It has been a fantastic first year in our administration, and every day I feel honored that the people of our county chose to entrust their faith in my leadership.
The Five Points
During the course of the year, we have made real progress in implementing our five-point strategic plan to make Anne Arundel County the best place to live, work and start a business in Maryland.
Working with the Budget Office, we passed the largest tax cut in county history: an $11 million income tax cut that will save the average family in this county $600 during the next 10 years. Working with our Department of Public Works, we now have also proposed the largest fee cut in county history.
Working with the board of education, we are supporting its efforts to improve our education system. There are now three new high schools in our 10-year plan, and we are entering an exciting time for a county that has not built an incrementally new high school since 1982.
We are working hard to enhance public safety by funding 20 new public safety personnel, a new police academy and a central booking facility, and have declared a heroin emergency.
We have begun to reform county government by creating core groups, trimming departmental budgets, investing in technology and implementing a hiring freeze resulting in $4 million in annual savings.
And we are improving our waterways by investing $70 million to support critical projects, including 1.5 miles of stormwater pipe repairs, more than 300 outfall projects, 74 stormwater pond retrofits and nine miles of stream restorations.
Quality of Life
Beyond the five point plan, we have also made progress in improving the quality of life here in our county. At the departmental level … each of our departments has done great things this year to help make this county better.
Aging and Disabilities has designated American with Disabilities Act coordinators in each department to make life better for those with disabilities. The Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. is helping to bring businesses to our county and was pivotal in the approval of Maryland Live Conference Center financing legislation … which will help finally give us a high school graduation venue in the county.
Our Budget and Finance offices worked with the county council to allow our county to utilize 30-year bonds and enable us to increase infrastructure investment.
Our public safety departments are all working closely together with greater resources to help keep our county safe — and they are pushing back against heroin dealers like never before. The Department of Public Works’ stormwater management program is helping to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and its stepped-up road maintenance program is stabilizing our road system.
Social Services conducted the most successful Homeless Resource Day on record this year.
The Department of Health, the Mental Health Agency and The Partnership for Children, Youth & Families are working with the investments we provided this year to increase drug treatment in our county.
Our Land Use departments are all with our new chief administrative officer, Mark Hartzell, to reform the way we oversee land use and procurement. Through our land use reforms, we will make our government more customer-friendly. Through procurement reform, we will continue to find savings for the taxpayer.
Our Office of Information Technology is making critical technology upgrades that will usher us into the 21st century. The Office of Law is reviewing and helping rewrite all of our entire codes. The Office of Personnel successfully handled our union negotiations and helped form our Labor Relations Council, which is ushering in a new era of coordination and collaboration with our labor partners. And finally, our Recreation and Parks Department is helping with our boat ramps, bike trails, regional parks and public swimming initiatives.
These accomplishments are a great start. But they are just that — a start — as many of our initiatives are in their beginning stages. I will keep pushing to get them done.
The first quarter of this game is already over. By this time next year, we need to make progress on all fronts and continue to advance our five-point plan.
We need to complete another round of tax and fee reductions and to complete our comprehensive fee review. We need to commence detailed planning for a Crofton high school. We need to continue supporting public safety departments with increased staffing, and provide detailed planning for central booking and the police academy. We need to fully implement our land use and procurement reform efforts. And, we need shovels in the ground for 60–70 stormwater projects to clean up our waterways.
We will continue to make serious progress on our quality of life initiatives. We will open, at last, one trailered boat ramp and need to have several more planned. We also need to open several public beaches for swimming.
We will develop a comprehensive plan to expand our bike trails based on concrete recommendations of the Bicycle Advisory Committee and will restore construction money for the Ritchie Highway bike bridge. And finally, we will open a new health clinic to help people suffering from addiction.
The past year has seen many successes for our county, and I look forward to continuing that momentum in 2016.
Steve Schuh is the county executive of Anne Arundel County.