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Howard Council delays vote on FY16 budget

A new video feature from the Howard County Times shows a breakdown of County Executive Allan Kittleman's proposal for the county's FY16 capital budget. (Jon Sham and Amanda Yeager/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The Howard County Council has decided to postpone a scheduled vote to approve the capital and operating budgets for fiscal year 2016.

Councilmembers had planned to vote on both budgets on May 20, but announced Tuesday they are delaying the vote until Friday, May 22 at noon.

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Council Chairwoman Mary Kay Sigaty said the postponement would give councilmembers and the county administration more time to iron out details for several amendments to the budget.

"For us to postpone for two days really gives us breathing space and gives us time to work with the administration, who's new to the game," Sigaty said. She noted that the council was operating on a shorter timeframe than usual because the Memorial Day holiday -- the benchmark before which councilmembers try to pass the budget -- is earlier this year.

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Delaying a budget vote is unusual but not unheard of, according to Sigaty. She pointed to two examples during her first eight years in office -- once, the vote was postponed by six hours, and another time the council scheduled extra voting dates in case they had to delay, though they ended up voting on time.

In 2012, the council postponed budget approval by eight days while school officials waited to see if they would get more state funding.

This year, one of the proposed amendments to Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman's budget includes significant cuts to the pension fund for county employees in order to redirect more money to the school system. Kittleman funded county schools at about $3 million above maintenance of effort levels.

"That is really one of the places we most decidedly want to discuss," she said. "We want to produce the best budget we can."

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Kittleman spokesman Andy Barth said the administration supported the delay.

"There are significant issues to be considered that are up for discussion and if they think that should wait until they are ready, we agree," Barth said.

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