Commission Proposes Major Changes for Baltimore County Budget
A commission that’s been studying Baltimore County’s budget released a preliminary report Friday which says the county should consider raising taxes. The commission is also proposing major changes to the budget process to make the county more fiscally sustainable.
The Commission on Fiscal Sustainability was established by County Executive Johnny Olszewski on his first day in office. The report notes that the property tax and income tax rates haven’t changed in 30 years and 26 years respectively. Former County Executive Don Mohler, who chairs the commission, said since then, the county’s population has grown, with increased demand for services.
Mohler said, “While we don’t recommend specific tax increases at this point in time, we recognize that there are serious sustainability issues moving forward.”
The county has an $81 million dollar budget shortfall that is only projected to worsen unless there are systemic changes. The commission is making multiple recommendations, such as making the budget process more transparent, getting more people involved, and updating antiquated technology.
The report also recommends that more guidelines be put in place for how the county deals with long term obligations, such as school construction and retiree benefits.
In a statement, Olszewski said, “The commission’s report makes it clear that we have inherited some antiquated systems and outdated methods. In the short term I am focused on crafting a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2020 that is due in less than two months, but in the long term I am committed to making the changes necessary to bring Baltimore County’s budget practices into the 21st century.”
The commission released its preliminary report Friday to give Olszewski guidance as he prepares the county’s budget for the coming fiscal year. Olszewski will present that budget to the County Council in April. Mohler said the commission will continue its work towards a final report.
“What we do between now and May will really be focused on the long term issues facing the county and hopefully present the administration with information they can use as they then try to get the county on stable, fiscal ground,” Mohler said.
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