Kamenetz Delivers 'Essentially Flat' Budget

Furloughs, layoffs and tax increases were avoided despite bleak revenue.

UPDATED (12:13 p.m.)—There will be no income or property tax hikes in Baltimore County, but residents also won't see a lot of bells and whistles in Kevin Kamenetz's second budget since becoming county executive.

"The revenue situation remains bleak and we expect that to continue for the next several years," Kamenetz said. "We're cutting costs wherever we can."

Kamenetz was scheduled to introduce the budget Thursday morning to the Baltimore County Council. The operating budget is slightly more than $1.6 billion—what the county executive called "an essentially flat" budget.

The proposed budget covers the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The county executive said he will use about $40 million in surplus funds to cover a gap in revenues—the third consecutive year the county has used so-called one-time money to fund ongoing expenses.

The move will still leave the county with a projected surplus of $250 million, including $85 million in the county's rainy day fund.

One cost cutting move was the elimination of more than 300 positions through a voluntary early retirement program.

The county hoped to save up to $15 million annually through the retirement of 200 employees. More than 600 people applied for the early retirement incentive.

Kamenetz said the county ultimately approved 310 people for the program and as a result will save $21 million annually.

The job reductions bring the total number of non-public safety general government employees to 3,340—the lowest number in 25 years.

Despite the bleak revenue outlook, Kamenetz said he will not raise income or property taxes this year— the 20th and 24th years respectively that those rates have not increased.

The operating budget as introduced tops out at just over $1.6 billion. Excluding cash for some one-time payments, that include some construction projects, the proposed budget is $3 million less than the budget for the current year—a 1 percent increase for FY 2013 over the current fiscal year budget, according to information released by the county executive.

Earlier this year, the County Council's Spending Affordability Committee recommended or about $47 million.

The county executive said the focus remains on core government operations, including education and public safety.

Approximately 52 cents of every county dollar goes to education this year.

Included in that budget is an additional 124 teaching positions. Kamenetz praised outgoing Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Joe Hairston for eliminating 50 non-classroom jobs while adding the new teachers.

Last year, the through attrition.

Hairston, in an interview after Kamenetz's speech, said many of the new positions will go to high schools for Chinese language instructors as well as science and math. Additional special education teachers will also be hired.

Kamenetz's budget also includes $149 million in capital budget projects for the school system—a 36 percent increase over last year.

Bond money for school projects makes up nearly 60 percent of the county executive's total request this year. If approved, that request will go before voters in November.

Included in that request is the completion of the addition. The county will also fully fund the renovation of Stoneleigh Elementary School.

Kamenetz also earmarked more than $74 million for the construction of a 200-seat addition to Sparks Elementary school, the construction of a new 700-seat elementary school in Mays Chapel and another elementary school in the northwest area of the county, as well as an addition and .

Ten schools will receive air conditioning including:

  • Catonsville Elementary
  • Fort Garrison Elementary
  • Sudbrook Magnet Middle
  • Timonium Elementary
  • Franklin Elementary
  • Hebbville Elementary
  • Woodmoor Elementary
  • Hereford High School (part of renovations)
  • Stoneleigh Elementary (part of renovations)

State Comptroller Peter Franchot praised Kamenetz for moving ahead with air conditioning for the ten schools.

"Sweltering classrooms compromise the safety of our students, teachers and support staff, diminish school morale, and erode the quality of the learning experience for everyone," said Franchot. "The county executive deserves credit for making this investment in climate control, particularly in light of the ongoing fiscal challenges that continue to face Baltimore County as a result of the sluggish economy.  I am optimistic that he will continue to take steps in future years to address the conditions of those  schools in Baltimore County that remain without air conditioning."

Kamenetz will also spend about $73 million on new equipment for the county including:

  • $13 million for new breathing apparatus, 21 medic units and two ladder trucks for the fire department.
  • $26 million for heavy equipment for the Department of Public Works' Bureau of Solid Waste, Bureau of Utilities and snow removal operations.
  • $34 million for new technology and equipment
Buzz Beeler April 16, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Ron, I am astounded that given the complex situation we face today, not only in this county, but state and country as well, you break everything down into one sentence. In school when you were told to open a book and read, what did you do? Are you suggesting that you know everything about county government that you don't have to research anything? I do have thoughts and I back them up with facts, not opinions. Those facts are hard and cold. If you want to hear an opinion listen to this one. It's a school teacher from the county. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ee-irZd_R6c You want my opinion? You feel alright with the county having one of the highest unemployment rates in the state? You feel OK with the county being ranked in the lower half regarding health care? Take a look at the bond debt which increased $291 million while the net assets decreased by $116 million. Why do you think they are calling the states budget (upon which the county relies) the dooms day budget? By the way the board of ed budget was $24 million in the hole before the game began. You feel OK with over half of our school children qualifying for the free meals programs. You should read up on these issues, it might open your eyes.
Ed April 16, 2012 at 09:47 AM
Ron, I said it was relevant, not that they didn't have the right to send their kids to school wherever they want. I'm a product of Catholic schools but send my kids to public schools, so I've seen alot of these arguments from both sides. Though I don't live in Baltimore County, I own property there (the house I grew up in) and likely will move back there in a few years. I was much more of a Bartenfelder fan (disclaimer: I went to high school with him) than a fan of KK, but i'm not on the warpath against KK and this budget seems reasonable given the economic times. But I also think Buzz makes some reasonable points about the bigger picture, as per my comments about public sector pensions (including mine) and many people's sense of entitlement..
Ed April 16, 2012 at 09:50 AM
And these candidates are going to help with the county and state fiscal isssues (the focus of this story) how???????????
Ed April 16, 2012 at 10:03 AM
Brian, I work with one city PD alum and he rarely talks about his pension (and now I know why). But I was traveling to a meeting once with two of my colleagues who are retired FD Lieutenants. The one from the city maxed out at about $108,000 while the one from the county maxed out at $113,000. Don't know how OT factrored in and they may have been in for 30 years, but I'm sure their pensions are way more than $40,000 and I know that their salaries (and also that for the retired city PD guy) are all way above $40,000. Given all of the retired cops and FFs I see at the state and federal levels and working for consultants, I'd say your in the wrong second career,my friend! Hell, there's a retired Howard County PD guy pulling down $125,000 as the police chief in Westminster. (Don't remember his rank when he retired from HoCo.)
Ed April 16, 2012 at 10:41 AM
Buzz, you make some fair points as far as the big picture is concerned, but I would point out that by 2008, red flags were up in every county from Garrett to Worcester and every municipality from Oakland to Ocean City. I agree it will probably get worse before it gets better. I do question your talk about using bonds. From a public policy perspective, it makes good sense to use bonds for long-term capital projects. Schools generally have a 40-year shelf life before being closed or receiving a major renovation. Spreading that cost over much of the life of those who use the facility makes sense IF: interest rates are reasonable (and that sure is the case these days) and the jurisdiction involved is not overextending its borrowing. Based on the county's bond rating,I'd say there is lots of faith in the market that the county is borrowing wisely.
Ed April 16, 2012 at 11:07 AM
Not in debt...so that means you paid cash for your cars, and cash for your house..or did you rent? I agree the Chinese language program is something that should be cut. True, we didn't have AC in schools, but there were no 180-day requirements back then, we didn't start the school year until after Labor Day and ended by the first week in June. Also, at least in Carroll County, many of the schools are used in summer for either remedial or enrichment programs or for summer services for kids with special needs. As for windows, you act like schools are the only modern buildings built that way.Ever seen an office building (low- or high-rise) constructed over the last 40 years with enough operating windows to allow for good air flow. Modern building codes don't encourage it. And the real problem was in the 60s and 70s,when they started building schools like this but were too cheap to install AC. (Wasn't a problem for office buildings,developers had a financial incentive to put in AC --- the market.) You say our grades were much better then. You base that observation on what statistics? I went to well regarded Catholic elementary and high schools (graduated in 1975) in Towson and my kids in public schools are learning stuff at a much faster rate than we did back in my day --- algebra in middle schools, many areas of science years before I was taught them, and far better teaching for kids with special needs than public OR private schools ever thought of back in the 60s and 70s...
johnny towson April 16, 2012 at 12:01 PM
If diagnosed with recurring cancer, and the Doctor said, great news, No New Chemo. We are going to cut off your leg, and stitch some toes to your face. Should I be excited?
Ed April 16, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Depends. If that means the cancer is gone, then,yeah, it beats the heck out of the alternative.
