year 2013. This tax helps fund education and general government operations.
The fire and rescue tax increased throughout the county to $0.176 per $100 of assessed value.
Previously, Howard County was divided into two fire tax districts, both of which paid a lower rate -- $.1355 in the metro district and $.1155 in the rural district. The County Council approved the consolidation and tax increase earlier this year.
According to the county, the budget proposal was created with heavy consideration of the state's budget, which would cut 1 percent of funding to Howard County.
In April, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced plans for the state to relieve the cost of teacher pensions from the state and onto the counties. Under this plan, counties would be responsible for half the burden of teacher pensions.
The pension shift is not included in budget passed by the legislature, but some lawmakers have said they expect the governor to convene a special session, in which case a shift could be back in the picture.
"This budget is based on the prevailing consensus that the cost of teacher retirement obligations will begin to shift to county governments this year," according to the statement from Ulman's office.
For the first time, the budget also includes money earmarked specifically for the "Plan to End Homelessness." In his statement, Ulman said the plan involves a more efficient use of existing programs as well as additional funds for subsidies, addiction treatment and other services aimed at reducing the county's homeless population.
Ulman's budget cites several "cost savings" made over the past six years, including expanding the recycling program, decreasing county take-home vehicles, hybrid vehicle additions and a new cell phone policy for county employees.