The following is from the latest monthly column written and submitted to Patch by Anne Arundel County Councilman Dick Ladd (R-5th District), a resident of the Broadneck peninsula.
The County budget is done and balanced. Property taxes went up within the amount allowed by the revenue cap limitation that covers inflation. The initial tax revenue from “Maryland Live” was recognized along with small increases in income and sales tax revenue.
Spending was increased to provide for the Board of Education’s “maintenance of effort” and the initial installment of the County’s share of teacher pensions. Furloughs for County employees were eliminated and funding was provided for 14 full-time-equivalent DPW employees to improve infrastructure maintenance. Overall, County employment levels were held to 2007-2008 levels.
In the 2013 capital budget, $3.7M was provided to complete all necessary design and bid package preparation for construction of the new Severna Park High School. This was a reduction of $2M which was for initial site preparation work in June 2013 if the first year of construction funding was provided in the 2014 capital budget.
The Council, this year, agreed to support initial construction in the FY 2015 budget rather than FY 2016, which was budgeted in last year’s Board of Education Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) or in the FY 2014 budget proposed by the County Executive’s CIP. This approach anticipates initial site preparation in June/July 2014 (upon passage of the 2015 budget), initial construction in January 2015 and occupancy of the new school in January 2017 with concurrent initiation of removal of the old building and re-establishment of the athletic fields.
The Council also approved funding for the construction of new kindergarten rooms for Severna Park Elementary and Oak Hill starting this year. Funding for Severna Park also included some driveway and parking improvements.
Funding for some modifications to Broadneck High School, which include the renovation of science labs and open space conversion, was approved in this year’s budget.
Perhaps the most satisfying outcome of the budget is the addition of 100 classroom teachers, the first increase in many years, plus additional support staff. This will provide qualitative improvements (smaller classes) countywide and should be most visible at the elementary school level. While the final allocation of these additional teachers has not been made, I believe most of the more pressing concerns for District 5 will be recognized although not solved to everyone’s satisfaction.
The Council also approved funding for the new Eastern District Police Station which provides police coverage for Severna Park and the Broadneck peninsula. The new $8M facility will be located more centrally in the Eastern District on Pasadena Road, just west of the Pasadena Elementary School. Dredging of the Severn River “headwaters” was also approved, which is a very important project.
In the last Voice article, I listed potential revisions to the County Charter recommended by the Charter Review Commission. During the July Council sessions, public comments and concerns will be heard on specific proposed charter changes and the wording of the ballot questions which must be approved by early August. The proposed resolutions will be posted on the Council’s website.
There will also be two Charter issues pertaining to retiree health care benefits. The first will establish an interim reserve fund which will be succeeded by a permanent trust fund that will be established by the second Charter amendment.
This enabling provision was developed by a Committee I pushed for and served on with Councilman Jamie Benoit, Councilman Jerry Walker, members of the County Executive’s staff and union/employee representatives. The Committee recommended a series of steps (many of which will occur via union contract negotiations) to enable the County to reduced and otherwise address the associated $1.2B unfunded liability largely within current budget levels.
Finally, as we head into the 2012 election, I would like to take note of and recommend a book that pulls together a lot of factors I see running through all local, state and national issues: “That Used To Be Us”—How America fell behind in the world it invented and how we can come back—by Thomas Friedman (wrote the “The World is Flat”) and Michael Mandelbaum. It pertains to Severna Park, District 5 and all of us—serious stuff.
Congratulations and best wishes to all 2012 graduates as they continue their education or overture in to their chosen field of endeavor.
Councilman Dick Ladd can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.