Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman today unveiled his $1.7 billion budget proposal for FY 2020, an increase of $106.4 million, or 6.7% over the FY 2019 budget. The County Executive’s inaugural budget proposal invests in schools, strengthens public safety, funds infrastructure improvements, and increases recurring revenues by $113.8 million to align with the County’s long-term goals.
Those revenues will come from an increase to both the property and income taxes. The County Executive proposes raising the property tax rate from 90.2 cents to 93.5 cents per $100 assessed value and the income tax rate from 2.5% to 2.81%.
“Our property tax rate now is 90.2 cents per $100 of value. It was more than $1 before our property tax revenue cap took effect in 1992,” said County Executive Pittman. “Today there are only four Maryland counties with rates lower than ours, all of them rural counties where development has not pushed up the demand for services.”
Due to the County’s self-imposed property tax cap, which limits the total annual increase in property tax revenues to the lesser of 4.5% or the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the revenues generated from any increase beyond the cap ($26.6 million) must be spent on education.
The proposed income tax adjustment is expected to generate an additional $28.6 million in FY 2020, plus additional revenue in FY 2021 and FY 2022. “That payment schedule matches our multi-year plans to fund infrastructure and public safety staffing,” Pittman said.
The County’s appropriation to the Board of Education (BOE), excluding debt service, increases by $46.2 million. This amount meets the State matching funds requirements known as Maintenance of Effort (MOE), provides full funding for pay packages as proposed by the BOE, contract schools, EEE, mental health, special education, and new teaching positions.
“This budget delivers, not only for our teachers, but all of our school support staff. We are fully funding Dr. Arlotto’s proposed pay package, as well as the enhancement unanimously approved by the school board, which adds two much needed “catch up” step increases for teachers employed here in 2010 and 2011, Pittman said. “Overall, this budget funds over 90% of the school board’s request for new funding.”
The County’s appropriation to Anne Arundel Community College increases by $3 million. The Anne Arundel County Library System will receive an additional $544,000 to make Discoveries at the Mall a permanent branch within the library system.
The budget includes funding for 10 new police officers, one new chemist, a management aide, and custodial workers. “We have 765 positions for sworn police officers, but 29 of those are not filled. That’s 88 cops below the level recommended by the International Association of Chiefs of Police when it reviewed our department in 2017,” Pittman said. “We will fill those 29 vacancies and add another 10 sworn officers. Thirty-nine new cops this year is step one in Chief Altomare’s 4-year plan to get where we need to be.”
The proposal also includes funding to replace the County’s aging police helicopter, allocates funds to hire more correctional officers, and additional communications operators at the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.
“Another major investment that we just can’t put off is the replacement of our 15-year old helicopter,” Pittman said. “I have to admit, I researched drones as an alternative, and I even thought about offering my famous rolls of duct tape, but after reading the report on lives saved and criminals arrested, I couldn’t imagine confronting the next disaster without the chopper.”
Additional budget highlights:
“Some will say it’s not ambitious enough, and we should do more. Our department directors requested some $50 million in supplemental requests, not including education, and we funded just under half of that. We also left a lot of capital budget requests unfunded this year,” Pittman said. “Others will say it’s too much, that raising taxes is always wrong because government is too big and should be shrunk. I respect that philosophy, but it’s not mine. I believe that when communities confront problems they should use every tool in the box, whether it’s one offered by the marketplace, the nonprofit sector, or government.”
The Anne Arundel County Council will now hold public hearings on the County Executive’s proposal. The Council has 45 days to pass a balanced budget.