Howard's police aviation program is ending in response to looming countywide deficit

The Howard County police department’s aviation program is being discontinued in an effort to curb government spending in light of a “historic” $108 million deficit, county officials announced this week.

The program is expected to end April 30.


County Executive Calvin Ball and police have determined ending the aviation program will save money without impacting public safety.

Howard will save more than $300,000 in fiscal year 2020 and nearly $1.8 million over the next four years. The county also plans to sell the 12-year-old helicopter. It has an estimated value of nearly $1.5 million.

The tax on mobile homes generates less than $700,000 in revenue for Howard County annually.

The county will continue to have aviation coverage through partner agencies, including Anne Arundel County, Maryland State Police and other jurisdictions with aviation units, according to Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman.

Howard’s program began in 1999 with the department’s one helicopter for crime issues and assistance with natural disasters between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m., Llewellyn said.

Aviation transports for medical emergencies are handled by the state, she added.

Ball said in a statement Wednesday that his “number one priority is keeping our residents safe. This common-sense change allows us to address our fiscal realities without sacrificing that safety.”

Howard’s deficit stems from projected revenue and requested expenditures for the 2020 fiscal year budget, according to a news release.

“Our elected officials have had to make, and must continue to make, tough decisions as they relate to the priorities for funding in our county,” as stated in the county’s Spending Affordability Advisory Committee’s report.