$1.33 billion would go to schools
By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
10:00 AM EDT, April 12, 2012
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz proposed Thursday a fiscal 2013 general fund operating budget of about $1.65 billion that includes no tax increases but cuts the number of county employees by 7 percent through attrition.
Kamenetz also highlighted proposed spending on education and infrastructure.
His budget proposal, presented during his State of the County address to members of the County Council in Towson, holds taxes flat in part by taking advantage of the projected $21 million in yearly savings accumulated through voluntary retirements of county employees, he said.
“A key component of our plan to maintain county services, avoid increases in the tax rates, and protect our employees from furloughs or firings has been a voluntary reduction in the gross number of County employees,” Kamenetz said in a prepared statement.
Kamenetz said his budget would continue the county’s streak of avoiding tax increases, and would mark the county’s 24th straight year without increasing the property tax rate and its 20th straight year without increasing the income tax rate.
Under his proposed budget, the county would have 7 percent fewer employees than 2012 and 17 percent fewer than 25 years ago.
Kamenetz’s proposal increases the county’s general fund operating budget by 2.8 percent compared to 2012, in part because it absorbs $15.7 million in teacher pension costs from the state and an increase of $20 million in other employee benefit costs, Kamenetz said.
If it were not for those increased costs, his budget would have represented a $1 million decrease in base spending from 2012, he said.
However, because the General Assembly session ended Monday without a budget being passed, local governments are unsure if their aid will be cut. Kamenetz said this week that his plan doesn’t account for any cuts because he doesn’t have final numbers.
Funding for schools accounted for more than $1.33 billion of Kamenetz’s proposed budget, maintaining funding levels from last year and providing for new air conditioning systems in 12 schools, he said.
The budget adds 124 teaching positions while eliminating 50 non-classroom positions, Kamenetz said.
“In recognition of the projected overcrowding of every central corridor elementary seat from the city line to the Pennsylvania border, we will proactively allocate funding to solve this issue,” he said in a prepared statement.
The budget would fund the continuing construction of a Hampton Elementary addition and a Stoneleigh Elementary renovation and addition.
It would allocate $4.2 million for a 200-seat Sparks Elementary addition; $18 million for a new 700-seat Mays Chapel Elementary School; $34 million for Hereford High renovations and additions; and $18.5 million for a new elementary school in the county’s northwest.
It also includes a $149 million referendum request that would ask voters to support school renovations and construction.
And a $32.5 million referendum request would fund air conditioning systems in 10 schools and air conditioning as part of larger renovations in two schools, Kamenetz said.
The schools that would receive air conditioning systems are Hereford High; Sudbrook Magnet Middle; and Catonsville, Fort Garrison, Franklin, Hebbville, Middleborough, Middlesex, Stoneleigh, Sussex, Timonium and Woodmoor elementaries.
Installing systems in those schools would decrease the percentage of schools without air conditioning from 54 percent when Kamenetz took office in 2010 to 36 percent, he said.
Infrastructure and labor
Kamenetz’s budget includes a list of infrastructure commitments under a six-year, $2 billion capital improvement program.
The proposal calls for spending $5 million on upgrading county technology programs; $6 million on major school maintenance; and $3 million on school roof repairs.
The budget proposes spending $20 million for road resurfacing projects in the next two years; $13 million for acquiring fire department breathing apparatus, medical units and ladder trucks; $26 million for heavy public works equipment for solid waste, utilities and snow removal operations; and $34 million for new technology and equipment for county government.
Kamenetz said his budget promises no layoffs or furloughs for school system employees and several police and fire organizations.
In terms of labor contracts and agreements, Kamenetz’s budget included:
•Contract extensions providing scheduled increment and longevity increases and no layoffs or furloughs for the next two years with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #25; Baltimore County Sheriffs; the Baltimore County Professional Fire Fighters IAFF Local 1311; and the Baltimore County Federation of Public Health Nurses.
•Agreements guaranteeing school system employees no layoffs or furloughs in the next three years, and phasing in over the next five years an increase in school system employee contributions to health care from 10 percent to 20 percent.
•An agreement guaranteeing the Police Executive Corps/SMC, which represents high-ranking police officers, no layoffs or furloughs in the next three years, and an improved conversion ratio of accrued sick days at retirement.
Copyright © 2012, The Baltimore Sun