Ulman slightly increases Howard spending

No employee raises or increase in tax rate

April 21, 2010|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

Howard County would squeeze through another lean revenue year with a proposed budget from County Executive Ken Ulman that does not raise tax rates, raises spending slightly and furloughs most employees for four days for the second year in a row.

The general fund budget for fiscal 2011, which is the part paid for with county residents' taxes, would total $824.3 million, up from $820.2 million this fiscal year. That increase includes about $7 million more for schools mandated under Maryland's maintenance-of-effort law, which requires that education spending per student not decrease from the previous year.

But $3.9 million of that increase would come from the school system's current budget, unspent funds voluntarily returned by the county school board. Excluding increased funding for education and this year's elections, county spending would decline by 3.2 percent, or $8.75 million, and 200 open jobs would be left vacant.

Although tax rates would not increase, most long-term homeowners would still pay more property taxes since they've been paying on only a fraction of their home's true worth because of the county's 5 percent annual assessment cap.

Ulman would avoid tapping the county's emergency fund, but would cut most employees' pay by four days, closing county government between Christmas and New Year's for the second straight year. County workers would get no cost of living pay raise. Highly paid appointees would lose five days' pay, and Ulman said he would voluntarily give up five days' pay and would ask the council members to do the same.

Ulman, who is completing his first term as executive, also proposes closing a $20 million gap in current budget revenues with a series of savings, unspent funds for road resurfacing and surpluses, and $2.4 million removed from a defunct capital project. Ulman also plans to raise Howard Transit bus fares from $1.50 to $2 while cutting service.

"The decision to furlough county employees was the most difficult one we had to make last year, and it was the most difficult decision again this year, but these furloughs help eliminate the need for layoffs," Ulman said in a statement.

larry.carson@baltsun.com

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