The new year is an opportune time to reassess the past year and plan new initiatives that will move Anne Arundel County forward. As we look in the rear view mirror, I am proud of our continuing efforts to find efficiencies while making targeted investments that create a dynamic economic climate that is attractive to businesses.

This year’s budget demonstrates our commitment to reducing the burden of taxes and fees on our residents and businesses. In addition to enacting more than $64 million in tax and fee relief over the last two years, we eliminated completely three unnecessary taxes that hurt working families: the movie tax, the athletic facility tax and the mobile home tax.

Our economy cannot be strong without an educated and highly skilled workforce to support it. Since the start of our administration, we have been strong partners with the school system to create learning communities that foster academic success. This effort includes improving current schools where possible and developing smaller, neighborhood high schools where children are known and nurtured.

Within our six-year capital plan, and included in our fiscal 2018 budget, we have allocated for the revitalization of six elementary schools and the construction of three new schools, including the development of a new Crofton High School. The project will construct a facility of more than 275,000 square feet to serve approximately 1,700 students when completed by the fall of 2020. It is the first incrementally new high school constructed in the county since 1982 when Broadneck High School was completed.

For companies doing business with the county, we continue to see improved service times from efficiencies we have put in place in our agencies. During the past two calendar years, the time to process permits has been reduced significantly. Three years ago, the percentage of permits issued, same day, to a commercial tenant, was 9%. In 2016, that number improved to 22%.

Our administration has also made targeted investments that speak to our reputation as an innovative county with the amenities and skilled workforce to support high-value industry.

One exciting initiative is our investment in a fiber optic network. The county, which owns about 500 miles of fiber, is part of a nine-jurisdiction consortium connected to a 216-strand fiber network called the Inter-County Broadband Network (ICBN). This system connects government buildings and other anchors across central Maryland.

In October, we highlighted our $3.4 million investment to allow every school in Anne Arundel County access to high-speed Internet. Schools will be provided with 10-gigabit connections that are critical to transferring large data, accommodating multiple devices and accessing the Internet to all schools. Each school would have broadband capacity 400 times the average home cable modem.

We continue to work on setting up this valuable infrastructure and partnering with neighboring jurisdictions to expand the fiber connection down to Herndon, Va. It is my hope that our goal to be able to sell high-speed fiber network connections directly to businesses will be realized in the near future.

Three years ago, our administration committed to making Anne Arundel County an economically vibrant community and the shining example of good, effective government for the rest of the state. While we have achieved a number of accomplishments that put us nearer to our goal, there is more work to be done. We look forward to continuing our work with you in making our county the best place to live, work and start a business in Maryland.