TOWSON, MD – From the Baltimore County Executive: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz delivered his State of the County address and introduced a $3.285 billion budget for fiscal year 2019 in remarks presented to the Baltimore County Council on April 12, 2018. Below are highlights from the speech.
Eight Years of Progress
"Together, we’ve made tremendous progress toward a more innovative, responsible and efficient local government."
15,821 new jobs have been added in the County since I became County Executive.There’s been more than $5 billion in new private investment.The County has invested $1.8 billion to modernize and maintain our aging water and sewer infrastructure, plus $129 million for roads and bridges.We deployed new technology that improves service to our citizens and achieves significant cost savings. Baltimore County is now ranked fourth in the nation for use of technology in government. We have made an historic $1.3 billion investment to upgrade and modernize our schools.
The fiscal year 2019 budget does not increase property tax or income tax rates. The budget stays within spending affordability limits, and funds our schools above maintenance of effort level.
#1 Priority: Education
Fifty one percent of next year’s total Baltimore County operating budget is dedicated to our schools, more than $1.67 billion.
Teacher salaries have increased by 12% over the past eight years.
Schools for Our Future is a groundbreaking capital program to modernize our schools, not just for today, but to meet future enrollment needs as the County population continues to grow. This $1.3 billion initiative is building or rebuilding more than 90 schools.
Baltimore County Public Schools have one of the highest graduation rates in the State. There is no disparity in the graduation rates between African American and white students. County schools have earned national honors in music and arts education, digital learning, robotics, and more.
Since 2011, Baltimore County has invested $13.6 million to reinforce all school doors and windows, adding security cameras and controlled entry.
"With this budget, we strengthen our school safety system by adding more professionals to help identify mental health issues that can lead to suicide and destructive behaviors."
If adopted, the FY19 budget would add 22 social workers, 23 counselors and 18 school psychologists in Baltimore County Public Schools, plus additional pupil personnel workers, health assistants, and bus attendants. Nineteen more police School Resource Officers would be funded, increasing the County’s total to 84 officers.
Preparing our Workforce
Baltimore County College Promise
The FY19 budget includes $979,000 for the first year of Baltimore County College Promise – funding that will make college a reality for more than 1,100 students.
"College opens up a lifetime of career opportunities. But the cost can mean a dead end for even the most motivated students. That’s why we launched Baltimore County College Promise, with full tuition and fees for qualified students to complete an associate’s degree or workplace certification at the Community College of Baltimore County."
With low unemployment and a tight job market, companies are ready to hire today. But chronic shortages of qualified workers remain in many high-demand fields. Job Connector partners with employers, labor unions, colleges and universities to build a job-ready workforce.
"We listened to our employers and launched Job Connector, an innovative $2.5 million program that brings a supply-and-demand strategy to workforce development."
Keeping and growing jobs
"These marquee firms chose to stay in Baltimore County because we’ve created a welcoming business climate, with a superb workforce and responsive local government."
Stanley Black & Decker is adding 400 new jobs. Care First Blue Cross is keeping 2,200 jobs in the heart of Owings Mills. This summer, 900 McCormick & Company corporate employees will be moving to a new global headquarters in Hunt Valley. Bank of America is adding 900 jobs; 300 hired last year, with 600 more jobs on the way.
The Baltimore County Boost Loan Fund has loaned $4.3 million to small businesses in just four years, with a focus on firms owned by minorities, women, and veterans.
Over $5 billion in new private investment
Tradepoint Atlantic, the massive redevelopment of Sparrows Point, downtown Towson, Greenleigh at Crossroads in Middle River, and Foundry Row, Mill Station and Metro Centre in Owings Mills are leading new private investment and job creation.
"This is economic development that is transforming job prospects and economic opportunity for the entire region."
Keeping communities healthy
Helping those in need
More than 98,000 people in Baltimore County are food insecure, including 30,000 children. The proposed FY19 budget includes $550,000 to support the Maryland Food Bank.
"In a time of overall prosperity, there are still too many who struggle to make ends meet. The true measure of a government is how we treat people who could use an outstretched hand to get by."
The County has expanded services to people who experience homelessness. Three years ago the County opened a comprehensive Westside Men’s Shelter, replacing trailers. A new Eastern Family Resource Center opened last fall with expanded health services and shelter beds for men and women. Next year’s budget increases funding for all shelter services by 5%.
Reversing the Opioid Epidemic
Opioid overdoses killed 543 Baltimore County residents from 2016 through the first nine months of 2017. The County launched an aggressive program to make naloxone widely available. Our Department of Health and Human Services has already trained 3,200 residents on how to safely administer this life-saving drug.
The County also is fighting the opioid epidemic by working through the legal system to hold drug manufacturers more accountable.
Keeping communities safe
Baltimore County continues to be a very safe place to live. Since the beginning of 2018, there were five confirmed homicides in Baltimore County, down from thirteen over the same period last year.
"The early overall statistics for 2018 give us reason to be optimistic that crimes of all types will continue to decline in our county."
Fourteen hundred police officers have been fully trained and now wear body cameras.
Operation Connect focuses outreach by County police officers to local communities, particularly to youth. Police, firefighters and paramedics undergo rigorous training, with a renewed focus on mental health.
Fire and EMS
The FY2019 budget increases funding for volunteer fire companies by 7.4%, bringing County support to $9.8 million next year.
Sustaining a Clean, Green County
"We protect the Bay through our Clean Green County initiative, restoring streambanks and shorelines, planting trees, and sweeping streets. Over eight years, the County has invested $1.8 billion to modernize and maintain our aging water and sewer systems."
The FY2019 budget includes nearly $27 million to maintain and improve water and sewer infrastructure and reduce water main breaks and sewage spills.
Four years ago, the County opened a new single stream recycling facility to keep materials out of landfills. Sales of recycled materials have already brought the County over $30 million in revenue.
Enriching our quality of life
The County has funded a record $68 million in new parks, community centers and turf fields since 2010.
Next year’s budget includes $3.9 million to support arts, humanities and cultural organizations in Baltimore County and the region.
A $7 million state-of-the-art animal shelter in Baldwin, plus a spay/neuter program at new surgical sites across the county has led to all-time high dog and cat live release rates of 90%. The FY19 budget includes funding for a new animal cruelty investigation unit in the police department.
Respect and Diversity
Public Safety Diversity
The most recent Baltimore County police academy class was 40% women or minority. The class of EMTs and paramedics that graduated last month is 60% women or minority. The Fire Recruit Class now in session is 67% women or minority.
The Baltimore County Fire Department is recognized nationally as a leader in promoting gender diversity, with women now making up almost one quarter of its sworn members. The national average is just 4%.
Respect for All
"As a civil and moral society, we must acknowledge and respect everyone who lives here."
"In 2017, as a result of our Executive Order, County employees, including police, may not ask a person’s immigration status. Three years ago, before Charlottesville, we removed a symbol of hate from our community, renaming Robert E. Lee Park as Lake Roland. In 2012, I proudly signed legislation that added gender identity and sexual orientation to the county’s existing anti-discrimination laws."
The County Council is scheduled to vote on the budget on May 24, 2018.
Read the full text of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s 2018 State of the County address and fiscal year 2019 Budget Message.
Image via Shutterstock