CA Board of Directors Passes Budget for Fiscal ’17, ’18
Columbia Association’s (CA) board of directors voted on Feb. 25 to pass the operating and capital budgets for fiscal 2017 and the conditional budgets for fiscal 2018.
CA’s operating budget for fiscal year 2017 anticipates $69.8 million in revenue, with budgeted expenses of $66 million. The conditional budget for fiscal year 2018 anticipates $72 million in revenue, with budgeted expenses of $68.2 million. CA’s board of directors is scheduled to review the conditional budget for fiscal 2018 later in 2016 before voting on it again in early 2017. CA’s fiscal year runs from May 1 through April 30.
The approved capital budgets, which are separate from the operating budgets, call for $21 million in fiscal year 2017 and $17 million in fiscal year 2018. These are CA’s largest-ever capital budgets, reflecting a focus on ensuring that CA’s facilities and amenities are able to serve the community for many years to come. This includes funding for two significant projects — the construction of a new indoor tennis facility in Long Reach and a set of improvements for Columbia Swim Center — as well as other improvements.
The budget for fiscal 2017 increased the annual charge cap from 2.5% to 3.5% to help pay for planned capital improvements to the amenities and facilities utilized by Columbia’s residents and guests. The annual charge rate of 68 cents per $100 of assessed value will stay the same. This cap increase would bring in an estimated $260,000 in additional annual charge revenue. CA believes that the average residential annual charge will increase by approximately $6.67 as a result of the cap increase. The actual increase will vary based on the factors that affect assessment values, which are provided to CA by the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation.
For more information on the cap increase, go to ColumbiaAssociation.org/budget and click on “FAQ on Increase to Annual Charge Cap.”
HCEA, HCPSS Reach Two-Year Tentative Agreement
The Howard County Education Association (HCEA) has reached a tentative agreement with the Howard County Board of Education for the next two school years (2016–17 and 2017–18). Tentative agreements are ratified by HCEA and the board of education.
The tentative agreement is the first multi-year compensation agreement since 2008. It improves lifetime earnings significantly in return for several flexible workdays spent on instructional improvements and professional development.
“Our agreement is a community ‘win,’ because we can attract and retain the very best educators to serve the students and families of Howard County,” said elementary school teacher Colleen Morris, co-chair of the HCEA teachers’ bargaining team. “Providing teachers the time they need to design instruction and improve the learning environment will be critical for student success.”
“Educators tried to minimize the effect of the recession on kids, but our schools have become increasingly stressful, with more testing, fewer staff and bigger classes,” said Bernadette Bechta, high school business technology teacher and co-chair of the HCEA teachers’ bargaining team. “The professional recognition in this agreement is intended to honor the hard work of our teachers.”
Student enrollment is projected to increase by more than 1,000 students again in the 2016–17 school year. Educator pay in Howard has lost ground relative to inflation and is behind Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. (See http://cnsmaryland.org/2014/04/01/average-maryland-teacher-sees-drop-insalary.)
2016 Children’s Discovery Fair: Books Come Alive!
Join the Howard County Library System for a celebration for young children ages 3–5 years old and their families on Saturday, April 9, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This free event, to be held at the East Columbia Branch, 6600 Cradlerock Way, Columbia, will include hands-on activities relating to classic children’s literature, including interactive games, songs, crafts and stories. The theme for 2016 is “Books Come Alive!” It is requested that attendees bring a non-perishable donation for the Howard County Food Bank.
This event is part of the “LaunchInto Learning” school readiness initiative and is sponsored by the Howard County Early Childhood Advisory Council and Howard County Library System. For more information, call 410-313-1940 or 410-313-7750 or email [email protected].
Kittleman Unveils Accelerated Improvement Project for Blandair
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has outlined his funding priorities for improvements in Recreation & Parks facilities in the Capital Improvement Budget for fiscal 2017, highlighting accelerated funding for the third phase of development for Blandair Park in Columbia.
