On May 1, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman delivered his proposed budget for fiscal 2021 to the County Council. The $1.7 billion budget is built on a forthright accounting of revenue projections, which declined $63 million since March 13.
Despite the decline, the county budget maintains the county’s current low income tax rate, slightly lowers the property tax rate, keeps school construction and other major projects on track, continues progress on several major initiatives and fully funds state requirements for public education funding.
In his budget address (available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLPApCQsHRM&feature=youtu.be) to the County Council, Pittman indicated that the investments made in last year’s budget put the county in a much better position to adapt to the revenue declines while maintaining core services. Regardless, many of the new positions, programs or initiatives that were planned for this year could not be funded in the proposed budget due to the revenue shortfall.
“This isn’t the budget we hoped for, but it’s the budget the county needs in this uncertain time,” said Pittman. “The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to defer progress that was planned for this year, but the decisions we made last year will ensure that our departments are able to provide higher quality services to our residents than ever before. I want to thank our budget team and my staff for their outstanding work, and the residents who weighed in during this process for their ideas and suggestions. I look forward to working with our County Council to make it even better.”
To close the structural deficit created by the COVID-19 crisis, County Executive Pittman instituted a hiring freeze for non-public safety positions, and directed budget analysts to cut costs wherever possible. The budget does not include furloughs or layoffs of county employees.
On March 13, county budget analysts projected a revenue increase of $101 million compared with fiscal year 2020. The COVID-19 crisis dramatically altered those projections, and by April 6, analysts revised estimates down by $63 million, to $38 million. To close the budget gap, the county is utilizing fund balance and other “one-time” funding sources. The proposed budget does not tap into the Revenue Reserve Fund, also known as the “rainy day fund,” which has a current balance of $79.9 million.
The county’s capital budget utilizes funding from the Fund for Permanent Public Improvements (PPI), which was created last year. PPI funding supports three school construction projects, two new fire stations, a police forensics lab, a new transportation center, and corridor improvements for Route 2 and Route 3.
The FY21 budget also includes these key components:
- Fully funds state requirements for Board of Education, resulting in $35.5 million over last year
- 57 positions to open Crofton High School
- 84 new teachers for enrollment growth
- 12 new behavioral health positions
- 76 new special education positions
- Funds one salary step increase for educators
- Invests in critical human health services programs
- Creates the Office of Health Equity and Racial Justice within Health Department
- Funds crisis response teams and the Wellmobile, to replace lost funding from the state
- Includes $265,000 as the first installment in a three-year plan to bring school health staff pay to the level of neighboring jurisdictions
- A new position to manage the Opioid Intervention Team and Gun Violence Intervention Team
- Maintains public safety readiness
- Fully funds negotiated agreements with police and fire unions
- Continues hiring to fill vacancies (exempt from hiring freeze)
- Creates a new position to coordinate the Mobile Integrated Community Health (MICH) program.
Department directors and administration staff will present details of the budget in presentations to the County Council over the next two weeks. The county charter provides 45 days for the Council to deliberate on the budget, and a final vote is scheduled for Friday, June 12.
Full details of the budget, along with text and video of County Executive Pittman’s budget address, may be found at www.aacounty.org/departments/budget-office/proposed-budget/index.html.