Howard County Executive Calvin Ball presented to the County Council a $304.6 million Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for fiscal 2022, including $72.5 million from General Obligation (GO) bonds. The CIP budget book can be viewed at www.howardcountymd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=fi6iUBrxq_A%3d&portalid=0×tamp=1617303328218.
The county has experienced a slowdown in the rate of revenue growth and a steady increase in its debt burden in recent years. It also faces ongoing uncertainty from the economic impact of the pandemic in the foreseeable future. The proposed authorization of $72.5 million in GO bonds is the lowest amount in the last 19 years, $25 million below the average of the past decade. Of this total, $52.3 million or 72 percent is going to support educational institutions. The Spending Affordability Advisory Committee (SAAC) recommended reducing newly authorized GO Bonds to a maximum of $50 million. The proposed CIP budget reflects a historically low level of GO bonds in FY 2022, reducing the average projected GO in the next six years to around $70 million to align more closely with affordability.
Education remains the top budget priority. The fiscal 2022 proposed capital budget for the Howard County Public School System totals $79.7 million including county funding of $52 million and verified State aid of $27.7 million to date. While advocacy efforts to secure additional State aid are ongoing, the proposed budget fully funds the requested County share for the three top priorities of the Board of Education (new High School #13, Talbott Springs Elementary replacement, and Hammond High School renovation/addition).
The proposed budget also includes funding for the expanded East Columbia 50+ Center, a long-awaited project that can now be completed by fiscal 2023. Additionally, the capital budget advances the Harriet Tubman Remediation and Restoration project, including construction of the new Harriet Tubman Cultural Center.
Other critical initiatives supported include the Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan, with significant flood mitigation efforts in Ellicott City and Valley Mede, including construction of the Maryland Avenue Culvert Expansion, and final design and construction of the Extended North Tunnel in FY 2022. This year’s proposed budget of $89.8 million includes a significant federal loan in addition to funding from State and local sources. The $75 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) federal loan will allow the County to move expeditiously on construction of the Maryland Avenue Culvert Expansion, and the final design and construction of the Extended North Tunnel in fiscal 2022 at a lower annual interest payment than traditional GO financing.
Additionally, flood mitigation facilities on the New Cut Branch (NC-3) and Hudson Branch (H-4) will advance into the design phase, with the H-4 project taking 34 units out of the development pipeline while providing 11 acres for upstream flood mitigation. The proposed budget includes funds for sidewalk and streetscape improvements and building renovations on Lower Main Street.
The capital budget also invests in existing infrastructure, increasing road resurfacing spending to address a growing backlog of aging infrastructure across the County and avoid more costly repairs/reconstruction in the future. The proposed budget includes $10 million PAYGO funding for road resurfacing needs, the highest investment since FY 2015 in response to an increasing backlog that reached $61.4 million in 2020 due to an aging infrastructure across the County. Ball’s proposed budget also addresses various other needs in transportation, infrastructure, watershed, recreation and parks, and public safety projects.
Highlights of the fiscal 2022 CIP budget include:
- $27.7 million in county funding for High School #13.
- $15.1 million in county funding toward the Hammond High School renovation and addition to increase capacity.
- $9.1 million in county funding for systemic renovations and roofing projects.
- $3.2 million for other school capital needs, such as technology and relocatable classrooms.
- $15.8 million, in local match, for Howard Community College new mathematics and athletics complex.
- $500,000 for the planning of the new library branch in Downtown Columbia.
- The prior appropriation for Talbott Springs Elementary replacement satisfied all local funding needs for this project.
- $5.5 million in county funding and $1 million in State funding for design and construction of East Columbia 50+ Center.
- $1.3 million in county funding and $750,000 in State aid for construction of the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center.
Ellicott City Safe and Sound
- $6 million in county funding, combined with $8.9 million State grants and $75 million WIFIA loan to support the Maryland Avenue Culvert Expansion, the extended North Tunnel, and flood mitigation facilities on the New Cut Branch and Hudson Branch.
Transportation and Infrastructure
- $10 million in PAYGO funds for road resurfacing
- $3.8 million in county systemic facilities improvements
- $5 million in county and grant funding for pedestrian and bicycle improvements
- $1.7 million towards the construction of a new North Columbia Fire Station.
- $1.1 million for public safety enhancements, including new Computer-Aided Dispatch System.
- $1.6 million to facilitate safety improvements to the existing firing range.
- $2 million to renovate the Detention Center, including upgrades to both the sprinkler and fire alarm systems.
- Business and Economic Development
- Prior County appropriation, leveraged with State funding and private investment, will allow for the final phase of renovation and equipment for the Maryland Innovation Center.
- Recreation and Parks
- $8.3 million, primarily in designated resources, for renovations to existing facility infrastructure and park improvement projects.
- $1.3 million in State Program Open Space funding to support the completion of Field #1 improvements at Troy Park and the replacement of aged park infrastructure at multiple sites.
The Howard County Council will hold a virtual public hearing on the CIP budget Tuesday, April 20 at 4 p.m.