By Kayla Mehok
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz proposed a $3.28 billion budget for the 2019 fiscal year that would not raise income or property taxes for the 24th and 28th straight years, respectively.
The spending plan, which was released Thursday, dedicates more than 60 percent of its funds to public schools, colleges and libraries, almost 12 percent to police and fire, and nearly 8 percent to health, recreation and community services.
Kamenetz’s budget proposal maintains the county income tax rate at 2.83 percent while property taxes would be held at $1.10 for every $100 of assessed value a person owns. Under this rate, for example, a person who owns a home assessed at $400,000 would pay $4,400 in property taxes next year.
Kamenetz included a 3 percent cost of living pay adjustment for county employees and he proposed adding 22 social workers, 23 counselors and 18 school psychologists for the schools. The budget would also add 19 more police school resource officers, which would bring the county’s total to 84 officers.
Overall, the budget proposal represents a 4.4 percent increase in spending from the 2018 budget adopted by the Council Council.
“With this budget, we strengthen our school safety system by adding more professionals to help identify mental health issues that can lead to suicide and destructive behaviors,” Kamenetz said during his proposal.
Kamenetz also included $30 million to pay for planning studies to build two new high schools. The county executive did not say which schools would be given the money, instead opting to let the Board of Education determine where that money would be spent. County officials have come under criticism from residents and parents because of major problems with the facilities at Dulaney, Towson, and Lansdowne high schools.
The county executive received positive feedback on his new budget plan from Baltimore County Public Schools interim Superintendent Varletta White.
“On behalf of our students and staff, I thank County Executive Kamenetz for his leadership in addressing the needs of Baltimore County Public Schools,” she said in a statement. “His budget proposal supports our continued growth and excellence and approaches enhanced safety in our schools in a comprehensive and meaningful way.”
The county executive’s spending plan will dedicate $979,000 to his recently proposed College Promise program to provide over 1,100 students the opportunity to attend Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC).
The program would provide full tuition and fees for qualified students.
Kamenetz said in his budget message that he plans to focus on crime in Baltimore County. Part of the plan calls for training 1,400 police officers and supplying them with full body cameras.
“The early overall statistics for 2018 give us reason to be optimistic that crimes of all types will continue to decline in our county,” Kamenetz said in his statement. Since the beginning of 2018, the confirmed homicides have gone down from 13 to five in the same period last year.
The $3.28 billion budget includes $2 billion of general fund and $1.2 billion of special fund spending. The general fund budget includes $934 million for education, close to $310 million for economic and workforce development, and $371 million for public safety.
Kamenetz is serving his last year as county executive before running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Maryland. His campaign’s main focus is to “provide all of our children with high-quality education that will prepare them for success in our competitive 21st century global economy.”
The County Council is scheduled to vote on the budget on May 24, 2018.
In his budget message, Kamenetz said the county has made continuous progress in various areas, including a $1.3 billion investment to upgrade and modernize over 90 schools, giving teachers a 12 percent increase in salaries over time, and investing $1.8 billion to maintain and improve the water and sewage infrastructure.