Howard County Auditor Recommends Greater Budget Flexibility For County Council

At the request of the Howard County Council, the county auditor has reviewed the county’s budget process and offered recommendations to make it easier for citizens to follow the budget and give County Council members the flexibility to move funds between projects.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun,

Under the suggestions, future capital project summary pages would include more detailed funding information, such as prior appropriations and budget requests, and would list each program year by funding source.

The recommendations would also help citizens track adjustments to capital projects by including a “changes from prior year” section on every project summary page identifying the reasons for cost increases and cuts, as well as changes in the project’s completion date and scope. An “initial project cost estimate” section would highlight when the project was first planned and how much it was expected to cost at the time.

Other recommendations would give the council greater authority to change budget priorities. The auditor recommends,

…changing the county’s charter to give council members the authority to move dollars to the county’s pension fund, general fund contingency and rainy day fund. Another suggestion allowing the council to shuffle funding sources among capital projects would give council members the ability to restore funding to Board of Education projects, if the board’s requests are not fully met by the county executive.

A last recommendation would give council members “position control,” meaning they would need to approve any change to the number and classification of government positions recommended in the county executive’s budget.