Improving recreational opportunities for Howard County residents is among his top goals. “Our parks, playgrounds, open spaces and recreational programs are often cited as among the top reasons people chose to live in Howard County,” Kittleman said. “Even in times when we must budget prudently and carefully, we will continue to upgrade and expand our recreational opportunities to encourage residents to live healthy and fulfilling lives.”
The announcement was made in the 298-acre Blandair Regional Park, located off Maryland Route 175 in Columbia. The $3.25 million project, Phase 3 of a multi-year investment, will feature a “Play-for-All” playground, designed for use by children of all abilities, and include an area for backyard games such as bocce, croquet and horseshoes, as well as a maintenance facility serving the entire park, a dog park, picnic shelter and restrooms.
The first phase of Blandair Regional Park, opened in 2012, contains a sports facility with three synthetic-turf, multi-purpose playing fields; a playground; and a restroom and pavilion. The second phase, now under construction, includes two synthetic-turf ball fields, five tennis courts and another playground and restroom. Phase 2 is expected to be complete by spring of 2017.
Evergreen Health Announces Record Financial Results
Evergreen Health announced that it far surpassed its membership goals for the recently concluded open enrollment period, and that the company ended 2015 with record revenue and a clear path to profitability for all of 2016.
“These numbers are a testament to the hard work and dedication of our employees and our broker partners, and to the fact that more and more Maryland residents understand the unique value of being covered by Evergreen Health. I couldn’t be more proud of the organization that we have built and am extremely optimistic about our future,” said Dr. Peter Beilenson, CEO of Evergreen Health.
Following are some of Evergreen Health’s most noteworthy accomplishments:
- 37,500 enrolled members as of March 1, 2016, compared to 11,700 at the end of 2014
- A 600% increase in member months in 2015 compared to 2014
- $83 million in premiums in 2015, compared to $12 million in 2014
- $31 million in cash and investments
- More than $17 million of surplus
- A risk-based capital ratio — a measure of how much money has been set aside for the future — of 573%, approximately three times the amount required by the Maryland Insurance Administration
- A $10.8 million net loss in 2015, with $7.3 million directly attributable to risk adjustment charges, compared to a $16.3 million loss in 2014
“For a company beginning its third year of operations, we’re in great shape. We have clearly turned the corner financially and have a detailed plan in place that should result in our first profitable year this year,” said Len Sherman, COO and financial officer of Evergreen Health.
Indoor Environmental Quality Committee Presents Recommendations
The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) is revising its approach to ensuring environmental quality in its school buildings and facilities following the recommendations of the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Advisory Committee, which were presented during the Feb. 25 meeting of the board of education.
“I am pleased that the committee has developed a concrete plan of action, based on thorough research and the finest available environmental expertise as well as input from our staff, students and parents,” said Superintendent Renee Foose. “Thanks to their excellent work, HCPSS is poised to move forward in assuring our stakeholders that every Howard County public school provides a healthy and positive learning environment.”
The committee’s recommendations consist of a two-fold plan of action and communication, which the school system has already begun to implement in preparation for full rollout by July 1. The committee also recommended the appointment of a new IEQ coordinator at the system level and a designated IEQ team leader at each school.
The action plan includes system-wide scheduled and standardized walk-through reviews of designated areas of each HCPSS facility, to be conducted at least twice each year by a team including staff, parents, students and community members.
Communication protocols were defined to inform the Howard County community on all environmental quality concerns, updates and resolutions. Plans include a designated IEQ section on the HCPSS website to promptly inform the community of any IEQ concerns and issues, with an easily-accessible form provided for use in reporting concerns and questions. All documented concerns will be resolved within a specified time, and documentation about all concerns, investigations and resolutions will be accessible on the website of each applicable school.
Howard County Commission for Women Announces Essay Contest Winners
The Howard County Commission for Women recently announced the winners of the 2016 Middle and High School Student Essay Contest. The first place winners are Benjamin Spragg, a sixth-grade student at Clarksville Middle School, for his essay, “Sandra Day O’Connor and the Role She Played”; and Julie Wang, a sophomore at Centennial High School, for her entry, “Samantha Power: The Midnight Hero.”
