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Harford budget hearings to conclude Friday; public hearings scheduled for next week

Friday will wrap up the Harford County Council’s budget hearings for county departments and allied agencies, with the sheriff’s office, library system and others answering questions on their budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year.

Public hearings on the budget are scheduled for Monday, May 3, and Thursday, May 6, both at 7 p.m. People can either call-in or speak in-person at the public hearing, but must pre-register on the county’s website.

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County Executive Barry Glassman’s working budget for fiscal year 2022 topped $1 billion, including $658.6 million in the general fund and $201.6 million in the capital budget, with other funds making up the difference. His capital priorities included funding the long-awaited Aberdeen Activity Center and funding the sheriff’s office’s request for body cameras.

The sheriff’s office has long requested funding for body cameras, but they come with significant expense. The State’s Attorney’s Office will incur some of the costs and require additional staff to sift through the body camera footage in preparation for court.

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The State’s Attorney’s Office operating budget would increase by approximately $832,000 to about $7.4 million, according to Glassman’s proposal. The sheriff’s office’s proposed operating budget would increase by about $2.2 million to $92.6 million.

Presenting before the council Thursday, State’s Attorney Albert Peisinger said that four additional positions in the state’s attorney’s office are funded in the proposed budget — two attorneys, a paralegal and a technical expert to handle the body camera footage. He said he hopes the office will be funded for two more attorneys and a legal assistant in the future.

“We cannot have cameras on the street and prosecutors not being able to process that information,” he said.

A package of police reform bills recently passed by the General Assembly include a provision that all county-level law enforcement agencies in Maryland have body cameras by July 2025. The Harford County Sheriff’s Office, one of the four largest departments in the state that have not yet adopted body cameras, must do so by 2023.

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Glassman previously said he wanted Harford to be ahead of any requirements.

The budget is subject to approval by the county council.

Harford County Public Schools also presented its fiscal year 2022 request for approximately $519.5 million to the council on Thursday. If approved, the school system would use it to refurbish some of its buildings, expand special education programs, hire more staff and continue virtual learning for those who want it.

Historically, about half of the county’s revenues go toward the school system. Glassman said he has fully funded the county portion of the school board’s operating budget for the coming fiscal year, rough $293.8 million.

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