By Dick Ladd, County Council, R-District 5
Budget season will soon be here. The County budget is again in a deficit situation ranging between $30 million and as much as $70 million. The size depends on the assumptions one makes: more or less furlough days than last year; providing or not providing the full increase requested by the Board of Education; the amount of cash balances there are in various places or how much money the state sends down net of new bills to pay.
The budget office anticipates a small increase in revenue over last year and a need for a virtual freeze on all county expenses. Unfortunately, projected recurring income will not be enough to pay for a number of must-pay increases such as the Board of Education’s “Maintenance of Effort,” increased debt service costs (interest), insurance and pension costs, along with any additional costs passed down by the State. These additional recurring costs will have to be funded again this year with “one-time sources” of funding from across the county.
The tightness of the fiscal situation and of the municipal bond markets prompted the County Executive to ask the Council to approve a resolution of support for his intent to seek a waiver from the requirement to provide “Maintenance of Effort” (MOE) funding to the Board of Education.
My colleagues and I have received a very LARGE number of emails expressing strong concern and support for MOE funding. That helped galvanize the new Council’s support for continuing our predecessors’ approach of working closely and cooperatively with the Board of Education to fund their program to the fullest extent possible within available funds. That process will start in earnest when the County Executive submits his budget in mid-April.
I am very pleased to note the County Executive’s appointment of Maureen Carr York and Bill Nevel to the Transportation Functional Master Plan Citizen Advisory Committee. This Committee will look at long term transportation options on the county’s major arterial roadways. Of great importance is the addition of Benfield Road to the study.
Planning is underway to extend water and sewer lines across East Joyce Lane to provide service to an approved development next to the Arnold Safeway on Ritchie Highway. A portion of that extension will go along the edge of the Arnold Elementary School property and will connect the school to the sewer system. We are hopeful that the construction will also create a dryer, more improved play area behind the school.
Recently, we attended the Friends of Kinder Farm Park Volunteer and 4-H Livestock Club recognition and awards dinner. It was another stellar example of “community.” If you have not visited the Farm Park side of Kinder Park, you should. The synergy between the Rec. and Parks staff and the “Friends” is very obvious in the displays in the Harvest Hall Visitors’ Center and in the various surrounding activity areas. One that caught my attention was the “organic” community gardening area where a limited number of residents can lease space to raise their own vegetables and fruit. Not surprisingly, there is a waiting list for these gardening spots.
I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions, so call me at 410-222-1401 or e-mail me at email@example.com. I shall look forward to hearing from you.