Anne Arundel School Board, Unions, Agree to Increase in Drug Copays

As part of an effort to curb health care cost for the Anne Arundel County Public School System, three of the schools’ unions agreed to increases in copays for some prescriptions drugs to save the school system about $400,000. The three-year agreement starts in 2018.

As reported by The Capital Gazette,

The school system’s health care fund has faced about a $20 million deficit in the past two years. Medical costs rose and the school system has been expanding its staff. Earlier this year, the school system transferred $2 million from a surplus fund to pay for health care. County Executive Steve Schuh also transferred $5 million from the county budget to help pay for health care for school employees and avoid drastic actions, such as furloughs and layoffs.

Schuh and school officials have said they need to shift some costs of the health insurance to employees to make the fund sustainable.

The agreement between the school board, Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, the Association of Educational Leaders, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees increases copays for preferred prescription drugs to $20 and non-preferred brand prescriptions to $35. Those unions represent teachers, administrators and maintenance workers respectively. Generic drugs will continue to cost $5.

School staff that belong to those three unions now have copays of $15 for preferred brands and $25 for non-preferred brand.

Under the plan, a new tier called specialty prescriptions, which are defined as injectables with the exception of insulin, would have a copay of $50 in 2018, $65 in 2019 and $75 in 2020.

The agreement also allows specialty prescriptions to be redefined after Jan. 1, 2019.

School officials’ effort to curb costs include an agreement with CareFirst that saves the school system $16.9 million over a three-year period, starting in 2018.

County officials are also asking the State Board of Education to allow the county government to make a one-time allocation of $22.5 million for school health care costs for the fiscal year beginning July 1. This would exempt the school system from the state law that requires the level of per-pupil funding in one year to be matched in all subsequent years.

The state agency is expected to respond by the end of the month.

Read the full article for more information.

Wicomico County’s Budget Proposal Benefits from Real Property Base

Wicomico County Executive Culver has presented his proposed operating budget to the County Council.

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Wicomico County’s proposed operating budget total is a 6.2% increase over the current year’s budget. 

As described in the Wicomico County Budget proposal, a continued increase in the County’s net assessable real property base and a positive trend in employment support county investments in services, while allowing the county to maintain current tax rates.

Here are a few highlights from the budget as described in the budget summary and as reported by the Salisbury Independent:

Total Operating Budget

  • “The budget formally presented Tuesday to the County Council totals $143.7 million, a 6.2 percent increase over the current year’s budget of $135.2 million,” according to the Independent.

Education Funding

  • The budget satistifies the maintenance of effort requirement for the county, including an increaseof more than $1 million required by the maintenance of effort escalator.

Taxes

  • Tax rates remain unchanged in the proposed budget.

Government Employee Salaries

  • Eligible employees will receive a 2% COLA and Communications Operators will receive a salary increase.

For more information, see Culver unveils $143.7 million spending plan from the Salisbury Independent and the proposed operating budget for Wicomico County.

Howard County’s Proposed Budget ‘Holds the Line’ on Taxes

Howard County Executive Kittleman has presented his proposed operating budget to the County Council.

Here are a few highlights of the budget from the budget summary document.

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Howard County’s $1.58 billion proposed budget maintains tax rates while providing extra funding for education.

Total Operating Budget

  • “$1.58 billion, a 5.6 percent growth from last year’s budget. . . Excluding one-time resources (use of prior fund balance for one-time expenses), the proposed General Fund budget represents an increase of $39.3 million, or 3.7 percent over FY 2017.”

 

Education Funding

  • “This proposed budget includes a $572.2 million direct appropriation for HCPSS, $10 million higher than prior year and $2.3 million above the required Maintenance of Effort (MOE) level.”

Taxes

  • “As with the Capital Budget, this budget was carefully prepared to address our residents’ priorities and our county’s challenges while holding the line on taxes and incorporating a fiscally prudent approach.”

