Business, Crime, Education, Health, Police/Fire, Politics

County Executive Johnny Olszewski delivers FY2021 budget message [VIDEO, TRANSCRIPT]

TOWSON, MD—Amid the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski on Tuesday submitted to the County Council a $3.9 billion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2021 that prioritizes commitments to providing quality education, neighborhoods safety, and supporting the county’s workforce to ensure residents can continue to receive essential government services.

The proposed budget for FY21 reflects an approximate $40 million write-down from earlier revenue estimates, due to the growing economic impact of the pandemic, while also providing funds for key priorities, including economic opportunity, sustainability, healthy and safe communities, and transparent and accountable government.

“This is not the budget I hoped to present, but it is the one that meets the moment. We are laser-focused on responding to the immediate needs of this crisis even as we prepare our County for the long-term economic recovery.” Olszewski said. “We will get through this together, continuing to build toward our vision for a better Baltimore County for us all.”

In a virtual address to the County Council, Olszewski highlighted investments in education and support for key priorities. The total proposed Operating Budget is $3.9 billion.

Below are highlights of the FY21 budget County Executive Olszewski submitted to the Baltimore County Council.

Education

  • Total proposed education budget is more than $2 billion. The proposed BCPS budget is nearly $36 million above FY20 funding levels and $20 million over Maintenance of Effort (MOE).
  • Provides a one percent cost-of-living increase for all Baltimore County Public Schools employees, effective July 1, 2020.
  • Provides more than $1 million to hire additional school counselors and support staff to help address the mental health, social, and emotional needs of our students.
  • Provides funding to support the Early College High School program at Woodlawn High School and the Pathways in Technology program at Dundalk High School.
  • Protects Baltimore County’s portion of capital funding for all remaining Schools for our Future projects, which cannot move forward until the state provides its share of funding from the Built to Learn Act.

Healthy and Safe Communities

  • Provides funding to realize critical components of County Executive Olszewski’s public safety plan, including support for the Real Time Crime Center and focused enforcement initiatives.
  • Provides the first phase of funding for a second set of turnout gear for firefighters.
  • Provides capital funding for two, new school-based Police Athletic League (PAL) Centers through the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Transparent, Accountable Government

  • Retains a 10.3 percent fund balance—critical for maintaining the county’s bond ratings.
  • Provides funding for full implementation of Baltimore County’s newly operational 311 program.
  • Expands the Baltimore County Office of Ethics and Accountability.
  • Creates an Audit Compliance Unit to ensure that audit findings are effectively deployed to improve County operations and help track tens of millions of dollars in COVID-related expenditures.

Vibrant, Livable Communities

  • Provides a previously announced, two percent cost-of-living increase for all county employees effective June 30, 2020. The proposed budget also includes a previously negotiated two percent cost‐of‐living increase for county employees, effective January 1, 2021.
  • Provides funds for planning and implementation of the Towson Circulator pilot program, leveraging a $1.6 million federal grant.
  • Provides funding to resume glass recycling, which the prior administration suspended.
  • Adds $1 million to support volunteer fire companies.
  • Provides new funding for park acquisition and a more equitable distribution of park and recreational infrastructure.

Economic Opportunity

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  • Provides funding to expand employer-driven workforce strategies.
  • Freezes in-County tuition at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC).
  • Ensures stability of College Promise Program, enabling CCBC to accept approximately 300 additional students.

Under state enabling legislation, the administration will introduce a bill to allow the placement of enforcement cameras on our school buses to more effectively catch drivers who continue to disregard the prohibition on passing stopped school buses. All revenue collected from this effort will be dedicated to support public safety efforts.

As the economic impact of COVID-19 continues to shift, the Office of Budget and Finance will continue to work with the legislative branch during their budget review as the latest information and projections are available.

The County Council is scheduled to vote on the budget on May 21.

The full address video and transcript can be viewed below.

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