ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today released a $2 billion fiscal year 2023 (FY23) operating budget that contains historic funding for public education, with major investments in public safety, mental health services, environmental programs and economic development assistance.
This is a landmark spending plan that leverages lessons learned during the pandemic and invests boldly and strategically in our children and our community. We are meeting our obligations, fulfilling our promises and building for the future.
For the first time ever, funding for the Howard County Public School System exceeds $1 billion, containing the largest increase in at least two decades, significantly beyond the local funding level projected in the state Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The FY23 budget proposal also fully funds special education staffing needs and requested support for educational and behavioral health needs.
The proposed school system allocation of $1.026 billion contains an $84 million increase in State and County funding, with an overall increase of $68 million due to a reduction of school system reserve funding. The $40 million increase above the state required baseline investment known as Maintenance of Effort (MOE) is also the highest increase in at least two decades.
Over the past four years, nearly $58 million in County funding has been provided above MOE, more than triple the amount provided during the previous four-year period. Also over the past four years, instructional funding for the school system will have risen by over $61 million pending budget approval, more than double the prior four-year increase.
The total proposed FY23 Operating Budget of $2 billion represents an 8.2% increase from FY22. Excluding the use of $91.6 million in fund balance from prior surplus to support priority one-time initiatives, the FY23 General Fund budget increase is 7% over the FY22 budget.
The growth is primarily due to strong revenue performance, and the budget relies on no new tax increases.
Public Schools: To support Howard County students and their families, the budget continues to exceed the baseline standard, known as Maintenance of Effort, set by State regulations. Funding above maintenance of effort has more than tripled over the last four years. The amount allocated for the Howard County Public School System is $1.026 billion, an increase in $84 million in combined County and State funding.
The FY23 budget proposal fully funds special education staffing needs; compensation increases sought to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and negotiated labor agreements; requested support for educational and behavioral health needs; and resources for student well-being.
Over the past four years, funding growth for special education has doubled compared to the previous four-year period.
High School 13: $17.9 million in one-time expenses are included in the FY23 budget that will allow for the opening of a new High School 13 in Jessup, along with system-wide technology initiatives and other items.
Howard Community College: The proposed FY23 budget increases operating support for Howard Community College by $2.9 million, the highest level of growth in over a decade. Over the past four years, support for HCC has grown by nearly $5.4 million, which equates to 35% more than the funding increase over the prior four-year period.
Libraries: Funding for the Howard County Library System (HCLS) increases by nearly $1.6 million, the largest increase in over a decade. Operating support for HCLS has increased by almost $3.4 million over the past four years, nearly 50% higher than funding growth over the prior four-year period.
Additional police department positions: The FY23 budget increases funding for the Howard County Police Department (HCPD) by nearly $11 million, the largest increase in at least a decade. The budget includes $3.7 million to support 24 additional patrol positions, the largest increase in sworn personnel in 15 years and a critical investment to improve response times, support community policing and address emerging crimes such as human trafficking. Following budget approval, growth in authorized positions for HCPD will have nearly doubled over the past four years.
Fire and Rescue Services: The proposed FY23 budget for the Department of Fire and Rescue Services (DFRS) includes 5 new positions to bolster the Mobile Integrative Community Health (MICH) initiative, behavioral health support and a liaison to Howard County General Hospital (HCGH). Funding is also provided to support the recruitment of 36 new sworn firefighters and emergency medical personnel beginning in August, and for the purchase of fire equipment, vehicles and supplies. Following budget approval, DFRS will have added more than 80 authorized positions, over 25 more than the previous four-year period. In addition, $500,000 in one-time funding is included to support the Howard County Volunteer Firefighters Association.
Accountability: The proposed budget supports transparency and accountability in law enforcement, with $1.2 million to expand the body-worn camera program to all sworn HCPD and Sheriff’s Office personnel. Nearly $200,000 would be used to create an independent civilian Police Accountability Board to review and investigate allegations of law-enforcement misconduct.
Corrections: In the Department of Corrections, funding is included for three correctional officer positions (funding restoration for two positions and creation one new position) combined with repurposing existing staff to provide 24/7 coverage for a new Mental Health Unit to house inmates with serious mental health issues who require closer observation ($124,000).