Government Employee Salaries

  • “This budget provides funding for a well-deserved cost of living increase and step increments for general county employees and for negotiated salary increases for employees covered by collective bargaining agreements. The budget also continues our effort to convert contingent employees who work full-time hours to full-time positions with full benefits. To date, we have converted 49 positions and the FY 2018 budget will continue that effort.”

For more information, see the entire proposed operating budget for Howard County.

Rainy Day Funds: What Counts As Rain?

When it comes to tapping into rainy day funds, how much rain makes a day rainy? What justifies tapping into reserves? That’s the question the Pew Charitable Trusts seeks to address in its latest report, When to Use State Rainy Day Funds.

Despite most states experiencing strong revenue growth from fiscal 2003 to 2007, 22 states made withdrawals from their reserves at least once. Then when the Great Recession took a brutal toll on state coffers from 2008 to 2010, eight states did not tap into the rainy day funds at all.

Flawed withdrawal policies may be to blame, Pew opines. Pew examined 47 states’ withdrawal policies, and found that a significant number of states have unclear policies for when to make withdrawals. Six states, including Maryland, have no policies governing when to make withdrawals at all. Most states – 29 – do not have policies which allow for consideration of revenue or economic fluctuations when tapping into their rainy day funds.

At any given time, a number of considerations may factor into policy makers’ decisions over whether to tap into rainy day funds. The report cites Maryland lawmakers’ fear of a credit downgrade:

Lawmakers often cite their state’s creditworthiness as a reason for not withdrawing from their budget stabilization funds. During the Great Recession, Maryland’s stabilization fund stayed at about 5 percent of general fund revenue. As former Maryland Senator Barbara Hoffman noted, the state uses its Revenue Stabilization Account as more of a fail-safe, in part out of a desire to maintain its credit rating. “We don’t spend it, and that’s one of the reasons we have a triple-A bond rating in this state.”

In Maryland, the Governor may transfer funds from the Revenue Stabilization Account to the general fund “as necessary to support the operation of State government on a temporary basis,” so long as the General Assembly blesses the transfer, and it does not cause the account balance to drop below 5.0 percent of the estimated general fund revenues for that fiscal year.

Rather than focusing on withdrawal policies, Maryland has taken steps this past session to address budgeting around economic volatility by saving more conservatively. On March 31, Governor Larry Hogan signed into law House Bill 503, which codifies an approach recommended by The Department of Budget and Management, the Comptroller, and the Department of Legislative Services in their November 2016 report, Report on Revenue Volatility and Approaches to Reduce Risk to the State Budget.

The new law requires that the Revenue Stabilization Account or the newly established Fiscal Responsibility Fund receive a share of nonwithholding general funds above a cap that is based on the 10-year average nonwithholding revenues’ share of total general funds. Revenues from the Fiscal Responsibility Fund may only be appropriated in the second following fiscal year to PAYGO capital projects for public school construction, public school capital improvement projects, capital projects at public community colleges, and capital projects at four-year public institutions of higher education. The bill also specifies it is the State’s goal that 10.0 percent of estimated general fund revenues in each fiscal year be retained in the Revenue Stabilization Account.

Helpful Links

Pew: When to Use State Rainy Day Funds

Link to the Pew report

Report on Revenue Volatility and Approaches to Reduce Risk to the State Budget

Prior Conduit Street coverage on Maryland’s efforts to address economic volatility

House Bill 503: State Budget – Appropriations – Income Tax Revenue Estimate Cap and Revenue Stabilization Account

St. Mary’s County Proposed Budget Aligns With Revenues

The proposal for St. Mary’s County reflects a slight decrease in revenues to apply to the 2018 fiscal year.

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The St. Mary’s County operating budget recommendation totals about $220 million.

The St. Mary’s County operating budget recommendation totals about $220 million, a slight decrease from last year’s final appropriation. Decreased revenues are related to non-recurring grant revenues that were in the FY2017 Budget – approximately $6.5 million.

