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Baltimore County Council delays budget vote, citing pandemic uncertainty

The Baltimore County Council on Thursday postponed its vote on the county’s annual budget, citing economic uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic.

During a brief virtual meeting, the seven-member council unanimously agreed to delay a vote on County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.'s $3.9 billion spending plan until May 29.

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Previously, they had been scheduled to discuss details of the budget on Thursday and then vote May 21.

Some members said after the meeting that the council is waiting to see whether federal lawmakers will pass another stimulus package that includes more aid for local governments. The council didn’t want to make budget decisions until they know more, they said.

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“Not that we want to be dependent on the federal money, but we are receiving some information that [aid] could be coming through in the coming weeks,” said Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat.

Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, said that given the possibility of federal aid, "it’s prudent to wait and see how that affects us.”

In a sign of the times, the virtual meeting was delayed by about 30 minutes because Bevins had technical difficulties joining the video call.

Like other local governments, the county faces plummeting revenues related to the coronavirus shutdown.

Earlier this week, Olszewski told the council his administration expects county revenues to fall short of projections by more than $172 million between now and June 2021. The county forecasts declines in a variety of revenue sources, from income and real estate taxes to investment earnings and hotel taxes.

The council said they will plan to discuss the spending plan May 28 with the formal vote the next day.

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