Citizens have no comment at Baltimore County hearing on $3.5 billion budget

Baltimore County has more than 826,000 residents, but not one of them showed up Tuesday to tell the county how it should spend its $3.5 billion budget.

The County Council held a public hearing in Towson to gather input on the budget, which will guide the county government's spending for the coming fiscal year starting July 1.

While a few people were in the audience -- including two reporters, one school board member and a handful of others -- no one stepped up to speak.

"Currently we have no speakers signed up," announced Councilman Julian Jones, a Woodstock Democrat who chaired the meeting. "So, that said, do we have any speakers that would like to come forward and tell us what to do with all this money?

"We've got $3 billion," he said. "Any speaker want to come forward, even to make a recommendation for us to write them a check tonight?"

After calling "going once, going twice" like an auctioneer, Jones gaveled the meeting to adjournment after three-and-a-half minutes.

The session was the only hearing for public comment on the proposed budget. Over the month of May, council members will hear about the budget from county department heads. Those meetings are open to the public, but there is no public testimony.

The council is scheduled to adopt the budget on May 25. The budget proposed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz includes a nearly $2 billion general fund budget funded mainly by county property and income taxes.

When state and federal aid and water and sewer payments are included, the total budget is about $3.5 billion.

The budget proposes to keep the property tax rate at $1.10 per $100 of assessed value, meaning the property taxes on a home worth $300,000 would be $3,300.

The local income tax rate remains at 2.83 percent. Neither the property nor income tax rate has changed in more than two decades.

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