The budget proposal includes $102,189,940 recurring funds for the Board of Education – 46% of the County’s Budget. Other Funds in the Board of Education’s Budget are:

  • $108,088,153 is in their budget as operating – primarily unrestricted State funds
  • $21,340,757 restricted funds – grants
  • $7,880,420 in their revolving fund

For more information, see the Proposed Budget for St. Mary’s County.

DLS 90 Day Report: Education Funding

The Department of Legislative Services (DLS) has released its annual summary of the legislative session, The 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2017 Legislative SessionThe report is divided into 12 parts, each dealing with a major policy area. It also includes information relating to the final operating and capital budgets, including aid to local governments – and a breakdown of aid to each county. 

County level detail of state aid is available here.

DLS lists “Direct Aid” to counties in two groups: Primary and Secondary Education, and all other aid programs. A full breakdown of all programs is available here: Total State Aid to Local Governments (Exhibit A-3.5)

This blog post directs readers to sections of the 90 Day Report which describe the education programs.

From Part L, Education of the Report:

State aid for primary and secondary education increases by $61.1 million in fiscal 2018 to $6.4 billion, 1.0 % more than fiscal 2017 aid. State aid provided directly to the local boards of education increases by $113.6 million, or 2.1%, while retirement aid decreases by $52.5 million, or 6.7%. Fiscal 2017 to 2018 changes in major State education aid programs are shown in Exhibit L-1.

The foundation program totals $3.0 billion in fiscal 2018, an increase of $43.3 million over fiscal 2017, or 1.5%. This increase is attributable to enrollment growth of 0.8% (6,658 full-time equivalent (FTE) students) and a 0.7% increase in the per pupil foundation amount due to inflation. The increase in the per pupil foundation amount brought it from $6,964 per pupil in fiscal 2017 to $7,012 per pupil in fiscal 2018.

Aside from the foundation program, the largest single increase is $21.7 million for Limited English Proficiency.

The County level detail begins with a list of aid provided through primary and secondary education programs. The Primary and Secondary Education section of Part A provides detailed descriptions, history and funding amounts for public school programs, of which there are many:

  • Foundation Program ($3.0 billion),
  • Net Taxable Income Grants ($49.2 million),
  • Declining Enrollment and Tax Increment Financing Grants ($17.6 million),
  • Geographic Cost of Education Index ($139.1 million),
  • Compensatory Education Program ($1.3 billion),
  • public special education programs ($284.9 million),
  • funding for nonpublic special education placements ($123.6 million),
  • regular student transportation services ($250.6 million),
  • special student transportation services ($25.7 million),
  • limited English proficiency grants ($248.7 million),
  • Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act Guaranteed Tax Base Program ($50.3 million),
  • Public School Opportunities Enhancement Program ($2.5 million),*
  • Robotics Grant Program ($250,000),*
  • Next Generation Scholars of Maryland Program ($4.7 million),*
  • Early College Innovative Fund ($300,000),*
  • Aging Schools Program ($6.1 million),
  • Judy Hoyer and Head Start Programs ($12.4 million),
  • Infants and Toddlers Program ($10.4 million),
  • Teacher Induction, Retention, and Advancement Pilot Program ($2.1 million),
  • Governor’s Teacher Excellence Award Program ($96,000),
  • Food and Nutrition Services ($11.2 million),
  • Adult Education Programs ($8 million),
  • School-based Health Centers ($2.6 million),
  • Healthy Families/Home Visits Program ($4.6 million),
  • Prekindergarten funding ($8.0 million),
  • Prekindergarten supplemental grants ($10.9 million), and
  • Teachers’ retirement payments ($734.5 million).

*Governor’s proposed budget did not fund these programs, but the General Assembly restored them.

Governor Hogan provided a supplemental budget which provided additional education aid to school systems experiencing declining enrollment, and those providing prekindergarten. From page A-22:

On March 27, 2017, Governor Hogan provided a supplemental budget that included $28.2 million in education aid to provide grants to certain [local education agencies, or] LEAs, all of which was contingent on the enactment of House Bill 684. As directed under the bill, this funding is provided in two parts: (1) enrollment based supplemental grants and (2) prekindergarten supplemental grants.

