From Councilmember Jen Terrasa – District 3 News and Budget Wrap-Up
The Howard County Council recently completed its annual budget review for fiscal year 2011. I am pleased to report that we were able to produce a fiscally responsible budget that still preserves our quality of life in these difficult financial times. I also wanted to update you on a recent change in our Council offices.
COUNCIL OFFICE NEWS
Deanna Peel, who many of you may know, has returned to the Council Office as my special assistant. Deanna brings a wealth of District 3 experience and I am happy to welcome her back to the Council office. As always, we are available to help or answer any of your questions about county issues. Please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 410-313-2001 and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
Mary Clay, my former assistant, is now working as Councilmember Sigaty’s assistant. I really appreciate Mary’s hard work and service to the residents of District 3, and look forward to continuing to work with her on issues that affect the county. These changes were put in motion when Councilmember Sigaty’s assistant was offered an opportunity to work for the Howard County Public School System. Working collaboratively, Councilmember Sigaty and I developed a solution that we felt would help both of our offices and the citizens of District 3 and District 4.
COUNTY BUDGET NEWS
Fiscal responsibility - The Council approved the FY 2011 operating budget of $823.4 million, which is 3.2 percent less throughout county government than last year, with the exception of the required funding for education and the Board of Elections. This fiscal responsibility means we were able to maintain our high quality of life without raising taxes. Howard County’s fiscal soundness was recognized earlier this year when, once again, we received a Triple-A credit rating from all three bond rating agencies, making Howard County one of only thirty counties nationwide to receive the Triple-A rating from all three agencies.
Education Funding - Even with the decrease in funds for the FY2011 budget, the County was still able to fully fund the state-mandated maintenance of effort level required for our top-rated school system. Schools, including the community college, and libraries, account for 67 percent of our total FY2011 operating budget. One reason we are able to do this is because of the hard work we did over the past three years to identify efficiencies, create partnership opportunities, and by saving money on health care, technology, fleet operations and property maintenance.
Community Service Funding – I am pleased that we were able to provide some increase in funding for the Community Service Partnership grants program to help those most in need. Individual grant awards were directed to funding for agencies which deal with people’s most critical needs such as housing, food, health care, and crisis support. In an effort to meet the needs of the community, the Council scrutinized our own office expenses and were able to decrease our own budget to add funds to Neighbor Ride and the Emergency Assistance Supplement.
Other Budget Issues – County employees took furlough days to ensure that no critical services would be cut and that there would be no new taxes. Council members also joined in the sacrifice by returning preprogrammed raises established by the previous County Council. In addition, although we are prohibited by law from furloughing ourselves, many of us voluntarily returned funds to the county treasury equivalent to the furlough days taken by county employees.
Healthy Howard received funds for FY 2011 to continue to provide access to health care for County residents. This program has also connected County residents to programs funded by other sources that residents did not realize they were eligible for. In addition, by helping folks in need of health care, we are often able to keep them from needing other community service resources, which frees up those scarce resources for other residents in need.
County Capital Budget Projects – Despite tough economic times, there were still a number of capital budget projects funded that will increase the quality of life for residents of District 3 over the next few years. Some of these are:
•Systemic renovations at a number of schools including Hammond Elementary, Bollman Bridge Elementary and Hammond Middle School,•A dance studio/performing arts space at Hammond High School to provide additional space to these growing programs, •Funds to keep the widening project for a portion of Snowden River Parkway, which will add a third lane and sidewalks, •Continued progress on the construction on the North Laurel Community Center in North Laurel Park,•Design and construction of a new 33,000 square foot Savage Fire Station,•Funds to continue the project to improve Oakland Mills Road from Guilford Road northward to Carters Lane, including sidewalks and drainage,•Funding to continue planning and improvements on Guilford Road, from the intersection of Vollmerhausen to Carroll Heights,•Various drainage projects throughout District 3,•Continue program to improve the US 1 Corridor with streetscape, pedestrian, bicycle and public green space enhancements,•Continued progress on the completion of Minstrel Way, and•Renovation and expansion of the Savage Library into space formerly occupied by Savage Senior Center As always, please don't hesitate to contact me with your questions, concerns or comments. Your letters and phone calls help me advocate on your behalf. You can reach me at email@example.com or 410-313-2001. Or if you would like to be removed from this newsletter list, please email me and let me know.
All the best,
Councilmember, District 3
Howard County Council