Wednesday, 17 April 2013 12:26

The proposed county budget includes funding for Todd’s Inheritance and Battle Acre Park.

No new taxes, schools get more funding

by Nicole Rodman

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz called for more funding for schools and recreation while keeping taxes level in his latest budget.
    The $2.8 billion operating and $229 million capital budget for fiscal year 2014 were presented to the Baltimore County Council on April 15.
    The proposed budget does not increase property taxes, keeping the rate the same for the 25th year in a row.
    Likewise, there is no income tax increase for the 21st straight year.
    In his remarks on Monday, Kamenetz noted, “Our ongoing analysis of agency functions and continued implementation of best practice policies allow us to streamline and consolidate operations.”         He added, “Utilizing technology, we maintained core government services while reducing — without furloughs or firings — our government workforce to its smallest number in the past 25 years.”
    For county workers, there is no cost-of-living increase, though longevity increases are funded.
    The $2.8 billion budget is a 2.81 percent increase over the previous year.
    Kamenetz’s budget does call for $200 million for improvements to schools. Funds would go toward adding more seats and improving wireless technology in schools.
    Of this push to integrate technology in schools, Kamenetz lauded Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) Superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance, saying, “He understands this new reality, where we have to stop thinking of mere textbooks, chalkboards and traditional classroom models.”
    In his presentation to the council, Kamenetz mentioned a recent visit to Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts, noting that, “This 50-year-old school building (one of the oldest in the County) houses our school system’s most modern technology — and mindset.”
    Included in the $1.31 billion to BCPS is $1.3 million for new technology at the recently-approved STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) academy at Norwood Elementary and Holabird Middle schools.
    Also included is $1.3 million toward a full-time AdvancePath credit recovery program at Dundalk High School and other schools around the county.
    The AdvancePath program [see story in last year’s Nov. 29 Eagle] assists students in making up missed schoolwork, allowing them to graduate on time.
    In response to the Kamenetz’s budget proposal, Dr. Dance release a statment on Monday noting, “We greatly appreciate the ongoing support of the county executive for our public schools. The funds proposed by the county executive for our schools reflect a shared understanding of our moral obligations to the next generation and the economic and social benefits of investing in our youth.”
    The budget also provides $2.5 million for upgrades to school security, including security camera upgrades, a new card-swipe identification system for staff and students and funding for additional police officers at county middle and high schools.
    Funds will also be provided to increase the number of schools with air conditioning.   
    While, in 2010, more than half of county schools lacked air conditioning, with funding alloted in this year’s budget, that number will go down to 27 percent.
    In public safety spending, the Baltimore County Police Department will receive $192 million in fiscal year 2014, an increase of $4 million.
    The county fire department will receive $91 million, including funds to increase wireless capabilities of first responders.
    Recreation will also receive more funding in the 2014 budget, with $20 million alloted for new fields and parks in Baltimore County.
    Among improvements in Dundalk will be $4.1 million to finish work on the Sollers Point Community Center in Turner Station.
    As part of these renovations, the old Sollers Point High School building (home to Sollers Point Technical High School until the end of this school year) will be demolished.
    In addition, the state budget will provide $250,000 for improvements to Battle Acre Park and $175,000 for renovations at the Todd’s Inheritance historical site.
    In remarks last Monday, Kamenetz also discussed funding to “social safety net” programs.   
    “So while we continue to manage wisely, we remain committed to providing a social safety net for those citizens who need government to lend a helping hand, especially in this continued time of need,” he noted.
    The 2014 budget will partially fund the construction of an Eastern Resource Center at Franklin Square Hospital.
    This center, funded by contributions by the county, state and Franklin Square, will provide health care and shelter for the homeless and others in need.
    This project will depend on the outcome of a bond referedum on the ballot in the 2014 election.
    The Baltimore County Council will hold hearings on the county executive’s proposed budget beginning on Tuesday, April 30, at 6 p.m. in the County Council chambers on the second floor of the historic Courthouse, 400 Washington Avenue in Towson.
    Hearings will continue through Thursday, May 16.
    A council vote on the budget is scheduled for Thursday, May 23, at 10 a.m.
    The complete schedule of hearings is located on the council website at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/countycouncil/schedule.html.