Ulman holds second hearing before finalizing Howard County budget

At his second budget hearing for fiscal year 2015 Monday night, County Executive Ken Ulman heard additional funding requests for projects ranging from a parking expansion for Howard Community College, new biking infrastructure throughout the county and childcare payment assistance for families in need. 

About 30 people came to testify, including heads of the county's library and community college systems, as well as individual citizens.

  • Howard County Public Library System CEO Valerie Gross called funding for the county's libraries "a smart investment for a great return," and emphasized the need to support the library's staffing and programs.

  • Howard Community College Board of Trustees Chair Kevin Doyle asked Ulman to "focus on the college's need for the county to help alleviate the college's continued and significant parking problem," while HCC President Kathleen Hetherington asked for funds to support an increase in the college's full-time staff and better pay for adjunct faculty.

  • Bicycling advocates Bill Kelly and Chris Tsien lauded the county's newly finished draft of the Bike Master Plan and asked Ulman to back bike infrastructure plans with financial support. "It’s like a captain and a ship – if this thing doesn’t have a leader, somebody to take it, it’s going to go up on the shelf," Kelly said.

  • Board of Social Services member Tracey Williams said the Department of Social Services, which is funded partially by the state and partially by the county, needed additional financial staff to process payments for the 41,600 cases the department handles. She also said the department could use money to assist families who can't afford to pay for childcare. "No family should have to choose between rent and daycare," Williams said.

  • Members of the county's historical society and the Patapsco Heritage Greenway asked for help publishing a book by historian Henry Sharp that locates the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the Patapsco Valley rather than in New England. 

Last month, the county's Planning Board voted to recommend Ulman's preliminary proposal of a $275,289,000 capital budget, which allocates money for county construction projects in FY15. 

The 858-page preliminary budget included 15 new capital projects, including renovations for Patuxent Valley Middle School and Swansfield Elementary School, funds to construct a new high school in the northeast county, an expansion of the county's detention center, construction of a third fully staffed, 24-hour police station and various water, sewer and road stabilization projects throughout the county.

Ulman now has until April 1 to submit his final capital budget and until April 21 to submit an operating budget, which pays for the county's day-to-day expenses, including salaries, rent and employee benefits. The county executive will present both FY15 budgets on Monday, April 21 at 7 p.m. 

The budget will then move to the County Council, which can vote to approve the budget as it is or to lower it. The Council cannot increase the budget.

The 2015 fiscal year runs from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. By charter, Howard County is required to have a balanced budget.

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