Howard County Executive and MACo President Ken Ulman recently unveiled his proposed $1.56 billion FY12 Operating Budget. As outlined in a Howard County news release, the proposed spending plan includes, no increases to the current property tax rate, funding of the county’s school systems $512.6 million budget request, and driving additional funds towards environmental protection initiatives.
“With the economy beginning to show signs of recovery, we must maintain our commitment to fiscal responsibility and, at the same time, position Howard County to take full advantage of the opportunities this recovery presents,” said Executive Ulman. “Our optimism is evident in this budget, but so is our caution.”
The General Fund Budget is $870.8 million. “Even though state cuts to local jurisdictions are difficult to overcome, the financial decisions we have made allow us to maintain our Triple-A credit rating from all three bond rating agencies,” said County Finance Director Sharon Greisz. Howard County is one of fewer than 30 counties nationwide to have a Triple-A rating from all three agencies.
Continuing the commitment the County has made to restoring the health of our environment, this budget increases funding for the County’s Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) by nearly 300 percent. As was the case in the Capital Budget, the primary focus of this funding increase is to strengthen the County’s efforts at controlling stormwater runoff, one of the root causes of the degradation of our streams, waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.
Executive Ulman is proposing a new position dedicated to coordinating the County’s policies and efforts in the area of stormwater management. Similar to the County’s approach with OES itself, this position will work with all relevant departments to ensure that Howard County is as effective as possible in both its practices and policies related to stormwater runoff. As a complement to this new “stormwater czar,” this proposed budget includes funding for stream protection, education and partnership programs that will enable Howard County to better address this ecological crisis
This proposal also fully funds the school system’s $512.6 million budget request, an increase of $6.3 million over last year. And this year Ulman’s budget provides a three percent increase to Howard Community College (HCC); over the past few years both enrollment and prestige have skyrocketed at HCC.
The proposed budget also increases funding for the Community Service Partnership (CSP) grants program to more than $6.8 million; the CSP program provides funding to nonprofit agencies in Howard County engaged in providing essential human services. “We must do all we can to make sure that County dollars are being well spent and that residents with critical needs are being well served,” said Executive Ulman.
For the first time in three years, County government employees will not be furloughed. However, 68 County positions will remain vacant, material costs are still being tightly monitored and there will be no cost of living increase for County employees again this year.
This budget also includes funding for the County to provide once a month bulk curbside trash pickup for its residents. “We have heard from citizens who have been asking for this type of trash pickup and knowing how useful bulk trash pickup can be, I have decided to restore the service,” said Executive Ulman.
To view the proposed FY12 Operating Budget click here.