Maternal Health Initiative: The FY23 budget contains $1.3 million to support underinsured and uninsured mothers to access quality prenatal care, significantly reducing systemic barriers to care, and promoting favorable health outcomes for mothers and babies.
Mental Health Supports: In the County Health Department, funding is included for a behavioral health navigator position to address increased demand for behavioral health services ($83,000) and a behavioral health grant monitor position to seek new grant opportunities and help manage a growing number of grants ($63,000). Funding is also included for a licensed mental health provider/contractor for bi-annual mental health screenings of all police officers ($80,000).
Over $12 million is provided in the proposed FY23 operating budget for Community Service Partnership grants, the highest amount ever and nearly an 11% increase over last year.
The proposed budget expands County support to 19 additional non-profits, focusing assistance on smaller organizations which have been hardest hit by the pandemic and that provide services to vulnerable, underrepresented, and at-risk populations.
Funding for the Plan to End Homelessness increases by $150,000, the largest increase in five years, allowing for expansion of street outreach and sheltering operations. Additionally, funding for the Human Services Transportation program grows by $50,000, improving access for adults with disabilities to health care, employment and social services.
Building on trailblazing recent initiatives such as the passage of the strongest forest conservation law and the largest power purchase agreement in the state, over $4 million is provided in one-time funding in the FY23 operating budget to support a variety of environmental and agricultural initiatives, including:
- $2 million to support the Purchased Conservation Easement Pilot Program in partnership with the Howard County Conservancy, allowing non-profit property owners an option to preserve environmentally and historically significant properties in perpetuity,
- A $1 million allocation for the Maryland Food Center Authority to support the redevelopment of the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market, improving food safety by providing a cold-chain compliant food distribution facility for existing and future businesses in the market.
- $375,000 for the Community Ecology Institute to support property acquisition efforts, promoting protective environmental stewardship and community health and well-being.
- $345,000 supporting new initiatives for the Howard County Soil Conservation District, including creation of a new grant program to assist farmers with designing and installing conservation best management practices that reduce sediment and nutrient loads and improve local water quality.
- $300,000 to the Office of Community Sustainability to implement the Climate Action Plan, undertake Green Infrastructure Projects and secure and manage available grants.
- $135,000 to expand the existing food scrap collection program to 5,600 additional homes.
Business and Economic Development Support
Throughout the pandemic, Howard County has provided much-needed support to local businesses as they grappled with unprecedented conditions. This commitment continues in our FY23 budget proposal, with
- Business/pandemic relief and grant match ($5 million)
- New business outreach position in the EDA to provide service to our existing business base with dedicated efforts to small, women- and minority-owned businesses ($123,000)
- One-time investment ($200,000) to boost marketing efforts to more effectively promote businesses in the County, especially in minority and underserved communities.
- Funds for the Department of Planning and Zoning to launch a Master Plan for Columbia Gateway, an area with the potential to become a hub of innovation and economic activity in the county ($500,000) and rewrite the County’s Development Code following adoption of the General Plan ($680,000).
- $850,000 to support the Inner Arbor Trust, which includes:
- Improving access to the northern portion of Symphony Woods and coordination with Merriweather Post Pavilion by installing the colonnade, which provides access and fencing.
- Improving safety for Symphony Woods and Merriweather Post Pavilion by installing comprehensive lighting solutions through the northern half of Symphony Woods.
After addressing immediate pandemic related housing issues by providing nearly $29 million in rental and foreclosure assistance to our community, the proposed FY23 budget refocuses on investing in the long-term provision of housing opportunities. The proposed budget includes $5 million in seed funding to establish a Housing Opportunities Trust Fund, aiming to expand the homeownership and availability of rental units to meet workforce demand and other needs.
Supporting County Employees
During the COVID-19 crisis, the Howard County workforce has labored to ensure the delivery of essential services. The FY23 budget honors existing collective bargaining agreements and includes a moderate cost of living adjustment for all employees and step increases for qualifying employees. In addition, a one-time funding increase of $123,000 is included for enhanced support to the County’s future workforce through an expanded Summer Youth Work Experience program to attract more youth to identified worksites while providing professional development skills.
The proposed FY23 operating budget does not increase taxes, and includes reserves totaling $129.2 million. Thanks to consistently strong fiscal discipline and sound financial management, Howard County received its 25th consecutive AAA rating from all three credit rating agencies in 2022.