The following was posted by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Facebook:

Education continues to be our top funding priority in Howard County. Our FY21 proposed capital budget provides funds to renovate aging school buildings, build new schools to address overcrowding, support renovations, add classrooms, and improve technology.

Our investment of $68.7 million in County funds to support the HCPSS capital program is the largest investment in 14 years, and includes the funding needed to advance three long-awaited and critical school construction projects – New High School #13, the Talbott Springs Replacement and the Hammond High School Renovation and Addition projects.

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Here is the text from the full press release about the 2021 Capital Budget:

County Executive Ball Presents Capital Budget for Fiscal Year 2021

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today presented to the County Council a $250 million Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for Fiscal Year 2021, including $94.6 million from General Obligation (GO) bonds. The CIP budget book can be viewed here.

The COVID-19 epidemic and an economic downturn is anticipated to have a significant impact on operating budget revenues. For the second year in a row, the Spending Affordability Advisory Committee recommended a GO bond authorization of $70 million, urging the County to manage its debt burden with a forecasted weak performance in county revenues.

“Despite the fiscal challenges we face, the proposed budget supports the strategic priorities of the community,” said Ball. “These include investing in building new and expanded school buildings, the Ellicott City flood mitigation plan, facilities for our senior residents, transportation and infrastructure, and a realistic multi-year capital projects plan. This budget takes a pragmatic approach while ensuring Howard County remains the best place to live, learn, work, play and grow.”

Education remains the top budget priority. The FY21 proposed capital budget totals $92.7 million for school capital projects, the highest in the last 16 years. It invests $68.7 million in County funds to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), the highest in the last 14 years. The budget strongly supports the top three priorities of the Board of Education, including, new High School #13, Talbott Springs Elementary replacement, and Hammond High School renovation/addition.

“The Maryland General Assembly passed historic levels of capital funding and investment in our children’s education and the facilities that serve their needs,” said Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Chair Guy Guzzone (D-13). “My committee passed a dramatic increase in school construction funding, including over $135 million for Howard County. These additional State funds will be critical in order for school renovation and construction to move forward.”

“This is a tremendous step forward to keep the Howard County Public School System’s three major priority projects moving forward,” said Dr. Michael Martirano, HCPSS Superintendent. “These projects are overdue and are needed to support the rapidly growing student enrollment in Howard County. I want to thank County Executive Ball and Senator Guy Guzzone for working with us over the last several weeks to help ensure that the Board’s requested capital budget priorities move forward. Without this state-county-school system collaboration, moving three major construction projects while maintaining our systemic renovation priorities would not have been possible.”

“As Chair of the Board of Education of Howard County, I am sure I speak for all of my colleagues in thanking Dr. Calvin Ball, Senator Guy Guzzone and Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano for collaborating to move all three of the Board’s top three construction projects forward to meet the needs of our growing student population while supporting systematic renovations,” said Mavis Ellis, HCPSS Board of Education Chair. “Today, I must also recognize and thank our parent advocates who have worked tirelessly to inform and hold accountable elected officials in providing for all Howard County students in an equitable way.  This is truly a proud day for Howard County.”

The proposed budget also advances the construction of an expanded East Columbia 50+ Center, allowing this long-awaited project to be completed in FY22 as originally planned. The Florence Bain 50+ center (the most actively used 50+ center in the county) renovation is expected to be finished in FY21. The budget also proposes $20.2 million, including anticipated State aid, for significant flood mitigation efforts in Ellicott City and Valley Mede as part of the EC Safe and Sound plan.

Additionally, the capital budget includes the New Cultural Center (NCC) project, serving as a hub for visual and performing arts in Downtown Columbia. The project, estimated as a $63 million investment, will be supported by designated resources including incremental tax revenues from Downtown Columbia TIF District and program revenues at this facility to avoid adding debt service cost to the county’s operating budget.

This year’s budget also includes over $6.5 million in county and grant funding, the highest in five years, to support pedestrian and bicycle improvements in Howard County. This funding will drive implementation of the recently adopted Howard County Pedestrian Master Plan, Bicycle Master Plan and Complete Streets Policy and will provide significant safety, economic, environmental and health benefits for our community. The funding supports new projects and the maintenance of existing infrastructure such as sidewalks, pathways, crosswalks and bike lanes. Providing safe walking and biking connections to schools and transit will be prioritized.

The proposed budget also includes, for the first time in the last decade, a six-year plan that aligns with the County’s fiscal reality. The plan provides a solid starting point and a sustainable long-term scenario, which allows for productive discussion and a candid dialogue on prioritization and balancing needs and tax burden.

Highlights of the FY21 CIP budget include:

Education

  • $11.3 million in County funding for High School #13.
  • $15.1 million in County funding for the Talbott Springs Elementary School replacement.
  • $21.5 million in County funding toward the Hammond High School renovation and addition to increase capacity.
  • $13.5 million in County funding for systemic renovations and roofing projects
  • $7.3 million for other needs, such as technology, roofing, and relocatable classrooms.
  • $5.4 million for Howard Community College new mathematics and athletics complex
  • $550,000 for the renovation of the Glenwood Branch of the Howard County Library System

Community Services

  • $16.2 million for design and construction of East Columbia 50+ Center
  • $63 million from program and incremental tax revenues for the New Cultural Center in Downtown Columbia

Old Ellicott City and Valley Mede

  • $20.2 million, which include anticipated State aid, and will go towards projects, including:
    • Storm drain improvements
    • Design and construction of large flood mitigation

Transportation and Infrastructure

  • $4.9 million in PAYGO funds for road resurfacing
  • $6.5 million in county and grant funding for pedestrian and bicycle improvements 

Public Safety

  • $3 million towards the construction of a new North Columbia Fire Station
  • $2.7 million for public safety enhancements, including new Computer-Aided Dispatch System, Next Generation 911, and Police Records Management
  • $2.1 million to renovate existing Police building
  • $3 million to renovate the Detention Center, including security control and medical suite upgrades

Business and Economic Development

  • $1 million to support the final phase of renovation and equipment for the Maryland Innovation Center

Recreation & Parks

  • $3.6 million for renovations to existing facility infrastructure and park improvement projects
  • $1.7 million in State Program Open Space funding to support the construction of Phase 6 of Blandair Park and completion of Field #1 improvements at Troy Park

The Howard County Council will hold a virtual public hearing on the CIP budget on Monday, April 13th at 6:30 p.m. and Thursday, April 16th at 6:30 p.m.

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Scott E

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