BEL AIR — While the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has created significant uncertainty in state and local government budgeting considerations, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman believes Harford County is well poised to continue to move forward in 2021.
Glassman gave his state of the county address Tuesday and in it he focused on numerous county accomplishments while also discussing plans for the county moving forward.
In discussing the county’s upcoming budget, Glassman noted the significant issues presented as a result of the pandemic stating, “As for the upcoming budget. I wish we had greater certainty. The truth is our fiscal outlook has never been this difficult to gauge. Our economy is still subject to supply and demand forces, but we also face unpredictable currents. They include: the spread of the virus; the speed of the vaccine: the timing and size of federal aid; and the decisions made in large part by the State that determine which businesses may open and to what extent, and which businesses are closed and for how long.”
Glassman noted that in the past is was possible to sense which way the economy is moving from one year to the next, but that it is now difficult to see those changes from one quarter to another.
“Changes come week to week, and sometimes even day to day,” he said.
Glassman touted the work his administration has done to help generate a resilient local economy while being conservative in budgeting and increasing county reserves without tax increases.
During his presentation, Glassman noted that over the last six years the county’s fund balance has returned to $25 million. He added that income tax revenues have held steady, closing last fiscal year at about 2 percent growth, with 2021 on track to meet budget expectations. Property tax revenues are also trending in a positive direction he noted.
Glassman said that in the upcoming fiscal year 2022 budget he is proposing funding for a body camera program for law enforcement and plans for the new Aberdeen Community Center, which was held back this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Glassman then went into some of the accomplishments from the last year including his administration being honored with two awards for innovation from the National Association of Counties. The county was also recognized for its anti-drug pledge program for children in elementary school.
Glassman said the county continues to enhance its emergency services, by increasing investments in its volunteer fire/EMS system including $2 million in CARES Act funding.
Glassman also referenced the partnership with the State of Maryland and Harford Land Trust to purchase Belle Vue Farm in Havre de Grace. The 347 acre farm will give the county close to 1,300 acres of preserved parkland along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline.
Glassman also referenced the county’s win in the 30-year lawsuit involving a proposed rubblefill in historic Gravel Hill. In that case the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed a $45 million judgement against the county, Glassman said.