The Women’s Hall of Fame honors Howard County women who have made significant contributions to Howard County, the state of Maryland or the nation through their profession and/or community service and who are models of achievement. The 2016 inductees are Martha Shirlene Bauman; Mae Beale; Frances Louise Brown; Ruth Davis Brown; and Mamie Johns Perkins.
The Commission for Women was created in 1980 to promote the social, economic and political equality of women. The Hall of Fame was created to leave a historical legacy of the accomplishments of Howard County women for future generations.
Money Matter Fair Expands
The Money Matters Fair presented by MakingChange has expanded its offerings to include the entire family. The free event is set for Sunday, April 24, from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia, with activities to include workshops and one-on-one sessions with professionals and exhibitors. There will be entertainment and food for sale by the Wilde Lake High School PTSA.
For parents and other adults, five major sessions are scheduled:
- Credit $marts: Get and review your free credit report
- Planning Makes Cent$: Meet one-on-one with a financial planner
- Who Has Their Eye on Your Information: Protect yourself from identify theft
- Take Control of Your $: Learn home budgeting tips
- Going Long: Setting financial goals that work for you
For youth and teens, the Y-Fi Personal Financial Challenge includes an opportunity to put their money skills to the test. The popular interactive reality simulation reveals how career, education and spending choices impact success. A workshop on funding college is open to parents, as well as teens.
ClearShark Presenting Sponsor of Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon With UCF
The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF) has announced an official partnership with information technology provider ClearShark, which includes the presenting sponsorship of the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon, to take place on Aug. 7.
In addition to presenting sponsor of the August event, ClearShark also will be a featured sponsor of the Columbia Triathlon on May 15; both triathlons are organized by and benefit UCF. Committed to supporting the local community and particularly organizations addressing cancer, ClearShark initially reached out to the Ulman Cancer Fund in the fall of 2015 and the relationship developed into a formal partnership.
“The Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon is an inspiring event that empowers women athletes and promotes a healthy lifestyle, something we’re thrilled to be a part of,” said Brittany Wilson, marketing manager for ClearShark. “We’re looking forward to having employees participate in the race in addition to motivating athletes throughout the day.”
2016 marks the 11th year of the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon, a sprint distance race, held in Columbia’s Centennial Park. The event is about empowering women toward a healthy lifestyle and celebrating each woman’s unique journey toward the finish line. Registration for the 2016 Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon is open at www.ulmanfund.org/ucfraces through July 22. All proceeds from the race benefit UCF.
HCPSS to Hold Vision 2018 Listen and Learn Sessions April 11
The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) will hold a series of Vision 2018 Listen and Learn Sessions with stakeholder groups to gain feedback on the school system’s strategic plan, Vision 2018: Fulfilling the Promise of Preparation.
Members of the public are invited to participate in a community session on Monday, April 11, 6:30–8 p.m., Oakland Mills High School, 9410 Kilimanjaro Road, Columbia. Additional sessions are planned for students, teachers, staff and school leadership throughout the next month. As the school system prepares to review Vision 2018, feedback from a wide range of demographically and geographically diverse stakeholders will be used to update and refine priorities for the next two school years and beyond.
Eastern Europe, Russia Culture Fest Set for April 10 at Miller Branch Library
Celebrate many of the cultures of Eastern Europe and Russia at an afternoon full of entertaining demonstrations, music, dance, displays and food. The Eastern Europe and Russia Culture Fest is a free, family-friendly event to be held on Sunday, April 10, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Miller Branch Library, 9421 Frederick Road, Ellicott City. The event is being hosted by Columbia Association (CA) and the Howard County Library System.
Local residents from Russia and all of the countries that make up Eastern Europe are invited to attend and show the Howard County community what makes their country and culture unique. Russian and Eastern European dress is encouraged. For more information, contact Laura Smit, program manager for CA’s International Exchange and Multicultural Programs, by calling 410-715-3162 or sending an email to [email protected].
