ELLICOTT CITY, MD - Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today submitted his proposed 2024 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to the Howard County Council. The carefully crafted $379 million package provides essential resources for education; flood control and stormwater management; bike and pedestrian infrastructure; road maintenance; public safety and more. Ball’s proposal advances projects that will keep Howard County thriving. The budget and County Executive Ball’s detailed letter to the Council can be found here.
Our bold, yet prudent investments will advance critical projects to deliver an excellent quality of life for all to live, work, play, and grow. These efforts help maintain Howard County’s position as one of the best managed jurisdictions in the nation, as illustrated once again by our AAA bond rating. Due to our sustained fiscal discipline, we are making historic progress in education, public safety, transportation, and more to build a better future for all in Howard County.
The CIP calls for capital projects to be funded through a combination of
- $75.2 million in General Obligation (GO) bonds which remain near a 10-year low;
- $79.3 million in one-time Pay As You Go (PAYGO) funding;
- State funding commitments; and
- Other dedicated revenue sources.
These various sources exemplify ongoing efforts to control County debt levels as recommended by the Spending Affordability Advisory Committee. The CIP highlights various initiatives, including:
Education: The budget fully funds the Board of Education’s capital funding request for the second consecutive year. It totals $67.7 million, which includes County funding of $51.6 million and State aid of $16.1 million to create the best teaching and learning environment for our students and our educators. Funding will be provided to complete construction of Guilford Park High School, the county’s first new high school since 2005.
The significant investment from the County combined with State funding will advance all priority projects of the Board of Education, including:
- Guilford Park High School, formerly High School #13 ($7 million), which is expected to be ready for occupancy in Fall 2023 with 1,658 new seats that will help alleviate overcrowding.
- Oakland Mills Middle School Renovation/Addition ($4.4 million) to renovate the building and add 195 spaces in classroom capacity.
- Dunloggin Middle School Renovation/Addition ($4.5 million) to expand education program spaces with 233 new classroom spaces as well as renovations.
- Systemic Renovation ($26.3 million) to support various renovations and address maintenance needs across the school system, including:
- HVAC and infrastructure systems at Jeffers Hill Elementary School, Manor Woods Elementary School, Forest Ridge Elementary School, St. John’s Lane Elementary School, Atholton Elementary School, and Lime Kiln Middle School
- Indoor air quality and security upgrades
- Turf field replacements
- IT investments ($5.5 million), including enterprise infrastructure upgrades, cybersecurity improvements, and enterprise applications
- Various school needs ($3.9 million), including roofing, relocatable classrooms, playground equipment, and more.
Additionally, in collaboration with Howard County Public Schools, County Executive Ball prioritized state pass-through funding of $35 million to immediately advance a new regional Pre-K center, comprised of fully funding a complete renovation of Faulkner Ridge Elementary School ($22 million) for the purpose of expanding early childhood placements. The funding also includes plans for a complete renovation and expansion for career and technology education for the HCPSS Applications and Research Laboratory ($13 million).
The proposal provides $13.3 million in County funds to Howard Community College for the construction of its new mathematics and athletics complex, plus another $1 million for systemic renovations.
Funding for the Howard County Library System is also critical to providing a world class and holistic education to residents of all ages and abilities. The proposal includes $11 million in anticipated State and other grants for the planning of the new Lakefront Library in Downtown Columbia.
Ellicott City Safe and Sound: The budget significantly advances the Ellicott City Safe and Sound flood mitigation plan with combined grants and county funding of $44.7 million. This funding will support the design and construction of the Extended North Tunnel, Maryland Avenue Culvert, and the NC-3 and H-4 retention ponds.
Public Safety: This spending plan advances important public safety projects for Howard County. These projects include the acquisition of the State Armory in Ellicott City, which will be renovated to provide logistical storage capacity for the Department of Fire and Rescue Services. Additionally, the proposed budget includes $2.6 million for renovations to the Detention Center, including window replacements, the design of a new mental health unit, and a fingerprint office renovation.
Transportation: The proposal includes $12.8 million in County funding to support pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, the highest level in county history and a demonstration of our continued commitment to health, multimodal transportation, and energy independence.
Recreation and Parks: The $18.8 million in proposed total FY24 funding will support construction and renovation of additional parking lots, pathways, sports courts, historic sites, and continued work along the Savage Mill Trail. Notable park investments will include improvements to the Centennial Park boat rental decking area, Warfield’s Pond Park pier decking replacement, West Friendship Farm Museum, and the scheduled replacement of three synthetic turf fields. The proposed budget also includes $5.3 million for the East Columbia Library Park project and $150,000 for the development of a COVID-19 Memorial at Meadowbrook Park.
Infrastructure Revitalization: As Howard County matures and our infrastructure ages, many existing buildings, roads, and pipelines need significant investment. This budget makes major steps toward addressing a backlog in maintenance through improvements for stormwater ponds, road resurfacing, water and sewer repair and replacement, systemic renovation, and more.
Community Services: With a new and expanded East Columbia 50+ Center under construction, the CIP includes funds to support design to repurpose the existing 50+ facility into a new and vibrant Multi-service Center. Other FY24 funds will support a new Family Support Center in Columbia and safety and security enhancements to the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center.
Technology Infrastructure and Enhancement: The proposed budget includes $7.5 million to upgrade and modernize technology and infrastructure to support the ongoing needs of County employees and residents.
The budget demonstrates a commitment to fiscal discipline with total authorized General Obligation bonds of $75.2 million. This figure is kept at a historically low level in acknowledgement of the increasing debt burden and rising interest rates. The County will continue to maximize and evaluate alternative funding sources to address infrastructure needs and will also adjust designated funds to recover increased costs.
The Howard County Council has scheduled public hearings on the CIP in April and May, with a final vote planned for May 24.