For the third consecutive year, the Howard County Council passed, by a vote of 5-0, the fiscal 2018 capital and operating budgets that had been submitted by Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.
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 said. “The budget fully funds teacher salary increases, special education needs and restores 87 para-educator 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 in this budget include the following.
• 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 the effort
• Creation of the Community Resources Campus, bringing together county departments, the state Department of Social Services and many nonprofits at one central, convenient location
• Creation of the Howard County Innovation Center in Columbia Gateway Business Park 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.
For additional information on projects and initiatives for fiscal 2018, see the county executive’s transmittal letters for the operating and capital budgets at www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/County-Administration/Budget/Budget-Documents.