An LEA is eligible for an enrollment based supplemental grant if it has declining enrollment, as determined by the LEA’s most recent prior three-year moving average FTE exceeding its FTE in the previous school year. In fiscal 2018, the eligible LEAs include Baltimore City and Allegany, Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Garrett, Harford, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties. The supplemental budget provides $17.2 million for these grants.

An LEA is eligible for a prekindergarten supplemental grant based on it offering a full-day public prekindergarten program for all four-year olds whose parents enroll them. In fiscal 2018, the eligible LEAs include Baltimore City and Garrett, Kent, and Somerset counties. The supplemental budget includes $10.9 million for these grants.

From page A-79 on Teacher Retirement:

House Bill 152 (Ch. 23), the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA) of 2017, repeals the requirement, for fiscal 2018 only, that the Governor include an appropriation to the State Retirement and Pension System trust fund equal to one-half of the amount by which the unappropriated general fund surplus exceeds $10.0 million in the second preceding fiscal year, up to a maximum of $50.0 million. State retirement aid to local jurisdictions is reduced by a total of $37.7 million in fiscal 2018: $35.6 million for public schools; $1.5 million for community colleges; and $0.6 million for libraries. These differences are shown by county in Exhibit A-3.2.

Also, House Bill 1109 (Ch. 5) relieves county boards of education from their fiscal 2017 obligation to pay $19.7 million of their share of the employer normal cost for their employees who are members of the Teachers’ Retirement System or Teachers’ Pension System. This measure, which is accounted for in the budget, effectively increases State retirement aid by $19.7 million in fiscal 2017.

 

Deeper in the Report, DLS further discusses House Bill 1109Exhibit C-1 shows the amount that each local school system is relieved of paying in fiscal 2017.

 

More information on Education funding is available in Part L, Education.

DLS 90 Day Report: Local Aid

The Department of Legislative Services (DLS) has released its annual summary of the legislative session, The 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2017 Legislative SessionThe report is divided into 12 parts, each dealing with a major policy area. It also includes information relating to the final operating and capital budgets, including aid to local governments – and a breakdown of aid to each county. 

County level detail of state aid is available here.

DLS lists “Direct Aid” to counties in two groups: Primary and Secondary Education, and all other aid programs. A full breakdown of all programs is available here: Total State Aid to Local Governments (Exhibit A-3.5)

This blog post directs readers to sections of the 90 Day Report which describe all other aid programs.

Libraries

This item includes the Library Formula and Library Network programs. The Report discusses funding for Local Libraries, including the Library Aid Program, for which the State funds 40 percent and counties fund 60 percent:

The State/local share of the minimum program varies by county depending on local wealth. The per resident amount is set at $15.00 for fiscal 2018 and is scheduled to increase to $16.70 annually, beginning in fiscal 2022. Fiscal 2018 funding totals $37.7 million, a $1.3 million increase compared to fiscal 2017. In addition, Baltimore City will receive $3.0 million to support expanded operations throughout the library system.

The State also provides funds through the Library Network program to libraries designated as resource centers and regional resource centers.

Community Colleges

This item includes the Community College Formula (Cade), Grants for English as a Second Language (ESOL) Programs, Optional Retirement, Small College Grants, and Other Community College Aid.

The Report discusses community colleges, which receive $235.2 million in fiscal 2018 through the Senator John A. Cade Formula, an increase of $779,600 over fiscal 2017 funding. In addition, the budget includes $4 million for one-time supplemental grants, to be divided among all 16 community colleges based on Cade funding formula-eligible enrollment. Also,

State funding in fiscal 2018 will total $4.1 million for the small college grants and $600,000 for the Allegany/Garrett counties unrestricted grants. Senate Bill 521 (passed) increases unrestricted grants to small colleges by approximately $1.7 million annually, beginning in fiscal 2019. Funding for statewide and regional programs will total $6.4 million. The English as a Second Language Program will receive $5.5 million, nearly level with the prior year.

