ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball’s historic $2.16 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget was today unanimously approved by the Howard County Council. The transformational spending plan contains historic funding increases for public education, as well as major investments in public safety, health care services, housing, transportation, and economic development. This investment reflects a bold vision of community investment by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.
Our bold, yet prudent investments will advance critical projects to deliver an excellent quality of life for all to live, work, play and grow in Howard County. 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 FY24 Operating Budget funds a record $1.1 billion for the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS). This is the second consecutive year total HCPSS General Fund funding has exceeded $1 billion. The increase of $47 million in recurring County funding is the highest County increase to HCPSS in Howard County history and represents a landmark seven percent increase over FY23. County funding for HCPSS will be $71.6 million above the minimum standard of Maintenance of Effort (MOE) set by the State. Ball’s record investment in education is despite declines in enrollment that have persisted since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporting Our Educators: Howard County’s funding commitment to HCPSS includes a major emphasis on Pillar 2 of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Blueprint), which calls for investments to attract and retain high quality and diverse teachers. This budget includes $46.4 million to fully fund the negotiated salary increases for our valued educators and school personnel. An additional $7.5 million is dedicated to Other Post Employment Benefit contributions to meet retiree health benefits of school employees. This budget also includes $300,000 for a new program to assist educators in the repayment of their student loans.
Guilford Park High School: The approved FY24 Operating Budget also includes $2.5 million to fully fund the opening of the new Guilford Park High School with 42.0 new full time employees. Guilford Park is the County’s first new high school since 2005 and will be opening its doors to students in August. In addition, the approved FY24 Capital Budget includes $7 million for the completion of construction and furnishing of Guilford Park High School.
Faulkner Ridge Regional Pre-K Center: The budget includes $22 million in state pass-through funding to renovate the Faulkner Ridge Center to expand universal pre-K services. The County’s commitment to expanding pre-K, in partnership with State and community leaders, is a major step toward the full implementation of the State-mandated Blueprint. When completed, the center will create 260 new seats for universal Pre-K in Howard County.
Applications and Research Laboratory: The Capital Budget includes $13 million in state pass-through funding to renovate and expand the HCPSS Applications and Research Laboratory (ARL), which is Howard County’s Career and Technical High School. This renovation and expansion will help the school system to considerably reduce the waitlist at ARL to help accommodate more students. The school currently accommodates approximately 1,500 students each year, and several hundred more students are on ARL’s waitlist. This expansion will also support the Career and Technical Education (CTE) requirements of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future by expanding opportunities for more students to participate in college and career readiness courses.
Howard Community College
The FY24 County Operating Budget includes $2 million in operating funding for Howard Community College (HCC), which is the second highest increase in at least 15 years. This investment builds on the historic funding growth provided in last year’s operating budget.
Ball collaborated with the Council and Community College to file a budget amendment to invest an additional $1 million to assist HCC in advancing its design work for a new Workforce Development and Trades Center in the upcoming fiscal year. This will supplement the $4.3 million HCC has already committed to the project’s design. Upon its construction, HCC’s Workforce Development and Trades Center will offer another pathway into higher education for students who do not want to pursue a traditional four-year degree by furthering its opportunities for high-skilled trades training.
An additional $13.3 million in County funding will go toward the long-awaited Mathematics and Athletics complex at HCC. This innovative, inter-disciplinary project breaks down barriers that sometimes may exist between math and athletics, serving as more than a brick-and-mortar building.
Howard County Library System
The approved FY24 Operating Budget includes $1.2 million for Howard County Library System (HCLS), which is the second largest increase in at least 15 years. This investment builds on the historic funding growth provided to the Library System in last year’s operating budget.
The approved FY24 Capital Budget also includes $5 million in state funding to advance conceptual design and potential uses for a new transformative Lakefront Library project in Downtown Columbia. This funding will allow the County to continue discussions with the Howard County Library System, the County Council, county residents, and all external stakeholders to advance this project. The 100,000 square-foot structure will foster creativity, learning, and civic engagement.
Safe and Engaged Communities
The approved FY24 budget includes an increase of $8.6 million for the Howard County Police Department, which will provide salary adjustments and increased safety investments for our community. Additionally, $175,000 will go toward storage of digital evidence to preserve the integrity of critical evidence that meets federal and State media storage laws. This funding builds on safety measures to help keep Howard County home to the Safest City in America.
