Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Monday unveiled a proposed $2.6 billion operating budget for fiscal 2024, representing a 6.6% increase over the $2 billion fiscal 2023 budget.
“This budget provides sustained funding to keep every member of our community safe, supported, and strong through investments in public safety, housing, environmental protection, transportation, and more,” Ball said in a letter released Monday. “This budget reflects a strong commitment to support our workforce, businesses, and nonprofit organizations as we continue to navigate the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The largest expenditure is for education funding to the Howard County Public School System. Ball proposes a 7% increase ($47 million) to the school system, when compared to the current fiscal year, providing a total of $1.1 billion to HCPSS in fiscal 2024.
Ball presented the operating budget to the Howard County Council Monday night. Earlier this month he released a proposed $379 million Capital Improvement Program construction budget for fiscal 2024.
The county’s proposed property tax rate for fiscal 2024 remains the same at $1.014 per $100 of assessed value for real property, and $2.535 for eligible personal property owned by businesses in Howard County, according to the budget document. Money to fund the proposed budget comes from expected revenues from property taxes, income taxes, recordation taxes, local taxes, licensing, charges for services, permit fees, prior year funds, and revenue from other agencies.
The proposed operating budget also includes a $2 million increase for Howard Community College, a $1.2 million increase for Howard County Public Libraries and a $8.6 million increase for the Howard County Police Department for salaries and safety improvements. Ball is proposing that the county’s Department of Fire and Rescue receive $2.4 million to hire 26 new firefighter trainees, intended to reduce overtime costs and personnel fatigue.
The proposed budget includes $1 million for the creation of a behavioral health unit at Howard County General Hospital, and another $1 million for behavioral health initiatives at the Elkridge campus of Sheppard Pratt.
To help current and future homeowners in the county, Ball is proposing $10 million for the Housing Opportunities Trust Fund. The fund is administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development to promote and support equitable, geographically disbursed and affordable rental and for-sale housing opportunities throughout the county. It provides funding for rental housing development, preservation and rehabilitation, rental assistance, homeownership, home improvements and other affordable housing opportunities.
The proposed budget includes $12.6 million in operating grants to several nonprofits that provide human services, arts and cultural programs, and tourism.
Local business still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic could receive $2 million for potential federal and state grant match opportunities.
Howard County Times: Top stories
The County Council must review and approve the final operating budget. A number of public hearings and workshops are scheduled this month and next to finalize the plan. A final County Council vote to approve the county budget is slated for noon, May 24.
The first public hearing, focusing on the education portion of the operating budget, is set for 6 p.m., April 24, in the George Howard Building’s Banneker Room, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City. The council’s first work session on the budget will be at 9:30 a.m., May 1, and a public hearing on the county’s property tax rate will be at 7 p.m. that same day.
For more information on the budget and dates for public hearings and workshops, go to https://cc.howardcountymd.gov/ongoing-efforts/howard-county-budget.