Howard County Council working to finalize fiscal year 2023 budget – Baltimore Sun

Howard County Council is due to vote this week on the final version of a $2 billion draft county operating budget for fiscal year 2023.

Proposed budget includes more than $1 billion for Howard County’s public school system and an $11 million increase for public safety, the largest increase in more than a decade, county executive says by Howard, Calvin Ball.

“This budget proposal provides historic support for our shared priorities while continuing a fiscally responsible management approach,” said Ball, who cited strong revenue performance during the pandemic, particularly in the real estate market, for support essential services in the 2023 budget.

The general fund, which supports most government services, totals $1.38 billion, not including the use of $91.6 million of the previous surplus fund balance to support priority one-time initiatives, said Ball. The general fund budget would increase by 7% from this year’s general budget.

In total, Howard County has pledged $45 million in new revenue to the public school system for 2023, above the amount projected for fiscal year 2022. The increase includes $5 million for more than 150 new positions in special education, nearly 80 pre-kindergarten positions, 26 college and career readiness positions, 19 student behavioral health and well-being positions, and 14 opening support positions of a new secondary school in Jessup. One-time funding of $17.9 million will support start-up operating costs for new technology initiatives in high schools and across the system.

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The public safety increase includes $3.7 million for 24 new county police patrol officers, “a critical investment to maintain appropriate staffing levels and improve response times,” Ball said. To ensure police accountability, $2.8 million was allocated to expand the use of body-worn cameras to all Howard County police officers and the sheriff’s office. Nearly $200,000 has been allocated to establish an independent civilian police accountability council.

The 2023 capital improvement program totals $377.7 million and provides $105.9 million for school construction projects, including the new high school and a renovation/addition to Hammond High School ; $14.8 million for the Howard Community College Mathematics and Athletic Complex; $1.7 million to begin designing a new branch library in Colombia; $12.5 million for road paving; and $8.2 million to support walking and cycling infrastructure in the county.

The budget provides $5 million for business assistance and matching grants to help businesses, residents and organizations recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Housing Opportunities Trust Fund, which supports housing needs across the county, received $5 million.

Park improvement and renovation projects received $19 million, including funding for the potential acquisition of the Camp Ilchester property, expansion of recreation, trails and parking at Blandair Park and improvements to the Schooley Mill Park Equestrian Ring.

The proposed budget uses $45 million in Pay As You Go (PAYGO) funds, which are limited to one-time spending in accordance with the county charter, as a cost-effective alternative to debt financing to meet critical needs such as systemic renovation schools, road resurfacing, and the Ellicott City Safe and Sound projects.

Six budget work sessions and two public hearings were held this year to create the final budget plan. The county council was to vote on the final budget on Wednesday.

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