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Arundel council OKs budget with tax cut, more teachers and police

The Anne Arundel County Council approved a spending plan Friday that includes a small property tax break and funding for teacher raises, more police officers and firefighters and additional grants to nonprofit groups.

The $1.35 billion operating budget and $242.5 million capital budget go into effect July 1 and will include a property tax cut of 0.7 cents per $100 of assessed value, which amounts to savings of $18.59 per year on a typical county home worth $265,500.

The county's income tax and water, sewer and trash rates remain the same.

Members of the County Council made some changes to the budget proposed by County Executive Laura Neuman on May 1, including shuffling schools' money to free up funds to open the Monarch Global Academy contract school in Laurel this fall. The school system initially was about $6 million short on funds for Monarch, but the council moved money from a health insurance reserve fund to fund the school.

The budget also has enough money to fund a new teacher contract under consideration that would effectively give classroom teachers a 3 percent raise. Other school employees would get a 2 percent increase.

There's also money for more bilingual facilitators, teachers of English as a second language, and magnet program teachers. The only unfunded school system request is two teachers for a science, technology, engineering and math program at Lindale Middle School in Linthicum, said Alex Szachnowicz, the school system's chief operating officer.

The Board of Education will review the county budget June 18 and can make limited adjustments.

The county budget also includes money for 30 more police officers, eight more firefighters and two new sheriff's deputies.

The final budget also boosts the amount of grants to nonprofit organizations from about $1 million in the original budget proposal to $1.3 million.

Earlier in the week, some council members called into question how the county executive's office evaluated grant requests. They wanted more information on the decision-making process — which Neuman's office was initially reluctant to provide — and questioned why some groups were denied, including a wellness center for cancer patients and a facility that offers mental health services.

Those groups were funded as part of the expanded grant funding Neuman added to the budget.

All votes on the budget bills were unanimous. Council Chairman John Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, praised the council and the administration for working together.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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