No proposed tax increases, largest increase over maintenance of effort for school system in seven years
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball presented his proposed $1.88 billion operating budget for the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY 2022) to the Howard County Council. Ball’s budget is a 6.8% increase over FY 2021’s budget – primarily due to adding $50 million contingency in Grant Fund for potential new pandemic relief funding. The budget includes no tax increases while supporting Howard County’s collective priorities – including education, pandemic relief, and public infrastructure. The General Fund, which supports the majority of government services, totals $1.26 billion, representing a 2.8% growth when excluding the use of fund balance. The proposed budget also uses $59.1 million in fund balance from prior surplus to support one-time initiatives, including $30.3 million for critical infrastructure efforts like road resurfacing, the Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan, the East Columbia 50+ Center expansion, school site acquisition, repairing deteriorating sidewalks, and road construction.
“Through careful planning and thoughtful discussions, we’ve created our largest operating budget to date, with no tax increases for our residents or businesses,” said County Executive Ball. “This balanced budget provides broad based support for our priorities, and directs one-time savings towards critical public infrastructure, such as road resurfacing, repairing sidewalks, and flood mitigation projects. Education is still our top priority, with historically high funding to the school system, community college, and library system. This budget also includes record high funding for special education. Despite the fiscal challenges amid the pandemic, this budget funds our strategic priorities while continuing the strong fiscal discipline that recently earned the County its 24th consecutive AAA bond rating.”
Education continues to be a top priority. Howard County Public Schools will receive $632.8 million in County funding in the proposed operating budget. County funding for FY 2022 is $20 million above the legislatively mandated Maintenance of Effort (MOE) level, the highest amount above MOE in the past seven years. The budget also includes $10 million in one-time County funding to reduce the HCPSS Health Fund deficit, potentially allowing for the elimination of the deficit by the end of 2022. Additionally, funding to the Howard County Library System and Howard Community college increased by 2.6% each.
The proposed budget also includes new investments in public safety, including $3.8 million for implementing a body worn camera program that will cover 300 Howard County police officers and 70 Sheriff’s deputies. The funding covers 26 new personnel, equipment, and on-going operational needs.
Additional highlights included in the FY 2022 budget:
Ready and Successful Students
- $37.5 million for Howard Community College.
- $22.4 million for Howard County Library System.
- $750,000 for HoCo STRIVES Education Initiative.
Safe and Engaged Communities
- $565,000 for the Sheriff’s Department for eight new deputies and one IT specialist.
- The Police Department will repurpose an existing position to create a new victim’s rights advocate serving as the main contact for the public on matters related to police misconduct.
Thriving and Healthy Residents
- $1 million in PAYGO funding to support COVID response activities at the Health Department.
- $510,000 in operating funding for Howard County General Hospital.
- $5 million in PAYGO to provide seed funding to create a Housing Opportunities Trust Fund.
- Funding for two critical vacant positions, Consumer Protection Manager and Disability Manager at the Department of Community Resources and Services.
- $32,000 in PAYGO to implement the AARP/Age Friendly plan.
Reliable and Accessible Infrastructure
- 30.3 million in PAYGO to Capital Improvement Projects (CIP):
- $10 million to support the on-going road surfacing needs to maintain 1,080 miles of county roads and address a road resurfacing backlog of over $61.4 million. across the County, preventing more costly future repairs.
- $6.0 million for the Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan.
- $5.5 million for the expansion of the East Columbia 50+ center.
- $4.5 million to cover school site acquisition.
- $2.1 million for sidewalk repairs, road construction, bridge, and traffic projects.
- $1.3 million to complete the Harriet Tubman Culture Center.
- $1 million to address deferred maintenance at Detention Center.
- $3 million for transit operations will allow Howard County to return to normal service hours on RTA.
Strong and Prosperous Businesses
- A $1 million new loan program will be launched through EDA to provide access to capital for small and local businesses.
- $615,000 to support Downtown Columbia art and culture including Merriweather Post Pavilion and Inner Arbor Trust.
- $78,000 in funding will be used to hire consultants for Gateway Infrastructure.
- Funding to the Tourism Council kept unchanged at FY21 level of $1 million despite a significant drop in designated revenues (hotel/motel tax).
Clean and Sustainable Environment
- Howard County will also implement a new “Green Fleet Policy” for its Central Fleet. This will target reducing petroleum fuel consumption in the County’s fleet by 20% over FY 2019 levels by 2024.
- $52,000 to modernize the Green Infrastructure Framework, evaluating and updating the existing map.
- $90,000 in PAYGO to strengthen the County Climate Action Plan, providing a comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory to measure the success of mitigation and community adaptation strategies compared to the prior plan.
Innovative and Efficient Government
- A third wave of Innovation Grants focused on needs emerging from the pandemic and allow for modernization throughout Howard County.
- Funding for two priority vacancies to support IT needs including a Data Analytics Manager and a Network Security Engineer.
Here is the letter sent to the Howard County Council:
Here is a link to the proposed budget details: