Howard budget seeks $270.3 million.


April 16, 1991|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Evening Sun Staff

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker today proposed a $270.3 million budget for the next fiscal year that calls for a property tax rate of $2.59, a 14-cent increase over the current rate.

The budget plan does not provide money to fund a negotiated 6 percent increase in salaries for public school teachers, which has a price tag of $8.9 million and would require an additional 18 cents on the tax rate.

Ecker's proposal is $16.1 million less than the $286.4 million budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The budget projects a 13.5 percent increase in property tax income -- $135.5 million -- because of the higher rates but expects decreased revenue from income taxes, state taxes and licenses and permits.

According to government figures, the increase means taxes on a $150,000 home would rise $165 from $1,502 to $1,667, not counting any assessment increase. Taxes on a home valued at $200,000 would rise $220 from $2,002 to $2,222.

The county will start the year with less money because it doesn't have a surplus. Last year, it carried over $24.5 million from fiscal 1990.

Education spending will be reduced by about $3 million to $137.4 million. School officials had proposed a $188 million budget with $146.2 million of that coming from the county.

Money also was deleted for merit pay increases for faculty for Howard Community College. The college will receive $8.2 million, 0.7 percent more than last year. Virtually every other department and county-related agency would be cut.

The allocation for general government operations, including administration, County Council and the law department, would drop from $23.9 million in fiscal 1991 to $20.4 million. The public safety budget would decline by about $1.5 million to $24.2 million; public works would decline by $3.3 million to $23.4 million; recreation and parks would fall by $1.1 million to $4.9 million; and human services would slip $1.5 million to $14.9 million.

Ecker also proposes that the county spend nearly $1.8 million less on capital expenses, debt service and retirement and reserves.

Fees would also rise. Admission taxes for entertainment -- charged on tickets for movies, plays and concerts -- would rise from 5 percent to 7.5 percent.

Ecker also wants to impose a $5 increase in the $45-per-ton landfill fee and slight increases in charges for water and sewer, building and electrical permits, mobile home licenses, developer review and design fees and engineering fees.

Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, who earlier this year said he would support a property tax increase of up to 14 cents, voiced approval of the budget proposal.

Feaga blamed the county's fiscal crisis on the previous administration of Democrat Elizabeth Bobo and said the tax increase, fee increases and the layoff yesterday of 40 workers would help bring the county's finances under control.

"If it comes down to a 14-cent tax increase, I think I can support that because we've done everything else we can do," Feaga said.

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