Budget Presentation Fiscal Year 2007 - May 1, 2006
|FY2007 Proposed Budget|
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Council, Cabinet Members, honored guests, friends and fellow citizens.
This is my eighth and final budget address as your County Executive. In 1998, I stood proudly at the podium at the Community College where I gave my inaugural speech. I said then that I would set a course for this County that promoted ideals about land and education. I asked everyone to be dreamers and work together to make this County the best in Maryland. I asked that we take responsibility for future generations.
Our County has prospered with the course we charted. Today, I stand proudly at this podium to recount what we have achieved in these eight years.
Eight years ago we spent $319 million in County funds for education and today the number is $547 million, a 72% increase. The Board of Education now receives 50% of the County budget.
During my eight years as County Executive, we increased the number of teachers and aides by nearly 1200 while pupil enrollment dropped by nearly 2500.
I promised that my administration would be one that cared about every teacher and every child. Over eight years, we have given teachers unprecedented resources in the classrooms and we have given them long overdue raises. In 1998, an entry level teacher earned $27,000. Today, an entry level teacher earns $39,000. The teacher who entered our system in 1999 making $27,000 now makes more than $49,000.
In this budget, we have fully funded the teachers’ request for a 6% raise. Today, unlike in 1998, our teachers know that we value their public service. Our students have performed better as a result with higher test scores, scoring 11% higher in reading and scoring 16% higher in math. We knew that we had to modernize our school facilities and so we invested more than $400 million in capital improvements. This year’s budget adds an additional $105 million in capital improvements for the school system. There is more to do to attain the status of a first class system but we have come a long way from where we started.
Eight years ago, I promised to protect the vanishing farmlands and open space. To date, we have preserved 12,000 acres. Every area of the County has shared in land preservation. North County has the Weinberg Foundation property and Fort Smallwood Park. South County has vast expanses of preserved farmlands and additions to Jug Bay. The eastern part of the County has important farmlands preserved on Pleasant Plains Road. I promise today that I will save every acre that I can until the last day of my term.
Eight years ago, our public safety forces were under funded and lacked the technology that helps to keep us safe. Over these eight years, we have added manpower, spent $134 million for new facilities and state of the art technology, and we have made our salaries more competitive. Over these eight years, the mid-level police officers and firefighters have seen their average pay go up between 36-47%.
In 1998, we didn’t even have a website. Today, we win awards for our information technology, including national recognition as a “TOP TEN DIGITAL” county. Our police have mobile data computers in their cars. Our citizens can track permits and pay bills on-line. Our web site is the best.
In 1998, we faced an uncertain fiscal time -- today we have a $94 million dollar surplus, the largest in the County’s history. Over these seven years, we have generated almost $364,000,000 in budget surpluses, most of which was plowed into capital improvements.
In 1998, the Gold Coast was quietly up and coming -- today it is the primary economic engine fueling unprecedented long term growth for our County and creating high paying jobs. The Gold Coast has enabled us to lead the State of Maryland in new job creation -- 31,000 and climbing.
In 1998, County Government did not value inclusion. Today, we have one of the most diverse cabinets, workforces, and contract forces of any county in the State.
In 1998, we faced uncertain bond ratings -- today we have the highest bond rating of any tax capped county in the United States.
In 1998, the tax rate was 94.4 cents. Today, I am setting it at 91.8 cents.
This record is just about the best in Maryland. I said in 1998 that we could become the premier county in Maryland -- and we have. No other county in this state can match our quality of life, our vibrant economy, our waterfront assets, our national assets and our low taxes. Not one county.
The credit for our eight year record of success can be shared by everyone -- my Cabinet, this Council, our Board of Education, our State Delegation, our partners at Fort Meade and NSA, the business community, and the many voluntary boards, commissions and agencies who have given leadership, hard work and real dedication to this County.
Peter Drucker once said and I quote: “The leaders that work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I”. And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I”. They don’t think “I”. They think “we”; they think “team”. They understand their job is to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit…”
Today, we applaud everyone who has contributed during the eight years to making this County a showcase. We have done well and we all get the credit.
I need to give special thanks to the members of the Planning Advisory Board and the Spending Affordability Committee. They have spent untold hours advising, analyzing, and helping to decide on future courses for our County.
There are so many other achievements that we could highlight like our expanded park and trail system, the first re-write of the County Code in decades, the stream restorations, the green roofs, the libraries, the dog parks, the Compass Pointe Golf Course (which fulfilled a 20 year promise to North County), the commitment to the cultural arts and our two hospital systems, the North County Aquatic Center, the senior centers -- the list is long.
Our economic prosperity has allowed us to do so much over these years. Early in my first term, we took the first steps to foster growth that has occurred around the Gold Coast area. We planned for expansion. We enabled that expansion with County incentives to leverage unprecedented levels of private investment. We issued permits for 23 million square feet of commercial space for new and expanding businesses. And millions of additional square feet of Class A building space are winding their way through the planning stages.
