Howard County Council Approves FY 14 Budget with Minor Changes

The Howard County Council approved the county’s fiscal year 2014 budget incorporating only minor changes to the budget proposed by County Executive Ulman. As reported by the Baltimore Sun (limited free views available):

The Howard County Council adopted a $923.5 million general fund spending plan Thursday that increases allocations for schools and police while not raising income or property taxes.

The spending plan totals $1.4 billion when counting all money sources, including fire taxes and water and sewer fees. It is the seventh and next-to-last for Ulman, who is limited by law to two four-year terms. After weeks of public hearings and work sessions, the council passed his original $920.8 million proposal with only minor changes.

County Executive Ulman’s press release provides some funding specifics.

The spending plan provides record funding for the Howard County Public School System, including the ability to hire more than 130 new educators. It also contains funding for 12 additional sworn police officers. Howard County will exceed the state-required education “maintenance of effort” and teacher pension minimum contributions by more than 100 percent.

The operating budget contains funding for the first general cost-of-living increase for Howard County employees since 2008, as well as $250,000 for the County’s new plan to combat bullying. Other notable funding commitments include a $725,000 installment toward fulfilling the obligations of the Howard County Plan to End Homelessness, as well as additional positions in the Sheriff’s Office to combat domestic violence.

The budget also provides $5 million for arts and culture projects in Downtown Columbia, including funding to begin design and construction of an amphitheater in Symphony Woods. Economic development efforts will receive a boost through a $2.5 million package of investments that includes a new Center for Conscious Entrepreneurship, a Next-generation Manufacturing Center and an academy to train “angel investors.”