$556 million Harford budget plan

Most of spending rise in today's proposal would go for education, public safety needs

March 31, 2006|By JUSTIN FENTON | JUSTIN FENTON,SUN REPORTER

Harford County Executive David R. Craig is proposing a $556 million budget today for the next fiscal year that he said maintains the county's conservative approach and focuses on the needs of current residents while planning for the thousands of new military jobs forecast for the area.

"The two main concerns were public safety and education, and that's where we put the bulk of the new money," Craig said yesterday of his first county budget. "We hit our targets."

The budget, which would go into effect July 1, must be approved by the County Council.

Coming off its first fully funded budget last year, the school system's slice of the general fund fell $10 million short of what officials had requested. The school board will receive $189 million from the county, an 8 percent increase over this fiscal year.

Craig said the new money would fulfill the county's commitment to another 7 percent pay raise for teachers and provide funding for intervention programs to help schools meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

He also proposed $51.5 million for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, some of which would be used for 40 new positions, including 20 deputies, 11 correctional officers and a sex offender verification investigator.

The budget, which contains no new taxes or tax cuts, is fueled in part by $30 million in new revenue. County officials expect $11.8 million will be generated by recordation taxes, almost 50 percent more than this fiscal year, while revenue from property taxes rose 11 percent.

Adding little to the pot was the recently adopted county impact fee, said Lorraine Costello, the administration director. The one-time fee, imposed on new single-family homes to help pay for school construction, was projected to generate $11 million this fiscal year but may not surpass $3 million, Costello said. Craig's budget expects $2 million to be collected in impact fees next year.

"I hope [the impact fee] is abolished and we see an increase in the recordation tax," Craig said. "It's a fairer and more equitable way to spread costs."

In addition to the operating budget, Craig is proposing a $183.5 million budget for building and construction. Overall spending, including the operating and capital budgets, would rise 9 percent to $739.7 million.

While the costs associated with new government and military jobs expected at Aberdeen Proving Ground over the next decade remain murky, Craig said the budget includes money for related expenses. Among them: a new economic development position that would work with military contractors and a $2.2 million boost to the procurement office's new property management division.

Justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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