Fort Meade and NSA ushered in an era of a remarkable influx of defense contractors into the region. They have been important strategic partners. With their help, we have lured more than 100 defense-related businesses, many of them world class corporations. With their help, we created the first homeland security incubator in the United States. Our County is now nationally known as the preferred place to locate for information technology and defense contracting. I personally want to thank Kay Hill of NSA and Col. Kenneth McCready of Fort Meade for what they have done for our County.
This proposed operating Budget is $1.164 billion dollars and the proposed Capital Budget is $202.9 million dollars. The proposed budgets follow the priorities of the other seven budgets:
For seven years, we have dramatically lowered the teacher to student ratio in our classrooms. This year we intend to do more of the same. We do so because we value our teachers and the challenges they face every day in the classroom. We do so because we understand the value for our children.
This year, we have funded 284 new positions including 191 teachers, 50 teacher’s aides and 42 other support staff. This funding matches the Board of Education’s request for:
This proposed budget also provides full funding for all day kindergarten and pre-kindergarten at the $25 million level. There is also funding for such initiatives as the swimming program, increased transportation funding for the music and athletic programs, and student safety. This budget fully funds the Board’s $13 million request for the County’s textbook program. Eight years ago, every child did not have a textbook -- today every child does.
We did not receive state funding to complete the Arundel High Science Lab or the Gambrill’s Elementary School. This budget provides County funds for those two projects. We have fully funded cost increases of more than $50 million for Tracey’s Elementary, Pasadena Elementary, and Severna Park Middle School. Feasibility studies are funded for Southgate and Overlook Elementary Schools.
I am proud to announce that we have funded the planning dollars for a new Freetown Elementary School and a new Lake Shore Elementary School. The new schools are long overdue and cannot be built soon enough.
I have funded the extension of the International Baccalaureate to the senior year in our high schools and to begin one at Meade High School. Meade High School is located in the core of the Gold Coast and sits at the grounds of Fort Meade. The high school, and its future success, is absolutely critical to the future growth planned in West County. In my second inaugural speech, I said that I would give my full support to a Math, Science, and Language Magnet at Meade High School. I have put $200,000 in the Chief Administrative Officer’s contingency account to jump start the academic program. This new magnet school has the full support of Fort Meade and this County Government. There are volunteer assets at NSA and Fort Meade and the private sector that will help make this magnet school succeed. I will do everything possible to help. I ask the Board of Education to designate this magnet school a top priority and to take every step to make it a reality this year.
I do want to thank the members of the School Board for our partnership through the years and especially recognize and thank Interim Superintendent Nancy Mann for her steadfastness and dedication. We hope that your successor can quickly fill the void you will leave behind.
The Community College enjoys continued success and receives accolades around the country, all well deserved. Over my two terms, 152 new positions at the College have been funded and the County’s share of the College’s budget has grown by 81%. This year’s budget increase is an 8.2% increase over last year. I want to thank Dr. Smith and her Board of Trustees for their untiring efforts to keep our dynamic community college at the forefront of higher education.
Our library system is also nationally recognized for its excellence. We take great pride in our two newest state of the art libraries in Crofton and West County. I thank the Library Board for their dedication and commitment to our citizens.
Our Fire Department just received a national safety standards award. The Department is moving toward the full implementation of the fourth shift. There are challenges but they are no different than the challenges faced by other fire departments across the State. We have funded the completion of the Marley Neck and Annapolis Neck Fire Stations. We have funded the completion of the additions to the Jessup and West Annapolis fire stations.
This year, every one of our police officers will have state-of-the-art Mobile Data Computers installed in their patrol cars. The new 800 Mega – Hertz radio system will be finished. The completed system will assist our law enforcement professionals and improve the safety of our citizens.
This budget commits additional police presence in communities across the County including a 24-hour a day patrol in the Davidsonville, Edgewater and Mayo area. We have included funds for the Maryland City sub-station. Our investment in public safety has truly paid dividends. For the 5th consecutive year, Anne Arundel County has witnessed a decrease in violent crime – down 3.3% from last year. I want to congratulate Chief Shanahan for having served longer in office as Police Chief than any of your predecessors.
Public safety is all about teamwork. The devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina gave us the opportunity to help others and to showcase our Emergency Mobile Command Center, the first of its kind in the Nation. We sent the vehicle, and a 15 member public safety team, to Louisiana for 2 ½ weeks. The team coordinated the response of 20 different agencies treating more than 6,000 victims. The team did a great job because they knew how to get the job done and had the technology to get it done.
This Proposed Budget will give another boost to our land preservation efforts. We thank our County delegation for bringing us more than $16 million in Program Open Space monies allowing us to buy more development rights and to buy more land.
