The Baltimore County Council approved the county government's $3.5 billion budget on Thursday, but the vote exposed a rare rift among council members.
Councilman Wade Kach voted against the budget after criticizing portions of the package and county policies. He cited what he described as the poor state of Dulaney and Towson high schools, declining SAT scores, spending on student laptops and staffing concerns at the county's jail and 911 center.
"Budgets are all about priorities," the Cockeysville Republican said. "As well as priorities, we need to look at the tax burden that's placed on our Baltimore County residents."
Kach estimated that each year, county residents pay about $185 more due to increased water and sewer rates and increased tax bills caused by rising property values.
Other council members disagreed with Kach's comments. Councilman Julian Jones, a Woodstock Democrat, praised the county's steady tax rates and quality services provided to residents. Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat, chimed in: "Amen."
Afterward, Council Chairman Tom Quirk said it was "disingenuous" for Kach to criticize the final budget when he had not suggested any changes during the council's budget deliberations.
"Not once did he motion for any cuts," said Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat.
Kach pointed out that even if council members had made any budget cuts, they don't have the authority to redirect that money to any specific areas. He suggested that county residents — and perhaps council members — could have more influence on the budget if the county executive were required to hold public meetings before introducing the budget.
"I felt as if there were too many areas where the priorities were skewed," Kach said.
The council voted 6-1 to approve the main budget bill, with Kach as the lone dissenter. Two companion budget bills were approved 7-0.
"We continue to operate a government that is innovative, responsible and efficient," said Kamenetz, a Democrat considering a run for governor next year.
Dance, who is leaving his post at the end of June, highlighted the "exemplary support" of the county council.
The budget will guide the county government's spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1.