Health Formula Grant

Local health departments receive $51.1 million, which level-funds the departments at fiscal 2017 levels, and provides an additional $1.6 million for increases in contractual health insurance costs in certain counties.

Transportation

Transportation aid listed in DLS’ county breakdowns includes highway user revenues to both the county and its municipalities, special transportation grants to both the county and its municipalities, elderly /disabled transportation grants, and paratransit grants.

In highway user revenues (HUR), $140.8 million (7.7% of HUR) is distributed to Baltimore City; $27.4 million (1.5%) is distributed to counties; and $7.3 million (0.4%) is distributed to municipalities, for a total of $175.5 million. The budget also provides special transportation grants to counties and municipalities of $38.4 million – $5.5 million for Baltimore City, $12.8 million for counties, and $20.1 million for municipalities. In addition, local governments receive $4.3 million in elderly /disabled transportation grants, and $1.7 million in paratransit grants.

Additional information on local transportation aid is available within the Report here.

Police and Public Safety

Police and public safety aid listed in DLS’ county breakdowns includes aid provided to municipalities, as well as the county.

The State fiscal 2018 budget level funds the police aid formula at the fiscal 2017 level of $73.7 million. In addition, State funding for targeted public safety grants will total $26.6 million in fiscal 2018. The Report details a handful of public safety grant programs available to local governments, including:

  • The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Fund, which funds grants for investigating Internet crimes against children ($2 million);
  • The Community Program Fund, which funds local government community and violence intervention programs ($500,000); and
  • The Vehicle Theft Prevention Fund, which enhances the prosecution and adjudication of vehicle theft crimes ($1.9 million).

This item may also include other grants, State’s Attorney’s Grants, and 9-1-1 Grants. 9-1-1 Emergency Systems Grants reimburse counties for improvements and enhancements to their 9-1-1 systems and are funded at $14.4 million.

Fire and Rescue Aid

Fire and rescue aid listed in DLS’ county breakdowns includes aid provided to municipalities, as well as the county. The Senator William H. Amoss Fire, Rescue, and Ambulance Fund, for local and volunteer fire, rescue, and ambulance services, is funded at $15 million.

Recreation and Natural Resources

According to the Report, the local share of Program Open Space (POS) funding changes in fiscal 2018:

Chapter 10 of 2016 altered the local share of POS funding beginning in fiscal 2018. The legislation allocated an additional $11.0 million to local funding for fiscal 2018. In future years, local funding through fiscal 2029 increases overall due to general fund appropriations to the transfer tax special fund (from which the local share of POS receives funding) representing reimbursement for prior transfers from the fund. In fiscal 2018, the POS formula allocates $37.2 million to the counties, which is an increase of $15.5 million over the fiscal 2017 amount. In addition, Baltimore City will receive $3.5 million in special POS funding.

The Report further details Program Open Space funding here.

Also, $7 million is included for the Department of the Environment to provide grants to local governments to provide enhanced nutrient removal at wastewater treatment facilities.

Disparity Grants

Disparity grants were level-funded by the Governor, then partially restored for some counties by the General Assembly. From the Report:

Disparity grants were initiated to address the differences in the abilities of counties to raise revenues from the local income tax, which is one of the larger revenue sources for counties. Counties with per capita local income tax revenues less than 75.0% of the statewide average receive grants, assuming that all counties impose a 2.54% local tax rate. Chapter 487 of 2009 capped each county’s funding under the program at the fiscal 2010 level. Chapter 425 further modified the program in order to provide a floor funding level in conjunction with the fiscal 2010 cap for an eligible county based on the income tax rate of that county. Beginning in fiscal 2014, an eligible county or Baltimore City may receive no more than the amount distributed in fiscal 2010 or a minimum of (1) 20.0% of the total grant if the local income tax rate is at least 2.8% but less than 3.0%; (2) 40.0% of the total grant if the rate is at least 3.0% but less than 3.2%; or (3) 60.0% of the total grant if the rate is set at 3.2%. The fiscal 2017 budget included $136.7 million in disparity grant funding; however, the Board of Public Works reduced total disparity grant funding to $132.8 million for fiscal 2017.