johnny towson April 16, 2012 at 03:32 PM
@ Ed, While you brag about being having avoided treatment because your doctor said taking your leg and stitching toes to your face was the best he could do to treat your symptoms, I will seek a second opinion and prepare myself for some hard work.
Ed April 16, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Sorry Johnny, you said no NEW chemo, so I took that to mean chemo had already been used and it was amputation or die. If there are other options, fine, but that's not how you presented the analogy.
johnny towson April 16, 2012 at 04:52 PM
This post is split into two: The County Executive is being praised for what he did not do and should not do, raise taxes. What my posts contend, is that the County Executive has yet to tell us what he is going to do. The County Executive has highlighted his term thus far as an accomplishment in cost-cutting and efficiency; eliminating vacant positions is not slimming down government without the spin he uses to describe it. Cutting $30 Million from existing departments and creating a new $30 Million department is not net consolidation (see Public Works, Recs and Parks, and the new $30 Million “Property Management” division) Taking a service department from one function to improve a separate function only robs Peter to pay Paul. He stated that his work saves the tax payers money but the fact remains that the operating budget still increased! The pension charade could be addressed by an entire separate post as could the foul restructuring of public safety and services.
johnny towson April 16, 2012 at 04:54 PM
...CONTINUED Capital improvement attempts are not impressive either. 8 schools with AC, 2 construction projects. This is a good try to make a lemonade out of lemons. I get that. But here is my remaining question to the Administration, and forget about trying to be "the ideas county of the region", that is not going to happen, Ulman and Howard County have a firm grasp on that one, “As the leader of a community of 805,000 people, with remaining resources and opportunity that far exceed the majority of the United States, what is the vision that you, the County Executive, propose to the business community, the institutional community and the neighborhoods that will not just slow the economic and social decay but rather instead lead us to 2020 and beyond? If you do not have a vision that extends beyond mere survivorship, to include cow-towing for votes, please excuse yourself from the leadership and visionary role on which you campaigned, and let others who can and will, do.”
Ed April 16, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Johhny, I can't figure out what you are hoping from from Baltimore County government. You cite Ullman, but I can tell you he isn't slimming HoCo goverment and his "ideas" are coming with a cost. Leopold just announced his budget today and it makes KK look like a regular Ron Paul on the fiscal conservancy scale. Our commissioners up in Carroll are cheap, for sure, but they have even less vision than KK in these tight budget times. , with a puny commercial tax base, we have a higher property tax rate with no trash collection, an all-volunteer fire service (God bless them for their dedication) and a sheriff's department that just took over from MSP as our primary law enforcement (for cost savings, of course) and have turned into the Keystone Kops before our very eyes by bungling two major case investigations. By comparison, I think Baltimore County comes out pretty well.
Brian H April 16, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Buzz, I love how you choose to selectively address points in my posting that fit your agenda, yet completely ignore the other statements. Keep the blinders on partner.
johnny towson April 16, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Thank you Ed for the response. The circumstances you cite are important issues concerning not just our county, but the larger community as well. What I expect from our County Executive is to not accept a "good enough"/ apathetic approach by government and a County Executive that abuses the current apathy of us voters as a means for a career. I expect our County Executive to be a heroic leader. I expect him to place county and voter before aspiring to a political career. I expect him to communicate and try to connect with the voters about what is and what could be- to do this without spin, with the inclusion of the County Council, and with humility, especially when members of the private sector are willing and capable of being of value. Political interference, obstruction, self-serving advocacy and arrogance is not going to be accepted by an informed Baltimore County. Kevin has nothing to change the incumbent policy makers and influencers that are carcinogens to the health of the County. I want the County Executive to be a man and not a nouveau-celebrity, want to be power-broker. He doesn't have it. But what he does possess is the ability to identify those in the community, and already within Government, that can help.
Brian H April 16, 2012 at 06:54 PM
@Ed, Spaulding makes about 106,000 if I am not mistaken. With the exception of his second in command, his Majors and Captains (also Howard County PD retirees) make a higher salary than their LE counterparts within Carroll County. Regrettably, his officers are some of the lowest paid in the county and they just removed their take home car option. The Westminster Town Administration also structured themselves a nice pay scale. I have a unique approach to my personal budget; I purchase what I can afford, pay cash whenever I can, and spend within my means. Paid cash for my cars, pay off the credit balance monthly, and wil be paying off my house 10 years early. I am beginning to think this borders on genius...fiscal restraint...and delayed gratification.
