Baltimore County Passes $3.5B Budget Package That Holds Tax Rates Steady

The Baltimore County Council approved the county government’s $3.5 billion budget on Thursday, but the vote exposed a rare rift among council members.

The Baltimore Sun reports,

Councilman Wade Kach voted against the budget after criticizing portions of the package and county policies. He cited what he described as the poor state of Dulaney and Towson high schools, declining SAT scores, spending on student laptops and staffing concerns at the county’s jail and 911 center.

“Budgets are all about priorities,” the Cockeysville Republican said. “As well as priorities, we need to look at the tax burden that’s placed on our Baltimore County residents.”

Kach estimated that each year, county residents pay about $185 more due to increased water and sewer rates and increased tax bills caused by rising property values.

Other council members disagreed with Kach’s comments. Councilman Julian Jones, a Woodstock Democrat, praised the county’s steady tax rates and quality services provided to residents. Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat, chimed in: “Amen.”

Afterward, Council Chairman Tom Quirk said it was “disingenuous” for Kach to criticize the final budget when he had not suggested any changes during the council’s budget deliberations.

“Not once did he motion for any cuts,” said Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat.

The council voted 6-1 to approve the main budget bill, with Kach as the lone dissenter. Two companion budget bills were approved 7-0.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and outgoing schools Superintendent Dallas Dance issued statements praising the council for passing the budget with no cuts.

“We continue to operate a government that is innovative, responsible and efficient,” said Kamenetz, a Democrat considering a run for governor next year.

Dance, who is leaving his post at the end of June, highlighted the “exemplary support” of the county council.

The budget will guide the county government’s spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Read the full article for more information.

Howard County Council Approves FY 2018 Budget

As reported by Howard County, Maryland,

County Executive Allan H. Kittleman today thanked the Howard County Council for passing the FY 2018 capital and operating budgets.

“This is the third year in a row that the Howard County Council has passed the budget 5-0 and I am particularly gratified by the collaboration and cooperation demonstrated during each process,” Kittleman said. “I want to thank Council Chair Weinstein for his leadership in ensuring a smooth budget review process over the last several weeks.

Kittleman said that despite modest revenue growth, this balanced budget holds the line on taxes while increasing funding for targeted priority areas and reflects “our shared priorities as a community, investing in new efforts and building on our progress” during the last two years to improve the quality of life for Howard County families.

“As we have in each of my previous two budgets, we have again provided more money to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) than the mandated Maintenance of Effort level,” Kittleman added. “The budget fully funds teacher salary increases, special education needs, and restores 87 paraeducator positions and the new Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion position. Thanks to the efforts of the school board and Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano, we were able to work with HCPSS to advance the replacement of Talbott Springs Elementary and keep the 13th high school project on track.”

Other critical projects and initiatives included in this budget:

  • Launch of the 24/7 Education Initiative for programs tackling achievement disparities. Initiatives will help provide mental health services for children; provide summer food access in targeted areas; address critical performance gaps; and add a human services specialist to support the initiative, grants management and program development.
  • Support for mental health initiatives and substance abuse services, including $150,000 for coordinated efforts in fighting the opioid crisis and funding for site selection and design for a detox and outpatient treatment center.
  • Funding for a new human trafficking prevention manager to coordinate with county agencies involved in this effort.
  • Creation of the Community Resources Campus, bringing together county departments, the state Department of Social Services and many nonprofits at one central, conveniently accessible location.
  • Creation of the Howard County Innovation Center in Columbia Gateway to serve as a catalyst to attract private investments and expand the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship.
  • Funding to replace the aging Circuit Courthouse.
  • $4.5 million in PAYGO to continue progress on the 10-year backlog of road resurfacing projects.
  • Developing an implementation plan to revitalize the U.S. Route 1 corridor and expanding the Route 1 Tax Credit.
  • $1.8 million for flood remediation projects for Main Street Ellicott City and Valley Mede and $200,000 for planning, design and implementation of parking improvements for the Main Street area.
  • $1.7 million for Phase 3 of Blandair Regional Park, providing a playground designed for children of all abilities, a dog park, a picnic shelter and an area for backyard games and planning and design funds for a pool at the North Laurel Community Center
  • Funding for improvements to the U.S. Route 29 Pedestrian Bridge.

The approved budget also continues the Aging-in-Place tax credit and the expansion of the Senior Tax Credit to help residents stay in their homes. So far, more than 1,500 people have taken advantage of these credits.

 

Council Approves “Surprise” Tax Cut In Wicomico

During its Thursday evening work session, the Wicomico County Council approved a series of spending cuts to enable a 1.1 cent reduction in the county property tax rate – the first such reduction in many years.

From coverage in the Salisbury Independent:

The County Charter allows the Wicomico Council to cut a County Executive’s proposed spending plan, and the seven members did just that on Thursday night, removing $684,783 from the fiscal 2018 budget.