… Chapter 738 of 2016 altered the calculation of the Disparity Grant program for counties with a local income tax rate of 3.2% by increasing the minimum grant amount (funding floor) to 67.5% of the formula calculation in both fiscal 2018 and 2019. However, House Bill 152, modifies the formula by lowering the minimum grant amount (funding floor) from 67.5% to 63.75% of the formula calculation for fiscal 2018. Due to this action, funding for disparity grants will total $138.8 million in fiscal 2018.

Teachers Retirement Supplemental Grant

Grants totalling $27.7 million are distributed annually to nine counties to help offset the impact of sharing teachers’ retirement costs with the counties.

Gaming Impact Aid

From the proceeds generated by video lottery terminals at video lottery facilities in the State, generally 5.5% is distributed to local governments in which a video lottery facility is operating. … In addition, 5.0% of table game revenues are distributed to local jurisdictions where a video lottery facility is located. Gaming impact grants total $91.4 million in fiscal 2018, an increase of $24.6 million, or 36.9%, over fiscal 2017 levels, due to the opening of a casino in Prince George’s County in December 2016.

 

Other Direct Aid

Other direct aid may include aid from other programs such as those listed below, which are described in the Report:

Through the Maryland Forest Service and Maryland Park Service – Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) Program, counties receive 15 percent of the net revenues derived from their state forest or park land – in fiscal 2018, Forest Service payments to local governments total $282,900 and Park Service payments to local governments total $2.6 million.

The Senior Citizen Activities Center Operating Fund, a grant program through the Department of Aging for senior citizen activities centers, receives $764,000.

The Strategic Demolition Fund provides funding to assist with demolition, land assembly, housing development or redevelopment, and revitalization. Funding is awarded on a competitive basis to local governments and community development organizations. It receives $25.6 million, but $22.1 million is targeted for Baltimore City.

DLS 90 Day Report: Operating Budget

The Department of Legislative Services (DLS) has released its annual summary of the legislative session, The 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2017 Legislative SessionThe report is divided into 12 parts, each dealing with a major policy area. It also includes information relating to the final operating and capital budgets, including aid to local governments – and a breakdown of aid to each county. 

County level detail of state aid is available here.

This blog post provides links from the operating budget section which impact local governments.

DLS reports that State Aid to Local Governments totals $7.5 billion in fiscal 2018. However, $5.7 billion of this aid goes to public schools, $799.4 million to retirement payments, and $273.1 million to community colleges. Of this total, $694.2 million goes to county and municipal governments.

In order to balance the operating budget with revenues coming in under projections, the approved fiscal 2018 budget flat-funded many programs, including those serving counties. From page A-19 of the Report on the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, or BRFA of 2017:

The BRFA of 2017 includes several provisions that implement cost control and mandate relief; primarily in fiscal 2018. Specifically, the legislation …. reduces the fiscal 2018 mandated funding level for local jurisdictions under the Core Public Health Services and the State Aid for Police Protection programs to the fiscal 2017 level. ….

Related to the disparity grant, the BRFA of 2017 reduces the minimum grant amount from 67.5% to 63.75% of the disparity grant calculation provided, in fiscal 2018 only, for counties with a tax rate of at least 3.2%.

Related to MDOT, the BRFA of 2017 prohibits, for years beyond the budget request year, the inclusion of transportation grants to local governments in the Consolidated Transportation Program and the withholding or reserving of funds in the Transportation Trust Fund forecast for grants to local governments for roads and highways.

