Baltimore County Council Approves $4.9 Billion Fiscal Year 2024 Budget
BALTIMORE COUNTY - The Baltimore County Council passed a $4.9 billion fiscal year 2024 budget on Thursday. The final spending allocation is nearly identical to County Executive Johnny Olszewski's proposed FY 2024, except for a $500,000 decrease in the school system's $2.5 million administrative budget.
The change was proposed by Councilman Wade Kach, who questioned why the school system had cut administrative roles yet was asking for an increase in administrative funding. The motion was passed with a 4-3 vote, with Mike Ertel, David Marks, Todd Crandell, and Kach voting for the $500,000 reduction.
In his budget address, Julian Jones Jr., Chair of the Baltimore County Council, acknowledged some disagreements with Olszewski's proposals but highlighted the council's general trust in the country's trajectory.
"Although we do not agree with the allocation of spending over every agency and every project, we generally have faith in the investments being made by the administration and the direction in which Baltimore County is headed," Jones said.
Baltimore County Public Schools
The approved budget will channel ~$2.3 billion towards Baltimore County Public Schools, a slight decrease from BCPS's recommendation. Despite not meeting all of the school system's requests, the FY 2024 budget marks a $2 million increase in school funding compared to FY 2023.
Allocations for school system projects total $206 million, with various amounts earmarked for maintenance, new school design, renovations, and replacements across the county, including:
- $76 million for a new Towson High School
- $5 million for a new Dulaney High School
- $5.8 million for an addition at Pine Grove Middle School
- $3 million for designing a new technical school
- $38.6 million for roof replacement/ repairs at schools across the county
The budget also provides funding for a $ 59,000-a-year starting salary for new BCPS teachers and free community college courses for county residents with an annual income of $150,000 or less.
The Baltimore County Department of Public Works and Transportation received over $350 million for FY 2024, including funding for improvements and repairs across roads, sidewalks, drains, sewers, and bridges.
Teachers and other county staff will receive a 4% cost of living increase, with county retirees receiving a 1.25% increase. Water rates are set to rise by 5%. Property tax rates and income tax rates will remain unchanged.
The budget provides $3 million to redevelop the Pikesville Armory and funding to eliminate fees for the CountyRide transportation service. Funding is also committed to creating an agricultural office within the county's Department of Economic and Workforce Development.
Baltimore County Public Libraries received $3.5 million more than in FY 2023, enabling salary increases, creating new positions, and resuming Sunday services at select branches.
The budget permits the Baltimore County Police Department to increase starting salaries from $60,000 to $66,000. An additional $7 million has also been set aside so police officers who live in the county can take home their cruisers.
Councilman Todd Crandell raised concerns during budget deliberations that Olszewski's administration is using one-time American Rescue Plan (ARPA) money to pay for long-term positions.
In an interview with WYPR's Midday, Olszewski said that many of the positions have been transferred to the general fund and noted that the county will "have a transition plan to ensure they are generally funded in a way that does not create a looming fiscal cliff."
Another contentious issue arose during budget negotiations when the council initially withdrew and then reinstated $2 million intended for the 2025 BMW PGA tour tournament.
Councilman Ertel initially voted to cut the funding. He changed his mind on a second vote after County Council Chairman Julian Jones referenced a Sage Policy Group study that attributed $23 million in local spending to the 2021 tournament held in the county.
The budget will be implemented starting July 1, marking the commencement of the new fiscal year.
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