HARFORD COUNTY — On Monday, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman present his Fiscal Year 2021 budget to the community via video due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. On Tuesday, April 14, he delivered the budget legislation to the County Council.
Glassman said that the budget had to be significantly altered due to the coronavirus that has been active in the area and has changed everyone’s way of life in the short term.
“Prior to this public health crisis and State Government Shutdown of the local economy, Harford County was continuing to maintain a strong financial posture under my administration,” he said on a video released to the public on April 13.
“Our revenues were growing and we continued to implement efficiencies across county departments. The current crisis has required me to go back and make some revisions to our draft budget. As we move forward, record unemployment claims and mandated business closures will surely have an impact on county revenue.”
Glassman said that much will depend upon whether the current downturn lasts only one or two quarters, or if it will last longer in the form of a deeper recession. He said that those conditions would have a “dramatic impact” on not just his, but all county governments in the coming months and years.
“I am monitoring the fiscal situation on a daily basis, as much is changing and unknown,” he said.
“What we do know is that over the past 5 years I have made difficult decisions that, along with conservative budgeting of revenues and expenditures, have allowed us to rebuild our reserves from near depleted levels. Our reserves will help us weather this storm, so we can continue to support the things that our community depends on, especially now. That is why I resisted prior calls to spend down our savings: to provide flexibility when we need it most.”
Glassman’s budget proposal dedicates half of all monies in general fund revenue to education. Continued funding for law enforcement, first responders and public safety is in the budget, and Glassman made a point in the video to acknowledge “dedicated” county employees.
“They are all on the front lines,” he said, “serving in today’s crisis and keeping local government open.”
Glassman thanked Director of Administration Billy Boniface, Treasurer Robbie Sandlass and Budget Chief Kim Spence for their work in the preparation of the budget.
A budget summary follows, as provided by Glassman:
Total Budget: $948,099,800
General Fund Operating Budget: $632,435,000
Capital Budget: $144,931,000
Restoring Fiscal Balance & Efficiency
• Tempered revenue estimates and strategic use of fund balance in light of the current economic disruption
• Fully funded HCPS operating budget request
• Record level funding for public safety
• County government efficiencies continue to help fund other operations
• AAA bond rating continues to lower our borrowing costs; highest possible rating maintained due to strong management and realistic CIP
• No tax increases
Reinvesting in our Workforce
• $2,000 merit-based increase plus 2% COLA per qualifying county employee
• Equivalent increases for State’s Attorney’s Office and Circuit Court employees
• Full funding for second phase of the Sheriff’s law enforcement/corrections pay plan.
Investing in Education
• Full funding for Harford County Public Schools: $276,927,778 in FY 21 operating funds for HCPS; total increase of $20.5 million over FY 20; exceeds the required Maintenance of Effort
• Full funding for Harford Community College request
• 3% increase in funding for Harford County Public Libraries
• $1 million for preventing and treating opioid addiction & behavioral health services — County support for the 24-hour Harford Crisis Center for Mental Health & Addiction continues with $250,000 contribution
• Support for community organizations: Harford County Humane Society, Harford Center, The Arc Northern Chesapeake
Supporting our First Responders
• Historic-level funding for our first responders: $7,194,862 — Volunteer Fire Companies; representing a 3% increase over FY 2020; $5,337,069 — Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Foundation; $3,514,706 — Harford County EMS Service – 3rd crew added for FY21; a cost of living increase to our volunteers’ length of service award program
Capital Budget Highlights
• HCPS: 8 projects at $24.4 million:
• $1 million for blended learning technology devices for students and teachers
• Roof replacements for Bel Air Middle School and Hickory Elementary School
• Modernization of Joppatowne High School
• Funds to replace required 14 special education buses
• Special education facility improvements
• Replacement/upgrade to life safety emergency systems and communication
• Public safety: 9 projects at $13.1 million:
• Volunteer fire company priority repairs and life safety equipment; includes Aberdeen VFC renovations
• Computer equipment and mobile data terminals for the Sheriff’s Office
• Construction of a new north county fire/EMS station and a fire/EMS station at Riverside in partnership with Abingdon VFC
• Funds to support Next-Gen 911 technology and upgrade the mobile/portable radio system
• $32 million — County road and bridge projects
• $11.3 million — Watershed management projects
• $15.9 million — Water & Sewer infrastructure reinvestments
• $1.6 million — to complete the Ma & Pa Trail connection
• $5 million — to support sports tourism through improvements to playing surfaces at parks & recreation facilities including Cedar Lane Sports Complex
• $1.4 million — for comprehensive upgrades to Harford Community College’s Chesapeake Welcome Center
The entire budget recommendation is posted on the county website at http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/1531/Budget-Efficiency.