From page A-20, Provisions Affecting Local Government:

The BRFA of 2017 includes a provision that allocates a portion of the admissions and amusement tax revenue accruing to the Special Fund for the Preservation of Cultural Arts to a grant for the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County beginning in fiscal 2019. Related to Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS), the legislation requires $4.6 million in excess Baltimore City contributions to the Baltimore City Public School Construction Financing Fund to be credited to BCPS to provide a portion of its required contribution in fiscal 2018 instead of the Comptroller intercepting State education aid and expresses the intent that this provision would only apply in fiscal 2018. The legislation requires a quarterly report on the Baltimore City Public School System structural deficit in fiscal 2018, 2019, and 2020. Finally, the legislation authorizes, for fiscal 2018 only, Baltimore City to use its HUR to pay for students to ride MTA buses and prohibits MTA from charging Baltimore City more than a specified amount for this service.

Under the Selected Budgetary Initiatives and Enhancements section, the Report summarizes funding appropriated this session to address Heroin/Opioid Addiction:

The fiscal 2018 allowance, as introduced, contained approximately $13.5 million in funding for programs specifically tied to the heroin and opioid crisis. The majority of this funding is carryover from prior years and is based on the recommendations of the Governor’s Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force. New funding appropriated this session, included (1) a $2.0 million deficiency appropriation, which is also included in fiscal 2018, to fund residential treatment services for court-ordered individuals ($1.5 million) and the Opioid Operational Command Center ($0.5 million); and (2) $1.9 million in new special and federal funding for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. The General Assembly added language to the budget bill restricting an additional $750,000 for a pilot study regarding management of opioid-related pain medication.

Supplemental Budget No. 2 included another $10.0 million in general funds for additional programming to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic, in response to the Governor’s declaration of a State of Emergency on March 1, 2017. Language included in the supplemental item provided specific purposes for which the funding may be used, authorized the Governor’s Inter-Agency Heroin and Opioid Coordinating Council to distribute the funding, and required the council to report to the General Assembly on a quarterly basis on how the funds have been used. The General Assembly added additional language that restricted the funding decisions based on the provisions of either House Bill 1329/Senate Bill 967 (both passed) and required DHMH to distribute the funds, contingent upon the enactment of those bills.

Additional information is included within the Report on heroin and opioid activity during the 2017 session here and here.

 

 

Public Safety and Education Investments Lead Harford County Budget Proposal

County Executive Barry Glassman has released a recommended county budget for fiscal year 2018 which includes no increase in tax rates yet provides record level funding for public safety, education and libraries, according to the County.

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Harford County Executive’s proposed budget surpasses funding levels in public safety and education without raising taxes.

As quoted in the Press Release, Harford County Executive Glassman said,

“Three years ago we began on a new path forward to restore fiscal responsibility and balance to local government. It has not always been easy, but I am proud that we have followed this path to reinvest in people. In fact, since taking office, my administration has eliminated 122 positions within county government and implemented efficiencies in every county department. This has allowed us to direct more than $24 million over the past three years toward restoring salaries for teachers, law enforcement and other employees who serve our citizens and improve lives in Harford County.”

The recommended operating budget directs 83% of new revenue to public safety and education and funds Harford County Public Schools at more than $5 million above the required Maintenance of Effort, according to the press release.

Budget highlights include:

RESTORING BALANCE & EFFICIENCY

  • No tax increases
  • Realistic six-year Capital Improvement Program; maintaining Harford County’s Triple-A bond rating
  • Rightsizing the county workforce, eliminating 122 positions since December 2014, and operating within our means
  • County government efficiencies have allowed us to dedicate 83% of new FY 18 revenue to education and public safety

REINVESTING IN OUR WORKFORCE

  • Merit-based salary increases of 4% per qualifying county employee
  • Increased funding equivalent to 4% for employees in the Harford County Public Library, State’s Attorney’s Office, EMS Foundation, Sheriff’s Office civilian personnel and Circuit Court system
  • $2.2 million to fully fund the first year phase-in of Sheriff’s Office Pay Study for Law Enforcement and Corrections Personnel