This year, we are focused on buying important tracts of land in Shady Side and Annapolis, both of which have been prime targets for development. I have begun negotiations with the Owner of Annapolis Roads to purchase all of its property for the County’s citizens. The property, if acquired, will remain open space and be enjoyed for all future generations.
A crown jewel was added to our park system on my handshake with Mayor O’Malley. I tried for seven years to buy or lease Fort Smallwood Park and the Mayor and I finally agreed that Anne Arundel County would assume control and repair of the park. The years of degradation and neglect are over. Now we have unearthed a treasure – with breathtaking views – that will be a new destination for families to enjoy the outdoors for generations to come.
This fall, the North Arundel Aquatic Center will open its doors. My hope is that it will serve as a catalyst for revived interest in water sports by our young and by our seniors. The Golf Course at Compass Pointe is doing exceptionally well. By the end of this fiscal year, they will have an operating profit after paying debt service and after repaying the County’s General fund $650,000 of the original $1.1 million loan. Every one that plays this course enjoys the experience and wants to come back again.
I have often said that we are all stewards of the County’s 533 miles of shoreline. We spend more than $11-million dollars annually to address storm water quality and restoration of streams impacted by years of erosion and urbanization. Since I first took office, we have invested more than $46 million to exceed State requirements for storm water management. We have begun to overhaul our existing storm drainage system to more effectively control unchecked pollution that plagues the Bay and our tributaries. This year, we will spend more than $5 million on this initiative, including projects in Cape St. Claire, New Cut Road and Saunders Point. This year the County will also fund major restoration projects in the Broadneck as well as Warehouse Creek. We will continue to encourage public and private sector participation in our Green Roofs initiative.
We must continue to build new infrastructure for the future. During the past seven years, we have spent more than $222 million improving 500 miles of roads and numerous bridges. This coming year I propose to spend almost $32 million on road construction and reconstruction. We have prioritized the Route 175 enhancements, the expansion of Route 198 and the Route 32 improvements in the Fort Meade area. Our congressional delegation has secured a first round of $12 million for Route 175 and we will use our state and county dollars to move this project forward.
We must also make light rail and the MARC train system more accessible and provide better commuter bus service to our transit centers. The County is not just waiting for others to act -- we are budgeting $350,000 this coming year for improvements to the Odenton MARC train station.
All of these initiatives are important but we cannot forget that government has to protect the most vulnerable in our County. We are the safety net of last resort. This budget continues support for Sarah’s House at Fort Meade ($495,000), the Lighthouse Shelter in Annapolis ($400,000), and funding for a psychiatric unit at Jennifer Road. We funded the supportive housing program that moves the homeless to independent living. Our outstanding Workforce Development Program will continue to serve our dislocated workers. These programs, and many others like them, provide essential services for the homeless and others in need.
Our senior citizens depend on us for transportation, for medical care, for meals, and for our network of senior centers. I am proud to mention the unique program started by our Department of Aging that has helped over 3200 seniors understand their rights and their choices under the very confusing Medicare drug program passed by the Congress.
The County Health Department serves our seniors with free flu vaccination clinics and it provides more than 14,000 flu vaccinations to residents each year. The Department reaches out to the homebound and the most vulnerable with home visits. Under the exemplary leadership of Fran Phillips, the Health Department, working closely with state and national public health agencies, continues preparation for a possible avian flu pandemic.
This year, we will open senior centers at the Wiley Bates School and at the old Odenton Library. The Bates Project is one of the most rewarding accomplishments of my term of office. This fall, when the senior apartments are filled, the senior center is filled, and the Boys and Girls Club is filled, everyone who knows the Bates history will be filled with a spirit of pride and joy.
As this fiscal year draws to a close, we have a huge surplus to fund next year’s priorities and yet leave money for leaner times. This budget fully funds the Rainy Day Fund at $42.7 million, the maximum permitted by law.
Our financial strength is good news for our citizens. I am pleased to announce – once again – that the property tax rate will be cut from 93.1 cents to 91.8 cents. The City of Annapolis tax rate will be 54.8 cents, a reduction from last year. The proposed property tax reduction will save our County taxpayers $6 million. I am also pleased to announce that we intend to cut the personal property tax rate by almost three cents. The income tax rate is still 2.56%, the lowest in the metropolitan region and the third lowest in the state. The income tax rate has not been changed in four decades. We have the lowest tax burden of any major Maryland county.
Since my inauguration in 1998, we have made far-reaching changes and we have seen far-reaching changes. I believe the changes we made will shore up the foundation of this County for years and that will be our legacy. We cannot tell what the future will be.
In 1966 Robert Kennedy said that “our future may lie beyond our vision but it is not completely beyond our control … it is the work of our own hands that will determine our destiny.” The work of our hands has made this County a better place.
It has been my honor every day to serve as your County Executive and I have tried every day to serve with honor. There are only six months to conclude what we began. Let’s make every day count so that the present and future course set for this County is one that is valued and cherished by those who follow us.