Harford budget enacted

May 30, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN REPORTER

The Harford County Council unanimously enacted and the county executive quickly signed a nearly billion-dollar budget last night that includes pay raises for teachers and sheriff's deputies, funding for several key capital projects and $23 million in local money for school construction - all without increasing the property tax.

Although $100 million proposed for a new administration building in Bel Air and an expanded waste-to-energy plant in Joppa were pared to a $1 million feasibility study for the incinerator and $2.5 million master plan to determine space needs, officials are certain both projects will move forward.

The property tax remains at $1.082 per $100 of assessed value. Officials have also promised to look for alternative financing in the private sector to fund critical infrastructure projects. They plan to seek lease-to-purchase arrangements, wherever possible, and to avoid burdening taxpayers.

About 90 sheriff's deputies attended the budget meeting in support of their raises, which will average 16 percent with cost-of-living and experience step increases in what county officials called a "historic pay package."

Teachers will receive a 4 percent raise.

The county is planning $200 million in school construction over five years and is forward-funding $23 million this year to keep the projects on target, and in hopes of future reimbursement from the state.

"We're in a unique position where we have to take a vote on a $1 billion expenditure," said Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti. "It's an enormous obligation to do the right thing and spend wisely."

At the end of the meeting, Council President Billy Boniface and County Executive David R. Craig signed the budget into law. It takes effect July 1.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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