Green budget for Howard Co.

Plan calls for fleet of hybrid vehicles

April 17, 2007|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,sun reporter

Howard County would buy 25 hybrid vehicles for its government fleet and up to five hybrid buses for the local bus system if the County Council adopts a $1.3 billion budget presented last night by County Executive Ken Ulman.

Reflecting an environmental theme that Ulman emphasized in last year's election, the budget also proposes a pilot program to add solar power to public buildings.

Ulman's first operating budget - a 10.7 percent increase from this fiscal year's spending plan - contains funds for more police officers and firefighters and gives the school board all but $2.3 million of the $429.5 million it had requested.

Homeowners' tax bills would increase, too, although the general property and income tax rates would remain static.

Rising property assessments, a 9 percent water and sewer tax increase, and a proposed fire tax boost would drive up the bills. The owner of a $450,000 home would pay $228 more in property taxes, plus $135 more for western county residents if a separate fire property tax rises. Eastern county residents of a median-priced home would pay $45 more under the two-tiered fire tax, which would even the rate countywide.

Ulman is proposing to hire 32 new police officers and seven civilian police workers - four times the number proposed last year - plus 39 firefighters and four fire department civilians.

The budget also puts $14 million aside to begin saving for future retiree health benefits, a $477 million liability under a change in federally mandated national accounting standards.

The council has until June 1 to study the budget and make cuts. The council can also restore money that Ulman cut from the schools but must come up with funding revenue.

larry.carson@baltsun.com

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