Their unanimous actions mean county property owners will receive their first tax cut in recent memory, lowering the property tax rate by slightly more than a penny, down from the current 0.9516 cents per $100 to 0.9398 cents.

In a budget session unlike any since the creation of the County Executive form of government, council members appeared to arrive for Thursday’s session determined to cut some spending, reduce the amount of dollars the county places each year in its contingency fund and give cash to several priority school projects that were left out of the Board of Education budget.

The Council is scheduled to meet on May 30 and formally adopt its revised budget plan.

Quick County Update on Federal Issues

On this morning’s call of counties from the northeastern United States, National Association of Counties Legislative Director Deborah Cox and Health Policy Director Brian Bowden provided the following updates:

The President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget

The President’s full budget request for Fiscal Year 2018 (October 1, 2017-September 30, 2018) came out yesterday. It is a couple of thousand pages, and NACo is reviewing it for a full analysis to be released later this week. Similar to what was seen in the initial proposal, however, there are many programs cut that would negatively affect county governments. These range from rural development grant cuts to the elimination of Community Development Block Grants for urban areas, and others [for more see Trump’s Proposed Budget Eliminates 66 Programs, Including “CDBG” and NACo’s Statement on the President’s Proposed FY 2018 Budget].

NACo’s Deborah Cox stressed that this is just a budget proposal. The next step is that the House and Senate determine the total amount of funding in the budget before moving on to its composition. For more information, see this Guide to the Federal Budget Process.

Healthcare Reform Efforts: All Eyes on the Senate

National Association of Counties Health Policy Director Brian Bowden updates that the House passed the American Healthcare Act. Under the Act, states may waive out of several of the ACA requirements. Also, a late-coming amendment to the bill created a high-risk pool modification to accommodate pre-existing condition concerns. In his update, Bowden noted the emotional appeal by Jimmy Kimmel on pre-existing conditions prior to the legislation’s passage.

At this point, all eyes turn to the Senate, where the bill faces stricter procedural rules and different policy dynamics—and therefore is expected to be changed significantly. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release a score on the House-passed measure today, allowing the Senate to officially move forward.

The Latest on Tax Reform

The house is completely focused on tax reform now that they have passed their healthcare legislation. Tax reform has been a top priority of Speaker Ryan.

NACo provided context for tax reform and the dramatic effect it could have on county fiscal health: while many of the issues that NACo tracks are in the billions as far as potential effects on county governments, the effects of tax reform could be in the trillions of dollars. The municipal bond tax deduction and state and local tax deductions are longstanding provisions of the tax code that have been a part of the partnership between the federal government and local governments for years. But, they are again part of the tax reform discussions going on in the House now.

Over the next few days, NACo will release more detailed analysis of the President’s proposed budget and its effect on counties. Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more.

Trump’s Proposed Budget Eliminates 66 Programs, Including “CDBG”

cdbgAs reported by The Hill, the Trump budget proposal would end many federal programs, including the Housing and Urban Development Department’s Community Development Blog Grants, also known as “CDBG.”

The CDBG cut is one of the program cuts making up $4.123 billion in reductions to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to The Hill. The whole fiscal 2018 budget proposal would eliminate 66 programs for a savings of $26.7 billion, according to The Hill.

As described by MACo’s Associate Director, Natasha Mehu,

Counties in Maryland are eligible for CDBG grants either through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, which administers the grants to non-entitlement counties, or directly through HUD for entitlement counties (Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s). All would be impacted by cuts.

For a list of all of the grants affected, see Here are the 66 programs eliminated in Trump’s budget from The Hill.

Get the Latest on Federal Tax Reform and What It Means for Counties

 

naco logoThe National Association of Counties’ Northeast Regional Conference Call this month will include an update on the federal budget, healthcare, and tax reform debates and how they could affect county governments. 

All representatives of Maryland counties are welcome to join the call.

NACo Northeast Regional Conference Call

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

8:00AM EST

Dial-In:1-719-359-9722

Dial-In(toll free): 1-888-757-2790

Guest Passcode: 299194

 

AGENDA

Welcome and Introductions

  • Hon. Christian Leinbach – Chairman, Berks County Commissioners (PA) / NACo NE US Representative
  • Roll Call by State – Each state will be called and Elected County Officials will be given the opportunity to state their name and county.
    • DC
    • DE
    • ME
    • MA
    • MD
    • NH
    • NJ
    • NY
    • PA
    • WV

 General Legislative/NACo Update

  • Deborah Cox – NACo Legislative Director
    • FY 2017 omnibus and what it means for counties
    • Health care reform efforts: all eyes on the Senate
    • The latest on Tax Reform

Upcoming NACo Webinars:

NACo Conferences:

Contact Robin Clark Eilenberg at MACo for more information about the monthly NACo calls.

Caroline Budget Includes Funding for 82 New Students

caroline
Caroline County Commissioners begin the budget process with a $46.6M proposal.