The approved FY24 budget also includes $2.4 million to create 26 new firefighter trainee positions with our Department of Fire and Rescue Services, which will help reduce overtime costs, alleviate personnel fatigue, and generate savings.
Thriving and Healthy Residents
The approved budget contains an additional $1.7 million to providing access to quality prenatal and maternal healthcare for uninsured and underinsured mothers.
Also, a combined $2.5 million in funding will improve and expand behavioral and mental health services in the County. This funding includes $1 million that will support critical investments in the Behavioral Health Unit at Howard County General Hospital, expanding the unit to create 24 additional beds. Additionally, $1 million is included for Sheppard Pratt, which will establish a new 16-bed residential crisis program to help County residents in crisis avoid higher levels of care such as emergency departments or inpatient units. Finally, $500,000 was approved for Tuerk House for the creation of a new residential treatment facility in Highland primarily for pregnant women and women with children, which is a currently underserved population.
Business and Nonprofits Support
The FY24 approved budget includes $400,000 to launch the County’s first-ever Disparity Study to identify opportunity gaps in the County’s procurement process with minority-owned, woman-owned, and disabled-owned local businesses.
The approved budget also prioritizes support for local businesses through the continuation of $2 million in funding for pandemic relief efforts, including funds for potential federal and state grant match opportunities.
The budget includes $500,000 for Transform Howard Innovation Grants, which will provide local non-profits with an opportunity to design and implement forward thinking, emerging and creative ideas to help them better serve county residents.
The approved budget provides $250,000 in funding for an Agricultural Grant Pilot program to help local farmers increase opportunities that will ultimately benefit residents and increase access to local, fresh produce.
This approved spending plan includes an historic $6.5 million for the County’s transformative Homeownership and Housing Rehabilitation Programs, which will expand wealth-building opportunities for more households in the county.
Additionally, $1 million is dedicated to Rental Assistance to help more residents remain safely and stably housed. These investments will ensure that more Howard County residents can gain access to safe, stable, and affordable housing opportunities.
As Howard County was recently lauded for its Complete Streets policy, recognized as the best policy in the nation, the budget includes $13.2 million for Complete Streets projects in the approved Capital Budget. This budget represents an increase of $5 million over FY23 for multimodal transportation projects. This historic investment includes funding for the Rogers Avenue Complete Streets Project, the Dobbin Road Multiuse Pathway, Guilford Road bike and pedestrian improvements, safety improvements on Route One, and more than two dozen additional transportation projects that improve safety and access in every corner of Howard County.
This spending plan transfers $12.8 million in one-time PAYGO funds to the Capital Budget to address critical road resurfacing needs and preventative maintenance. This is the second largest investment in the past decade to support the ongoing road resurfacing needs for 1,080 miles of county roads.
The approved budget includes a dedicated $150,000 to expand bus service in Elkridge. This investment builds on efforts to ensure safe and reliable transportation that is accessible to all, across the county and region.
The approved spending plan includes $500,000 that will go towards the Purchased Conservation Easement Pilot Program in partnership with the Howard County Conservancy. This program provides a new mechanism to preserve environmentally valuable nonprofit-owned land for our future.
In addition, $150,000 was approved to support implementation for activities that have been identified in Howard County’s Climate Action Plan, such as increasing educational awareness and environmental stewardship, implementing energy saving initiatives that will have long-term benefits to Howard County, and launching actions that will reduce Howard County’s carbon footprint.
The budget also prioritizes $100,000 to update Howard County’s Green Infrastructure Network (GIN) maps. The GIN shows the most ecologically valuable forests, wetlands, meadows, waterways, and other natural areas as well as the lands that connect them together. GIN maps provide important information that will benefit overall support to increase native plant and animal species while helping human populations by cleaning air and water resources, maintaining natural ecological processes, and contributing to everyday quality of life.
The FY24 Operating Budget includes $600,000 to create five new technology positions to help improve our resilience to ransomware and other cybersecurity threats. These positions will also collect and analyze critical data in support of our vision of data-driven management and response to resident needs.