The Howard County Council unanimously approved County Executive Ball’s $2.4 billion fiscal year 2025 Operating Budget on May 22.

The council also voted to approve Ball’s $413 million fiscal 2025 Capital Budget, which includes investments in schools, community centers, stormwater management, multimodal transportation and other infrastructure projects.

Budget highlights include the following:

Education

The approved $1.15 billion HCPSS fiscal 2025 budget exceeds the State-mandated Maintenance of Effort funding by $52 million. It includes $9 million to fully fund the Blueprint, expanding full day pre-K for eligible four-year-olds, increasing student technology investment, and expanding National Board Certification pay for educators.

This operating increase of 6.2% brings the total County investment to $766 million and creates pathways to fully restore key educational programs.

The approved capital budget fully funds the Board of Education’s request of $75.7 million in local and state funding. It includes a record high $36.8 million to address systemic maintenance needs and $10.2 million for the Oakland Mills Middle School renovations/addition, which will expand capacity by 199 new seats.

The budget also provides $15 million in County PAYGO funds for land acquisition, planning, and design for High School #14 in Elkridge.

Community College and Libraries

The FY25 operating budget includes $44.5 million in total funding to Howard Community College, and the capital budget directs $5 million to support HCC’s Workforce Development and Trades Center.

 The approved FY25 operating budget includes $26.5 million in total funding for the Howard County Library System, $4 million to renovate and expand HCLS’s Elkridge branch, and approximately $300,000 for the planning and design of a new Southwest Branch Library.

Healthcare

The approved budget contains $5 million in one-time funds to initiate an expansion of the Johns Hopkins Howard County Medical Center’s Emergency Room, which will help build a 29-bed observation unit, address hospital wait times, and expand access to critical care.

Additionally, the budget includes a $1 million investment in the Howard County Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Unit and $1 million toward Sheppard Pratt’s Crisis Stabilization Center to further enhance the region’s behavioral health services.

It also invests nearly $3 million in the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Public Safety

The approved FY25 operating budget includes an increase of $13.1 million for the Howard County Police Department (HCPD) to support staffing needs and services. Also included is funding to hire four additional firefighters to staff two new peak load ambulances. The budget also provides funding for PFAS-free gear and vehicle replacements, including engines and ambulances. Additionally, funding has been allocated for equipment and uniforms for 38 new firefighter trainees in classes that began in spring 2024.

The capital budget includes $3 million for the North Columbia Fire Station, which will continue site and building design. An additional $4.9 million is approved for the Replacement Fire Station 7 to advance land acquisition, planning, and design efforts in FY25.

Business and Nonprofit Support

The approved budget includes more than $1 million in one-time funds to the Howard County Economic Development Authority to support business development and employment growth programs, including the Business Revitalization Initiative Through Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurs in Residence programs, Cyber Howard, and HCEDA’s business microlending program. 

Additionally, the budget includes $1 million to jumpstart Route 1 redevelopment efforts and spur redevelopment opportunities along Washington Boulevard.

Finally, the budget includes a record $13.5 million in operating support to non-profits through Community Service Partnership grants, which will support various organizations that provide critical human services, arts and cultural programs, and tourism promotion in the county.

Environmental Protection

In taking significant strides to implement Howard County Climate Forward: Climate Action and Resiliency Plan, the approved budget includes $1 million in funding to support the expansion of Howard County’s electric vehicle infrastructure and $250,000 to launch the County’s new Climate Infrastructure Rebate Pilot program.

The budget also pledges more than $5.3 million toward initiatives that protect land with high ecological and environmental value. This includes $3 million for environmental land banking, $1 million to continue the Purchased Conservation Easement Pilot Program, $1 million to reimagine the county’s forest conservation easement program, and $335,000 to achieve Howard County’s tree planting goals.

Housing

The approved spending plan for fiscal 2025 includes $16.8 million for housing affordability programs offered by the Department of Housing and Community Development, which includes $4 million for homeownership, $1.5 million to continue the County’s rental assistance programs for HCPSS families and HCC students, and $1 million in home rehabilitation and repair programs. The budget also includes $2 million to continue the county’s Right of First Purchase program, used to acquire, preserve and create affordable housing units, and $2 million in gap financing to Enterprise Community Development for the redevelopment of Fall River Terrace, a mixed-income community in Columbia.

Further, the budget reauthorizes $10 million for the Housing Opportunities Trust Fund, which will be utilized to support homeownership, rental assistance, foreclosure prevention, and creation of new affordable units.

Recreation and Parks

The county’s park system will receive $12.2 million for various projects and renovations to existing facilities. Park projects include completion of Phase I of the Centennial Park West Area sports complex, improvements to Ilchester Park and Recreation Center, and an expansion of Howard County’s popular Community Garden Plot program.

An investment of $400,000 will advance the design of a new public garden.

Community Facilities

The approved budget contains significant investment in community facilities and amenities, including:

$20.1 million toward the North Laurel Pool project;

$15 million in county, state, and federal funding for the Historic Circuit Courthouse in Ellicott City, which will be renovated and revitalized into a new Center for Arts, Culture, and History, including an Asian American and Pacific Islander Cultural Center;

$11.5 million for a new Elkridge Community Center;

$3 million for renovations to the County’s Rockland Arts building on High Ridge Road;

$2.5 million to move forward with an indoor track at Troy Park in Elkridge; and

$1 million toward a new public ice rink in Howard County.

Transportation and Infrastructure

The capital budget includes $15.1 million to address critical road resurfacing needs and maintain an aging road network, as well as $14.7 million in County funding for sidewalks, bike lanes, pathways, and other Complete Streets infrastructure. 

The budget includes $1.1 million for new bus purchases and bus replacements for the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland (RTA) and the future transit expansion to Montgomery County’s FLASH bus rapid transit service. Moreover, Howard County will direct $120,000 to expand the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland’s (RTA) bus services between The Mall in Columbia and HCPSS’s Central Office, Homewood and Applications and Research Laboratory campus located on MD 108.

Flood Mitigation

This year’s budget of $44.9 million will support the construction of the North Tunnel, the final design of the Maryland Avenue Culverts, and design of the New Cut Branch (NC-3) and the Tiber Branch (T-1) flood mitigation ponds.

Stormwater and flood mitigation goes beyond Ellicott City and extends county-wide. Out of the 171 ponds in Howard County, 74 are rated in critical condition. An investment of approximately $13 million per year will address seven to eight ponds annually.