The Howard County Council today unanimously approved the County’s FY 20 operating and capital budgets. The $1.2 billion operating budget represents a 2% increase over the current year’s budget. The FY 20 capital budget totals $206.3 million.
Despite slowed revenue growth, the budget funds key community priorities, including record funding for the Howard County Public School System. The operating budget includes $607.2 million in education funding, a 3.1% increase over the current year’s budget.
Local income and property tax rates remain unchanged. A 6 cent increase to the fire and rescue tax will help fund two new fire stations. The current rate is 17.6 cents per $100 value on real property, which includes residences, buildings, and farms. Eligible business personal property increases by 15 cents per $100 assessed value.
“I want to thank the Howard County Council for helping us create a strong blueprint for the future of our community. I appreciate their collaboration on education funding to ensure we achieve our collective vision for Howard County,” said County Executive Calvin Ball.
“The operating and capital budgets that the Council passed today reflect our shared values and needs in Howard County,” said Howard County Council Chair Christiana Mercer Rigby.
According to a press release:
Securing Record Funding For Education
The FY20 Operating Budget will invest $607.2 million in county funding for Howard County public schools, a record amount that increases funding by $18.2 million or 3.1% from last year, excluding one-time $11.1 million County funding in FY19. The total school operating budget, including Kirwan legislation funding, is $899.3 million, $48.0 million or 5.6% higher than last year – representing the highest growth in a decade. The budgets will fully fund the educators collective bargaining agreement, including salary increases for our valued teachers.
In addition, the approved capital budget includes $48.5 million in County funding for school capital projects. The budget provides operating and capital funding support for the following initiatives or projects for HCPSS, HCC and HCLS:
- $9 million in County funding for High School #13
- $9.5 million in County funding for the Talbott Springs Elementary School replacement
- $12.5 million in County funding toward the Hammond High School renovation and addition to increase capacity
- $4.9 million in County funding for systemic renovations and roofing projects
- $2 million to complete land acquisition for an elementary school in the Turf Valley neighborhood.
- $1.4 million in County funding to Howard Community College to begin design of a new mathematics building and athletics complex.
- $64 million for debt service payments for HCPSS capital projects and Other Post Employment Benefit (OPEB) contributions to fund the long-term retiree health benefit needs of school employees
- $35.8 million for Howard Community College operating budget
- $21.5 million for the Howard County Library System operating budget
- $400,000 for HoCo S.T.R.I.V.E.S. to support children’s mental and behavioral health programs; academic, social, and emotional learning supports; and community capacity building
Making Public Safety A Priority
- New academy class of 45 trainees for the Department of Fire and Rescue Services
- $487,000 to the Police Department to support the new school bus camera enforcement initiative and keep students safe
- $500,000 in capital budget and $1.6 million for lease payment in operating budget to complete a four-year project to replace and upgrade our public safety radio system, enhancing communication for our police, firefighters, and other public safety officers
- Redesign of the Waterloo Fire Station to reduce the building size and improve cost efficiency
- Design and construction of a new fire station in North Columbia
- Converting the Banneker Station’s second, part-time ambulance to full-time
- Funding towards the construction of Waterloo and North Columbia fire stations
- Expanded emergency medical services in Columbia, expanded Command and EMS supervisory coverage in the West, and enhanced community outreach
Promoting Our Public Health
- Innovative partnership with the private sector to establish a new, residential treatment facility to provide the full continuum of care for substance use disorders, including opioids
- $343,000 in operating assistance for Howard County General Hospital (HCGH), to support Practice Howard and behavioral health navigators
- $250,000 to The Sheppard Pratt Health System for construction of an outpatient medical, mental health, and substance use disorder services facility
- A mobile unit for community-based opioid initiatives
- Support for CARE Line, which provides information and referral services for children
- A ‘Live Where You Work’ rental subsidy program, the Settlement / Down Payment Loan Program, and the RENEW Howard program for aging neighborhoods
- Recreation and Parks “Encore” programs for those over 55
- Expanded services for individuals with disabilities
Protecting Our Environment
- Funding to convert all of Howard County’s streetlights to LED. Over 20 years, this investment is expected to generate cost savings of more than $3 million and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,756 metric tons, the equivalent of taking 585 cars off the road
- $100,000 in additional funding to EcoWorks operating needs
- $61,000 to the University of Maryland Extension for the Watershed Academy
Strengthening Our Economy and Innovation Culture
- Gateway Innovation Center will continue moving on schedule, with first phase of construction completed in FY 2020.
- $235,000 to promote innovation initiatives that will include training and grants for programs that will yield a measurable return
- Continued support for the Downtown Columbia plan
- Continued commitment to Merriweather Post Pavilion, with $556,530 to support renovations
Ensuring High Quality Services and Infrastructure
- $2.2 million for bicycle infrastructure in the 48-mile BikeHoward Express network, the largest single year investment ever dedicated solely for this purpose
- $5 million PAYGO transfer to address a backlog of road resurfacing projects
- $4.5 million to finish multiple strategic relocations for the construction of a new courthouse, the establishment of a new business innovation center in Gateway, and continued support for the Non-Profit Collaborative
- Implementation of the first phase of the Consolidated Transit Plan’s recommendations, including a major reconfiguration of the county’s bus routes with a focus on more frequent service, shorter trip times and expanded Sunday service
- $4.9 million to complete improvements and renovation of the Florence Bain 50+ Center and continue design of an expanded East Columbia 50+ Center
- $1.5 million for planned bid, permitting and site work for the North Laurel Community Pool
- $2 million to invest in existing park infrastructure and improvement projects
- Proceeding with phase three of Blandair Park, which includes the much-awaited “Playground for All,” for children of various abilities and a maintenance building that will serve the entire 300-acre park
- $1.7 million from a Program Open Space Development Grant to complete construction of the restroom, storage building and bleachers for Field #1 in Troy Park
- Investing in flood mitigation efforts, including $15.3 million in County funding for projects in the Tiber-Hudson watershed such as storm drain improvements and storm water retention facilities
The budgets go into effect on July 1, 2019.
Read the full press release for more information.