Members of the public will have two opportunities to have their say on the Harford County budget for fiscal year 2020 next month, as the County Council has set two dates for public hearings.
The council introduced, during its legislative session Tuesday evening, Resolution 008-19 to set next year’s property tax rates, Resolution 009-10 to adopt the capital improvement program for fiscal 2020 through 2025 and Bill 19-009, the annual budget ordinance.
County Executive Barry Glassman unveiled his proposed fiscal 2020 budget of more than $903 million Monday, and it is currently available online. Glassman has not proposed any increase in the property tax rate.
Public hearings on all three pieces of legislation are set for Thursday, May 9, and Thursday, May 16, both at 7 p.m. in the County Council chambers at 212 S. Bond St. in Bel Air, council Vice President Joe Woods said as he read the introduction for each into the record.
Woods said Wednesday that he encourages people to come to the public hearings, as well as the four days of public work sessions with the council that precede them — the work sessions started Thursday.
“It’s definitely helpful, especially when we’re hearing things we haven’t heard before,” he said of public input.
Woods said he and his colleagues understand how important institutions such a libraries, volunteer fire and EMS companies and schools are to the public. People have spent weeks stating their concerns about funding for Harford County Public Schools next year, as new Superintendent Sean Bulson has proposed cutting multiple administrative and instructional positions to help balance the school system budget.
The hearings are also an opportunity for people to talk about the value of organizations that are “not out in front of us every day” but still have an impact on the community and rely on county funding, according to Woods.
“I think everybody here [on the council] wants to do something to help everybody, but if we don’t know there is a problem” the council cannot help, he said.
The council’s budget work sessions began Thursday, April 18 and continue Tuesday, April 23; Thursday, April 25 and Monday, April 29, according to Council President Patrick Vincenti. Those work sessions are also in the council chambers — more information is available on the Harford County website.
Representatives of organizations that receive county funding will make presentations before the council. The organizations include those directly under the county administration such as the departments of Public Works and Planning and Zoning, allied institutions such as the Sheriff’s Office, Harford County Public Schools, the Harford County Public Library, volunteer fire and EMS companies and community organizations such as the Humane Society of Harford County and The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region.
Vincenti noted the work sessions take place throughout the day — they are scheduled to start at 9 or 10 a.m. — and continue through the late afternoon.
Woods said he is looking forward to the Board of Education’s presentation, scheduled for next Tuesday. He said during Tuesday’s council session that he took part in an “impromptu” meeting with Bulson that afternoon to get his input following the release of the county budget.
“He called, we called and 15 minutes later, he was in the office talking to us, so that was impressive,” Woods said.
The superintendent met with Woods and the council president, Woods said in a follow-up interview Wednesday.
The council vice president said he and Vincenti wanted to learn more about how the school board’s budget request could change following the Maryland General Assembly’s approval of the 2020 state budget, as well as the release of the Harford County budget.
The school board has put forth a $472.6 million operating budget request for fiscal 2020, a $15 million increase from the current year’s budget. Bulson sought a $10 million increase in local funding, but he has also proposed cutting 179 positions.
The school board increased that request by $5 million. That extra $5 million could save 70 positions, should it come from either the county or state, Bulson told board members April 8, a week before Glassman’s budget was released.
The county executive has allocated $256.4 million in operating money to the schools, a $10.7 million increase from the current year. Glassman also noted an additional $6.2 million in state funds has been allocated, plus the school system can seek up to $3.4 million in state grants via the Kirwan Commission.
Woods said he and Vincenti discussed, during their impromptu meeting with the superintendent, how the additional money from the state budget plus the Kirwan funds, would affect the school board’s budget request, and he thinks school officials will have “a better grasp” on those impacts when they make their presentation at next week’s work session.
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“I’m really hoping they have a better understanding of what’s going on with the Kirwan money and the increase in the state money, which is a long time coming, of course,” Woods said.