Caroline County, Maryland began its budget process with a hearing on the budget proposal for fiscal year 2018. As described by MyEasternShoreMd.com, most of the testimony at the hearing was to show gratitude for past funding and to ask for continued support.

The same was true in the area of education funding, which makes up a large portion of every county’s budget. From MyEasternShoreMd.com,

Erin Thornton, comptroller for Caroline County Public Schools, said the Caroline County Board of Education appreciated the commissioners’ continued support for maintenance of effort funding, a state law that requires local jurisdictions fund the same amount per student as the year before.

In FY18, Caroline County’s contribution to the local school system will increase by $221,000, due to an 82-student increase in enrollment this year, to $12.9 million.

Here are a few details from the proposal:

Total Operating Budget

  • Proposed General Fund budget for FY 2018 is $46.6M, a 2.5% increase from the FY17 adopted budget.

Education Funding

  • The proposed budget meets the maintenance of effort requirement of $12,858,628.

Taxes

  • No increase or decrease in taxes, however the differential increased for the town of Denton from 6 to 7 cents.

Government Employee Salaries

  • Caroline county employees will receive a 3% salary increase under the proposal.

For more information, see Caroline County’s Proposed Operating Budget and County holds first public budget hearing, tax differential meeting.

Garrett’s Budget Shows Modest Growth

garrett
Garrett County’s budget proposal includes modest growth to an operating budget of $74.9 million.  

Garrett County’s fiscal year 2018 budget includes a slight increase in the county’s operating budget, and $2.7 million increase in capital funding from the fiscal year 2017 budget.

As described by the County government’s mission statement,
The mission of Garrett County Government is to provide our citizens the highest quality service in a timely, efficient, and courteous manner. . . To totally achieve this goal, this government must be operated in an open and accessible atmosphere, be based on comprehensive and strategic long-term and short-term planning, and have an appropriate managerial organization of fiscal responsibility.

Total General Fund Operating Budget

  • $74,875,707, an increase of $449,987 or 0.6%, from the FY17 general fund operating budget

Education Funding

  • At maintenance of effort

Taxes

  • No changes to taxes

Government Employee Salaries

  • 1% increase to scale

For more information, see Garrett County’s Budget Office.

Washington County’s Budget Proposal Benefits from Improving Tax Base

 

Screenshot 2017-05-18 16.24.30As described by Washington County’s Commissioners,

The 2018 Washington County budget totals $315,651,550 which is $15,093,010 or 5.02% above the 2017 approved budget. The budget was balanced based on the following changes and objectives:

  1. Increase in property tax assessable base
  2. Increases in local income tax revenue
  3. Educational funding
  4. Public safety funding
  5. Infrastructure and personnel

There were several issues which the County faced regarding the 2018 budgets. Main issues involved public safety, education, economic development initiatives, and infrastructure funding. In addition, the County is required to fund increases as a result of Federal and State mandates enacted over local governments. Reductions in Highway User revenue shares have also impacted the County’s road maintenance program. Emergency services have been and will continue to be a major issue facing the County in regards to service levels and funding. Even with these difficult and complex issues, the County still presents a budget that provides existing and new service levels with no increase in the property tax or income tax rates which have been held at the same rate for eighteen years.

Here is a snapshot of the proposed budget:

Total Operating General Fund Budget

  • $221.8 million, 4.75% more than the 2017 budget

Education Funding

  • Funded at the required maintenance of effort amount

Taxes

  • No change in tax rates

Government Employee Salaries

  •  5% employee COLA (cost of living adjustment), which is offset by retirement savings turnover

For more information, see the Citizen’s Guide to the Budget.

Talbot Proposal Overrides Property Tax Cap to Fund Education

 

As described by Talbot County, in the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget,

In order to fund expenses for the public school system, the Talbot County Council has proposed to override the voter imposed Property Tax Revenue Cap. This is authorized by State law in order to fund Education expenses only. This budget proposes to override the tax cap by $1,171,900, the increased amount over last year’s funding, which correlates to an increase of 1.59¢ in the Real Property Tax rate.

The county would still maintain two of the lowest tax rates (property and income) in the state, according to the budget presentation.

Screenshot 2017-05-18 16.03.01
Talbot County highlights it proposed property tax increase.

Here is a snapshot of the proposed budget:

Total General Fund Budget

  • $83.5 million, 5.18% increase from FY2017

Education Funding

  • Funds $1.1 million for education in non-recurring expenses in addition to the required maintenance of effort amount

Taxes

  • Proposes to override property tax revenue cap with an increase of 1.59 cents in the real property tax rate to fund education

Government Employee Salaries

  • Provides step increase for full time county employees

For more information, see:

FY 2018 Proposed Budget Summary

FY 2018 Budget Introduction PowerPoint

FY 20018 Proposed Budget Workbook