Vino Scholastico to ‘Raise a Glass, Raise a Scholarship’ for Students
Raise a glass and help raise funds for Howard Community College (HCC) student scholarships at the 10th annual Vino Scholastico on Friday, April 29. This special fundraising event will take place in HCC’s Health Sciences Building, located on-campus at 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia.
Vino Scholastico begins with a special presentation and select tastings by the Italian vineyard Marramiero. Attendees will learn from experts direct from the vineyard, who will share the secrets and passion behind the wines. The special presentation runs will take place 6:30–7:30 p.m.
The presentation is followed by the main tasting festival, from 7:30 to 10 p.m., where participants can sample wines, beers, and spirits from more than 20 different wineries, breweries and distilleries while enjoying a selection of gourmet hors d’oeuvres created by several local restaurants and desserts made by students in HCC’s culinary program. This fundraiser brings the community together to support and celebrate education.
Vino Scholastico tickets are $125 and include the exclusive vineyard presentation and main tasting. Tickets for the main tasting are $75. For tickets and additional information, visit www.howardcc.edu/vino or call 410-518-1970.
Buy, Eat Local on April 16 at Howard County’s GreenFest
Howard County Government will host its ninth annual GreenFest on Saturday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Howard Community College’s (HCC) Burrill Galleria, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. This free event offers something for all ages, featuring exhibits, demonstrations, workshops, outdoor activities and practical tips for easy ways to “green” your home, workplace and lifestyle.
GreenFest 2016 will host approximately 80 vendors, including a native plants and farmers market. There will be informational workshops on topics such as preserving food, environmentally conscious gardening, coexisting with wildlife, keeping chickens in your backyard, composting, rain barrels and more. Attendees also can learn about local wildlife, with live reptiles on hand, or learn about their watershed on a guided walk around HCC’s nature trail or visiting a rain garden demonstration project.
For more information and the schedule, visit www.hcgreenfest.org or contact Alan Wilcom, GreenFest co-chair, at 410-313-6444 or email [email protected].
Howard County to Host 25th Annual Business Appreciation Week
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) will host Howard County’s 25th annual Business Appreciation Week with visits to county businesses from April 25–29.
More than 100 business visits will occur throughout the week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, and each visit will last approximately one hour. Teams of ambassadors composed of leaders of different Howard County departments will meet with business owners and their employees to gain perspective on how to build a stronger business climate in the county.
“I want to encourage our Howard County businesses to participate in the upcoming Business Appreciation Week. The feedback we get during our visits helps direct our policy and legislative initiatives. Economic development is vital to sustaining our quality of life, and we must constantly strive to improve,” said Kittleman. “We need to be even more innovative in how we help businesses expand, relocate here and become more successful. And some of the best ideas we get come directly from our business owners.”
Businesses that are interested in participating should schedule an appointment as soon as possible, as spaces fill quickly. To schedule an appointment with an ambassador, visit www.hceda.org/baw.
HCPSS to Use New Video Streaming Service to Enhance Value, Accessibility
The Howard County Public School System is now using Swagit to deliver online, anytime access to board meetings. Swagit is a video streaming service that specializes in the delivery of live and on-demand content of government and board of education meetings.
HCPSS is migrating from its current service provider to Swagit to ensure greater value at significantly lower cost. HCPSS will save more than $10,000 per year on monthly subscription service fees, while receiving more value.
Swagit provides embedded closed captioning that will be available during live and on-demand broadcasts of board meetings. Embedded captions can be turned on or off by the viewer in the video player window.
Swagit streams in high definition for superior video quality. Board meetings will be viewable on portable media devices such as tablets and smartphones in addition to computer desktops or laptops; no additional software or third-party plugins will be needed. Citizens interested in viewing board meetings can access live and archived video at www.hcpss.org/board.
