… Spending Affordability Committee starts work …
By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
7:59 PM EST, January 11, 2012
Baltimore County will continue to see slow economic growth in 2012, an economist told the county’s Spending Affordability Committee on Wednesday at its first meeting of the year.
“We know that the economic recovery continues to be quite fragile,” Anirban Basu of Sage Policy Group told the committee.
He predicted personal income would grow between 4 percent and 4.5 percent in fiscal year 2012, which ends June 30. That’s compared to about 4.6 percent in the previous fiscal year.
While income growth is expected to slow, “it’s still growth and it’s positive,” Basu said after the meeting.
Economic activity in the labor and housing markets improved in the final months of 2011, he said. The number of county residents with jobs has risen, and December was the best month for home sales since 2007.
Each year, the committee issues guidelines for county spending levels. The panel was created to ensure that spending does not exceed the county’s economic growth.
Committee Chairman Tom Quirk, a County Council member from Catonsville, said the committee would continue a tradition of fiscal conservatism in its recommendations, which are due next month.
“We’re going to err on the side of caution,” said Quirk, a Democrat. “We’re not going to be overly optimistic in our assumptions or analysis.”
The committee also hopes to receive more frequent and detailed budget projections from County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s administration. The administration usually gives budget forecasts only once a year, in April.
This week, County Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond, a committee member, asked county administrative officer Fred Homan for “increased information sharing” between the council and administration.
At its next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 31, the committee plans to examine policy issues, such as when the county should use surplus funds to pay for continuing expenses, which it has done the past few budget years.
The committee also will look at how the county should deal with costs that could be passed on by state government. For instance, state lawmakers could shift some teacher pension costs to localities.
Copyright © 2012, The Baltimore Sun