INVESTING IN EDUCATION

  • Record level funding continues for Harford County Public Schools:
  • Operating funding for Harford County Public Schools at $238,715,645 or $5,447,307 above the Maintenance of Effort requirement
  • Support for teachers, with $5 million in increased funding dedicated for instructional salaries
  • Fully funded Harford Community College request at $850,000

STRENGTHENING COMMUNITIES

  • Increased county funding for prevention of heroin addiction and related support services
  • $4.6 million for Agricultural Land Preservation
  • Record level funding for Harford County Public Library
  • New EMS division under the Department of Emergency Services consisting of 16 paramedic positions and a medical director at no increased cost to the County
  • New VFC Ladies Auxiliary Service Program
  • Contributions to historically preserve the Hosanna School Museum and McComas Institute

CAPITAL PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS

  • $15 million investment in county road and bridge projects
  • Storm water remediation projects funded at $6.25 million
  • Full funding to replace North Harford High School’s artificial turf field
  • $650,000 towards priority repairs for Volunteer Fire Company facilities and life safety equipment
  • Reinvesting in water & sewer infrastructure: $10.9 million
  • Funding to connect the Ma and Pa Heritage Trail
  • Construction to begin in 2018 for the $99.2 million Havre de Grace Middle/High School replacement project
  • Funding to complete the $7.6 million Bel Air Elementary School HVAC System and Open Classroom Conversion project
  • $1 million in funding for school technology in HCPS
  • North Harford High School Aquaculture Lab and Greenhouse project funded at $830,000
  • Fully funded FY 18 and FY 19 request from HCPS for Swimming Pool Renovations

For more information, the entire budget is published on the county website at http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/1531/Budget-and-Management-Research.

 

Frederick Proposed Budget Prioritizes Community Values, from Students to Seniors

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner released her proposed fiscal 2018 budget, prioritizing community values: education, public safety and senior citizens. From the announcement:

With the input of thousands of county citizens, I have shaped a fiscally responsible budget that reflects our community values and priorities. The budget provides record funding to ensure top-notch education for our children, an investment in police, fire, corrections and 9-1-1 communications to keep our community safe, and services that create an enviable quality of life in which to live and grow our businesses.

The budget provides record funding for education at $272.3 million, including $3.8 million for maintenance of effort (MOE), along with an additional $10 million on top of that. The capital budget funds construction of Butterfly Ridge and Sugarloaf elementary schools, design for Rock Creek School and a feasibility study for Waverley Elementary school. Frederick Community College receives $700,000 for a 2 percent salary improvement for all employees. The Frederick County Public Libraries receive funds for increased staff to support the larger Walkersville Branch Library, scheduled to open in January 2018.

The budget reflects commitment to staffing public safety through the county’s Sheriff’s Office, Division of Fire and Rescue Services, 9-1-1 Communications and Emergency Management. The Sheriff’s Office receives funds for eight new Correctional Officer positions and four new sworn deputy positions, the latter to pick up responsibilities combating the growing opioid crisis. Fire and Rescue Service receives funds to add 12 new positions, and 9-1-1 Communications receives eight new positions.

Reflecting a high priority identified in the county’s citizen budget survey, the budget prioritizes services for senior citizens – a population expected to grow twice as fast in Frederick than the rest of the state. Funds are targeted for advancing the county’s Seniors First program, including support for Meals on Wheels, additional in-home health aides, and help to connect seniors to needed resources and services, such as navigating Medicare and Medicaid complexities.

The budget also provides an additional $345,000 from additional state transportation aid for basic materials to support the county’s infrastructure, which includes 1,300 miles of county roads and over 400 bridges and pipe structures. The capital budget funds preventive maintenance and pavement reconstruction of asphalt and tar and chip roads through the county’s Pavement Management Program, as well replacement of the bridge on Gas House Pike and several federally funded bridge deck replacements.

The General Fund budget grows by 3.9 percent, maintains the county’s AAA bond rating, and includes no tax rate increases. All employees receive a 2 percent cost of living adjustment, and 350 positions receive reclassifications.

Links

Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Message

FY2018 Proposed Budget