OmniTI Provides Funding for HowGirlsCode
Fulton-based OmniTI is providing funding for 20 local students enrolled in a Foundations of Computer Science class with HowGirlsCode. The students, girls in grades three, four and five, attend Deep Run Elementary School, in Laurel. Led by technology teacher Lisa Wenzel, this afterschool class will run for eight weeks and will cover basic computer science concepts, such as algorithms, conditionals, debugging and more; all in a fun, hands-on learning environment.
“This is an amazing opportunity for the students at our school. Because Deep Run is a Title I school, tuition fees often prevent a large portion of our school population from participating in after-school programs,” said Wenzel.
Along with weekly computer science instruction, the class also features guest speakers to help the girls learn about various STEM careers available, and make connections with their learning and future job opportunities. HowGirlsCode will also be running a summer camp, Mind, Body & Coding, sponsored by UMBC and the National Security Agency, for two consecutive weeks in July 2016. For more information, visit www.HowGirlsCode.com/summercamp.
Registration Opens for Glen Mar Golf Classic to Benefit Grassroots
Registration is open for the 5th Annual Glen Mar Golf Classic, set for Monday, April 25, at the Timbers of Troy Golf Course, in Elkridge. The event, hosted by Glen Mar United Methodist Church, will benefit Grassroots, Howard County’s 24-hour crisis intervention center, which shelters individuals and families who are homeless.
The tournament includes a continental breakfast, silent auction and luncheon. In addition to trophies for the three foursomes having the lowest scores, prizes will be awarded to the Winning Senior Team and Winning Women’s Team and for longest drive and closest to the pin for men and women. There will also be the opportunity to win prizes for a hole-in-one, a putting contest and a “circle-of-cash.”
The format is “Captain’s Choice” (scramble); senior’s and women’s tee boxes will be permitted. Registration and breakfast will begin at 7:30 a.m. followed by a shotgun start at 8:30. The tournament fee is $135 per player or $540 per foursome.
Sponsorships are available from $2,000 for Presenting Sponsor level to $250 for hole sponsorship. All proceeds cleared from tournament sponsorships, fees and the silent auction will support operations at Grassroots, which aids local families in crises and those who have nowhere else to go. Golfers can register online at www.glenmargolfclassic.com. Sponsorship information is also available at www.glenmargolfclassic.com.
Howard Schools to Host ‘HoCo Hacks’ Coding Competition
Students from all Howard County high schools are invited to compete in the “HoCo Hacks” computer coding competition. This free event will take place on April 16, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., at Centennial High School, 4300 Centennial Lane, Ellicott City.
Students may compete in teams of two to three or individually. Competitors vie to complete a coding challenge based on a theme to be presented at the event. Challenges will be in three categories: mobile, PC/Mac and hardware-based. Products will be judged on complexity, relevance to the theme, creativity, practicality and intangible factors. Lunch, dinner and snacks will be provided for the participants.
Prizes will be awarded to the winners. The event will feature a lecture on programming principles from Lisa Singh, a professor of computer science at Georgetown University. Register at http://thehocohacks.weebly.com.
Providence Center to Hold Grand Opening of New Retail Store
Providence Center, a Glen Burnie-based nonprofit organization in Anne Arundel County that serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will hold a Grand Opening Event and Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony on Saturday, April 23 for its new Gifts That Give retail store located at its Baldwin Industries facility at 1254 Ritchie Highway, Arnold.
Gifts that Give features pottery and wooden home décor items and housewares, all handmade by artists with disabilities served by Providence Center. Proceeds from the sales of the Gifts that Give product line support Providence Center’s programs and services.
The family-friendly Grand Opening event will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m., followed by all-day product sales and exclusive discounts featuring the Gifts that Give product line and a plant and flower sale from Providence Center’s Greenhouse and Gardens. The event will also feature handmade products from other local vendors, a pop-up shop; children’s crafts and activities, including face painting by Crystalooney’s Creative Arts; concessions for sale, door prizes and raffles.