Ed April 16, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Brian H., I admire your fiscal restraint. Sadly, its much easier for us as individuals to tell our family "no" than it is for politicians to tell us "no." For all the comments on here about how KK is spending too much, there are education advocates in Baltimore County screaming that he is short chaning the schools. As for Spaulding's salary, your numbes may be more accurate than mine. I think I may have read them on a post to a Carroll County Times story, so bad on me for not researching. That said, you are right about the pay of the Westminster city cops, but then, sheriff's deputies up here don't make squat either. And our Sheriff only makes $75,000 to basically now be our police chief, head of corrections and court security. On the other hand, he's retired MSP so his pension is probably pretty good.
Ron Burgundy April 16, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Johnny or should I say Ginny, who is the better manager?One who has all of the best players (Yankees/Red Sox) or the manager who gets the most out of their players and does the best job with what he's got. The Exec has done a great job with what he was dealt. And yes, it's time to put a finger in the dyke, and hold on while continuing services. What is your vision Ginny? Wouldn't we all want major corporations moving here sure but right now it's about keeping them here. Our schools are good, are quality of life is good, our roads are good, our public safety needs are being met. Are there room for improvements, sure, always will be, but right now we need a fiscal conservative in the exec office who "get's it". He understands what the time calls for and is delivering.
johnny towson April 17, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Ron, Kevin's fingers are in more than a dyke. What has Kevin done, what good initiative is he responsible for? He is depleting the resources and public will that were created by Administrations past; not to mention taking orders from Jablon and Homan. He has not had one significant success. His critics are growing by the second. But at least he has Ron Burgundy... where is Brian Fantana?
Bryan P. Sears April 20, 2012 at 03:20 PM
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Bryan P. Sears April 20, 2012 at 03:26 PM
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Shaun White April 20, 2012 at 09:06 PM
One very easy way that he could bring money into the county system but he flat out refuses to change the county charter for it would be to introduce Ambulance Billing. Here are the numbers, the average career ambulance has about 4000 runs a year, now cut out cancels, refusals. and no EMS needed, that brings it down to lets say 3100. A call that requires Adavanced Life Support costs about $900, a call that requires Basic Life Support cost about $600. Baltimore county and Montgomery county are the only jurisdictions that do not bill for ambulance transport. So lets cut that in half 1550 ALS calls at 900 a piece, thats 1.4 million dollars in ALS transports, and $930,000 in BLS transports, that a little over 2 million dollars, now there are 30 ambulances on the career side, so that is 60 million there, and on the volunteer side, there is 19 ambulances, each average about 1900-2000 calls respectively, so lets say $900,000 for ALS and $600,000 for BLS, thats a total of 1.5 million dollars per unit. Total that out, there will be one less hole in the budget. Now I know that there are people that are uninsured and will not pay the bill, but those numbers fail in comparison to how much money this county is losing out on. Baltimore City has a 38% collection rate of their EMS bills, but they will not hurt your credit score because it is soft billing, I believe its a federal law that does not allow you to go after someone for EMS transport.
Shaun White April 20, 2012 at 09:15 PM
And to add to the numbers above, medicare allows billing of $ 10 per mile transported. The average ride in Baltimore County is 7 miles to a hospital, obviously more in the more rural areas, Arcadia, Parkton, Kingsville, Edgemere, etc
Ed April 21, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Montgomery doesn't bill because the voters said no. I guess Baltimore County could get it through without a referrendum; I'm not sure. By the way, Dutch and Smith both put thumbs down on billing before KK, so he is following local tradition. The problem, of course, is that many of the current taxpayers grew up listening to the 80s classis rock line, "i want my money for nothing and my chicks for free." In other words, don't DARE increase my taxes, but I better still get a cop, fire truck or medic unit at my front door 5 minutes after I call, my kids class size better not increase, we need more ball fields in my neighborhood, and so on. They want services but they don't want to pay the piper. Or should I say, they only want to pay for the services THEY think are important and to hell with everyone else.
FactChecker April 21, 2012 at 02:41 AM
The County has no control over the assessments, which are conducted by the State once every three years. The County does establish the tax rate that is applied against the assessment. The proposed budget proposes no increase in the tax rate for the 24th year in a row, and falls under the constant yield rate.
FactChecker April 21, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Baltimore County has not proposed to increase the tax rate, although Anne Arundel County, Montgomery County, and Wicomico County, has.
FactChecker April 21, 2012 at 02:44 AM
The writer is a Republican.
Ed April 21, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Gee, great bit of detective work there, FactChecker. What difference does it make.I'm a Democrat. We are all entitled to our opinions.
Wes Mantooth April 25, 2012 at 02:25 PM
"Ron Burgundy" you are hilarious. "I'm not an employee, just a resident." Right. Now tell the class your true status, which is a County APPOINTEE - technically different than an employee - but still paid by the County. And definitely far beyond "simply a life long resident."
Wes Mantooth April 25, 2012 at 02:29 PM
In the newsteam van.


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