Howard County Executive Calvin Ball unveiled his $2.6 billion fiscal 2024 operating budget, which reflects a 6.6 percent increase over the current fiscal year. The spending plan contains historic funding for public education and significant investments in public safety, health care services, housing, and economic development.
“Our bold vision for community investment includes historic funding for education, ensuring that our school system continues to deliver an excellent education for all while advancing the transformational goals established in the state Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,” said County Executive Ball. “Moreover, this budget provides sustained funding to keep every community member safe, supported, and strong through investments in public safety, housing, environmental protection, transportation, and more.”
For the second year in a row, funding for the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) exceeds $1 billion, a landmark 7 percent increase over fiscal 2023. This increase of $47 million in recurring County funding is the highest County increase to HCPSS in Howard County history.
County funding for HCPSS will be $71.6 million above the minimum standard of Maintenance of Effort set by the State. When combined with State funding sources, total funding for HCPSS reaches $1.1 billion. The County’s education investment is significantly increasing despite declines in enrollment that have persisted since the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, the budget includes an increase of $8.6 million to the Howard County Police Department for salary adjustments and increased safety investments, and $175,000 will go toward digital evidence storage to preserve the integrity of critical evidence that meets federal and State media storage laws. Additionally, a funding increase of $2.4 million is proposed to create 26 new firefighter trainee positions, which will help reduce overtime costs, alleviate personnel fatigue, and generate savings.
The proposed budget includes $150,000 to expand bus service in the Elkridge area. Additionally, $4.4 million in one-time PAYGO funding is provided in the Capital Budget to support bus stop improvements, sidewalks, road and bridge projects, and more.
The spending plan transfers $12.8 million in one-time PAYGO funds to the Capital Budget to address critical road resurfacing needs and preventative maintenance. This is the second largest investment in the past decade to support the ongoing road resurfacing needs for 1,080 miles of county-maintained roads.
The spending plan includes a historic $10 million to fund the County’s innovative Housing Opportunities Trust Fund to support housing needs across the County. Investments in the Trust Fund will help ensure that residents of all backgrounds can live, work, play, and grow in Howard County.
The budget contains $1 million to support the creation of a new Behavioral Health Unit at Howard County General Hospital. Additionally, $1 million is included for Sheppard Pratt to support behavioral health initiatives at the Elkridge campus, and $500,000 is proposed for Tuerk House to expand transitional housing for women and children in Howard County.
Building on efforts to promote modernization, digital equity, and innovation, the fiscal 2024 proposed budget includes $500,000 in funding for Innovation Grants to keep Howard County on the cutting edge. In addition, the proposed budget includes $600,000 to create five new technology positions to help improve the County’s resilience to ransomware and other cybersecurity threats.
To support and retain the County’s hard-working employees and help recruit new staff, the budget funds existing and anticipated collective bargaining agreements, a 5 percent increase or more in general for cost-of-living increases, and step increases for qualifying employees.
The County’s fiscal year starts on July 1 and ends June 30. The Howard County Council will conduct a series of public hearings and work sessions to review the proposed budget. The Council will approve the budget by June 1, 2023.