All three budgets during County Executive’s Steuart Pittman’s term have been approved along party lines. On April 29, he shared his $2.1 billion Fiscal Year 2023 (FY2023) proposal with the seven-member Anne Arundel County Council in hopes of garnering unanimous support.
The budget includes modest tax cuts along with investments in education, public safety, and recreation and parks.
In his latest budget plan, Pittman suggests lowering the income tax rate on the first $50,000 of taxable income for every taxpayer, from 2.81 percent to 2.70 percent. This will save each taxpayer up to $50 and keeps Anne Arundel County’s income tax rate the lowest in the Baltimore region, Pittman said.
He also called for a property tax rate that is 3 cents lower that the maximum level allowed, at 93.3 cents per $100 of assessed value instead of 96.2 cents. He estimated that this decision will save the average homeowner $100.
As county executive candidate Herb McMillan noted in a statement, the move comes after Pittman’s first budget, for FY2020, in which the income tax was raised from 2.5 percent to 2.81 percent and the property tax rate was increased from 90.2 cents to 93.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.
“Raising county income taxes by 12 percent and then giving back less than 1 percent of the increase is not tax relief; it’s an election year gimmick,” McMillan wrote.
Pittman claimed that the tax hikes were needed at the time but that the county is now in better shape.
“Three years ago, I said that this county had failed to deliver the infrastructure and services that its growth required,” he said. “We stepped up that year and invested in teachers, first responders, and a new, permanent public improvements program.”
Pittman’s budget fully funds the Anne Arundel County Board of Education’s capital budget request, which includes moving Old Mill Middle School North into the six-year schedule.
To show appreciation for all the employees who serve the public school system, the budget proposal restores back step increases and funds the Board of Education’s request for pay increases for all teachers, staff and school bus drivers.
The budget also sets a new county record of $50 million over the state maintenance of effort requirement, which is also $50 million over last year’s budget.
Some of those funds will be used to add 119 special education positions, 29 social and emotional learning positions, 48 pre-k positions to convert half-day programs to full-day pre-k classrooms, 20 English language development positions, three bilingual facilitators, and 140 classroom teacher positions.
“I am particularly thankful for the full funding of our compensation packages for our awesome employees and contracted bus drivers, the allocation of 424 additional positions, and the careful attention paid to providing more resources to address the social and emotional needs of our students,” Dr. George Arlotto, superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools, said in a statement. “I am also thankful that every item in our capital budget request is funded, ensuring we will continue to be able to enhance and upgrade the educational environments for our students.”
Despite that support, Pittman admitted that the budget won’t solve every issue.
“I’m also concerned about school transportation,” he said. “We still need more bus drivers, and I’m not confident that the Board of Education compensation request will attract them. If we expect parents to return to the workforce, we must provide reliable transportation.”
The plan calls for the design and construction of a new 911 call center, combining police and fire call-takers into one unified operation under the Office of Emergency Management. It also asks for a replacement for the dilapidated firing range, a new forensics facility, and a new special operations facility.
To attract and retain the best officers in the region, the budget proposal provides cars to all officers, with a $3.7 million investment in 55 new vehicles.
The budget proposal includes $2 million to replace the county’s oldest fire boat and $4 million for nine new vehicles, including a tower ladder truck.
Pittman said his budget also reduces borrowing for capital projects from $170 million to $160 million while growing the rainy day fund to the maximum allowable by law.
His proposal provides water access site improvements totaling a combined $7.8 million in investments.
Also, under Pittman’s plan, $1.3 million would be set aside for the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation’s Inclusive Ventures Program to support emerging minority and small business operators.
The budget proposal invests $10 million in the county’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
One item that may cause some debate is the allocation of $3.5 million to restore a building for the Crownsville Health and Wellness Center. Different groups have opposing views of how the property should be used. Pittman wants the site to house emerging nonprofits, offer services to residents of the treatment centers operating nearby, and be a temporary home for the county team that will manage the restoration of the site.
The county charter requires the county council to pass a balanced budget by June 15. The county’s budget officer, Chris Trumbauer, feels good about the budget they will consider.
“This is the strongest, most responsible budget I have seen since I first became involved in Anne Arundel County government in 2010,” said Trumbauer, a former county councilman. “The deliberate and careful planning in our last three budgets earned us a coveted AAA bond rating, and this proposed budget will help us secure that rating while investing in key county services and programs. It truly is the best budget — for all.”
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here