June: the official beginning of summer. The school year comes to an end, family vacation countdowns begins, pools open, and the sounds of sno ball trucks chiming through the neighborhoods returns. For the county council, it also marks the month that we strike the budget. For 45 days, the council has dissected, analyzed, discussed and assessed the county executives’ budget that was presented on May 1.
The Fiscal Year 2020 budget is a historic one. You have likely read about it or discussed it at the water cooler. For the first time since the property tax cap was passed in the early ‘90s, this budget proposes circumventing the revenue cap and increasing property taxes by 3.7%. Despite the 70% of voters who supported the tax cap, this loophole is possible due to legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2012 that allows jurisdictions to bypass revenue caps, so long as the additional taxes go toward education. Also proposed are a 12% increase to income tax, 15% increase to the environmental protection fee, 5% increase to water and sewer connections, and 5% for stormwater remediation. The proposed increase in taxes is the largest our county has seen since the ‘70s. So where is all that money going? It’s going to increased funding for education, police, fire, detention and county departments like the Office of Law, Planning and Zoning, and Inspections and Permits. It may sound like a lot, because it is.
As your elected councilwoman, it is my job to ensure that your tax dollars are utilized in the most responsible way. Are we spending too much at once? What considerations have been made for the taxpayers? Are we making the best decisions this year to set us in a new direction for funding areas in the future? These are the questions I will continue to seek answers to before we finalize the budget on June 14. It is a careful balance between the essential needs of the county and the fiscal impact to the citizens. These are hard decisions that must be made.
The budget is not the only work being done in Annapolis. On May 7, Bill 14-19 passed with bipartisan support, adding additional residential zones for farm breweries that meet necessary conditions. You may remember my May column detailing this bill. Bill 14-19 was my first piece of legislation, following through on my commitment to preserve our local agriculture. On May 20, Bill 24-19 passed unanimously, ending a civil case between the county and its employees over health care bargaining, thereby settling with the 12 bargaining units representing county employees. A resolution for a charter amendment that would place a 2.5% cap on income tax, if voted favorably by voters in 2020, failed with a split down party lines.
Discussions continue as we anticipate the work ahead on the General Development Plan, which will determine the use of land in our county for 10 to 20 years. There will be two opportunities for District 5 residents to be part of the conversation: on June 6 at Broadneck High School and June 10 at Severna Park High School. Each session of “Visioning Anne Arundel” will have two parts. From 5:00pm to 7:00pm residents can work with the Office of Planning and Zoning on activities for information sharing and gathering purposes. At 7:00pm, formal discussion begins and you can share what you love about the area. What has changed over the years? What should be improved? What is your vision for our future?
If you have thoughts on the budget, the General Development Plan or would like to reach me concerning any matter that is important to you, send me an email at email@example.com.