Howard County’s government operates a school system, a police department with about 500 sworn officers, a fire department, a water and sewer system, a landfill and six branch libraries that have the highest per-capita circulation rate in the state.
The county raises money principally from property and income taxes, and employs about 3,300 people in government services, public safety, facilities and community services. More than 52 percent of the county budget of nearly $1.1 billion this fiscal year will pay for the county’s public schools, which are overseen by the seven elected members of the Howard County Board of Education. The school system employs about 8,412 people and serves approximately 57,000 students.
County Executive Allan H. Kittleman and members on the five-seat County Council were elected in 2014 for four-year terms. This year’s elections for county offices will culminate Nov. 6.
The Columbia Association (CA) resembles a local government, private organization, recreation business and civic organization rolled into one. It’s a private, nonprofit community service corporation with a board of directors elected by the residents of Columbia’s 10 villages. Supported by two major revenue sources — an annual “tax” paid by Columbians and fees charged for its programs and services — CA operates a broad scope of facilities such as parks, pathways, pools, tennis courts, fitness clubs, golf courses and more than 3,600 acres of open space.
CA’s system of governance also filters down to the neighborhood level. Each Columbia village has its own community association and resident-elected village board, which represents residents on neighborhood issues and CA policies and procedures.
From the time the readers’ poll launches in August to the issue’s delivery in December, businesses, nonprofits and readers alike are abuzz in anticipation of who might take home the coveted Best of Howard County title.