Howard County Executive Ken Ulman unveiled a $966.7 million operating budget proposal Friday that includes record funding for the public school system and increased funding for the police department.
Ulman’s budget includes no increase on income and property tax rates, but does include funding for the first general cost-of-living increase for county employees since 2008.
“Education and public safety have always been the cornerstone of our budget and this year is no different,” Ulman said.
Ulman's budget proposal allocates $497.5 million for K-12 public education, a $15.1 million increase over last year. The largest amount ever budgeted for the school system, it will allow for more than 100 additional instructional positions.
The funding for the Howard County Public School System is nearly $10 million less than the Board of Education requested, but Ulman said he believes Howard County will be the only jurisdiction this year to fund the school system above the required maintenance of effort.
Ulman has proposed $96.6 million for the Howard County Police Department, an $8.7 million increase, or nearly 10 percent, from last year. The budget contains funding for 12 additional sworn officers for specialized units and three new civilian employees.
These new officers will be assigned to divisions that work with repeat offenders, family crimes, traffic enforcement and community services, education and training.
The budget also includes a $2.5 million package of one-time funding for economic development programs with private-sector partners intended to "spur innovation and continue the momentum of the county's healthy growth," according to a press release from the county.
Although the county has the lowest unemployment rate in the state, Ulman said the county needs to continue to invest in the business community in creative ways.
Ulman has proposed $725,000 be put toward the county’s efforts to implement its Plan to End Homelessness.
“We should not have people living in the woods, living in encampments,” he said.
County government employees will be seeing their first raise since 2008 if the budget is adopted as proposed.
After furloughs in 2009 through 2011, Ulman has proposed employees receive a two percent cost of living adjustment beginning Jan. 1.
“Our quality of life in this county has a lot to do with the quality of service that our public employees provide,” Ulman said.
With the potential effects of sequestration hanging over the county, Ulman said the county erred on the side of caution in their income tax revenue projections.
“There’s just an uncertainty which has simply caused us to continue to budget very conservatively in our revenue estimates,” he said.