From Harford County government:
Today Harford County Executive David R. Craig proposed an Operating and Capital Budget for Fiscal Year 2015 with no increase in tax rates and that is 9.8 percent smaller than last year’s budget overall.
While the General Fund budget decreases by 1.8 percent, funding for the Board of Education, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Humane Society increases. Appropriations for the Volunteer Fire Service and Harford Community College remain flat, while there are decreases in funding for Pay-as-you-go projects, debt service, and in a number of county departments including the Office of the County Executive.
Notable aspects of the FY 2015 budget include:
• A reduction in the size of the total budget (all funds) by $79.6 million (9.8 percent);
• A reduction in the General Fund budget by $8.9 million (1.8 percent);
• A slight increase in revenues from property taxes (0.6 percent) and income taxes (4.3 percent);
• Revenue appropriated from Fund Balance down from $22 million last year to $1.8 million;
• No wage or salary enhancement for employees of county government, the Sheriff’s Office, or the Public Library;
• An increase in funding for the Sheriff’s Office of $162,611; and,
• An increase in funding for the Board of Education of Harford County of $2,366,573, This includes an additional $1,900,000 for Instructional Salaries to mitigate a reduction in the state’s contribution, and an additional $466,573 for a state-mandated increase in the county’s contribution for teacher pensions.
“Perhaps no document conveys the priorities of a government or an administration more clearly than a budget,” stated County Executive David R. Craig. “While we were able to make some reductions in spending on general government operations and on capital projects, we have demonstrated our strong commitment to education and public safety, which account for 76 cents of every General Fund dollar.”
“The FY 2015 budget exercises conservative budgeting and sustainability, and takes into account county revenues, increases in the costs of doing business, and budget requests from county departments and outside agencies, as well as the comments that we received from concerned citizens.”
“This budget, like the eight that I have submitted previously as County Executive, allows county government to deliver the vital services that our citizens and businesses deserve and expect, while staying within our means and being good stewards of the resources that our taxpayers provide,” County Executive Craig concluded.
Funding for the Harford County Board of Education’s operating, debt service, and PAYGo projects represents 52 percent of the county’s General Fund budget, which is a larger proportion than when County Executive Craig took office and higher than the statewide average.1 Public Safety, which includes the Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Services, and the Volunteer Fire & EMS service, represents another 20 percent.
The proposed allocation to the Board of Education is above Maintenance of Effort, marking the eighth time under County Executive Craig that education funding has exceeded the state mandated level of funding. The FY 2015 budget has been created with the goal of enhancing Harford’s standing as one of the better-performing counties in the state for local education funding. Some important figures related to education funding in Harford County include:
• Harford ranked 9th out of 24 Maryland Counties last year for local funding for public schools proportionate to the county’s wealth,2 and this budget seeks to maintain or improve this ranking;
• Last year Harford ranked near the statewide median for both wealth (12th out of 24)3 and local education funding per pupil (13th);4
• County government provides approximately 52 percent of the school system’s Unrestricted Fund (HCPS’s Operating Budget), while the state provides 46 percent;5
• For both Unrestricted and Restricted Funds, county government provides 47 percent of the total, which is higher than the statewide average;6
• With the proposed increase in the allocation to the Board of Education, county funding for public schools will have risen by 57 percent per pupil since FY 2005; and,
• A total of $552 million from all sources has been allocated to Board of Education Capital Projects since FY 2006, including the forward funding of six new schools.
The County Executive’s proposed budget will be formally introduced by the County Council during the legislative session on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. This will be followed over the next month by Council Budget Work Sessions with representatives of each department and agency in addition to public hearings on the county budget. The Council must pass the county budget by June 15.
1. Local Government Finances in Maryland, Sept. 2013, p.348, http://dls.state.md.us/data/polanasubare/polanasubare_intmatnpubadm/polanasubare_intmatnpubadm_annrep/Local-Government-Finances-in-MD-FY-2012.pdf#page=355.
2. The Overview of Maryland Local Governments (2014) provides audited figures for both per pupil funding and a county’s wealth per pupil (as measured by the state for state aid allocations). Dividing funding from wealth reveals the proportion of wealth that is provided to the school system. Harford ranks ninth, one place below Baltimore County, and above both Anne Arundel (10th) and Cecil (11th).
3. Overview of Maryland Local Governments 2014, p.104, http://dls.state.md.us/data/polanasubare/polanasubare_intmatnpubadm/polanasubare_intmatnpubadm_annrep/2014-Overview-of-Maryland-Local-Governments.pdf#page=117.
4. Overview of Maryland Local Governments 2014, p.99, http://dls.state.md.us/data/polanasubare/polanasubare_intmatnpubadm/polanasubare_intmatnpubadm_annrep/2014-Overview-of-Maryland-Local-Governments.pdf#page=112.
5. Board of Education’s Approved Budget Fiscal Year 2014, p. 483, http://www.hcps.org/boe/budget/content/FY14/approved/fy14StatisticalSection.pdf#page=3.
6. Overview of Maryland Local Governments 2014, p.95, http://dls.state.md.us/data/polanasubare/polanasubare_intmatnpubadm/polanasubare_intmatnpubadm_annrep/2014-Overview-of-Maryland-Local-Governments.pdf#page=108.