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Baltimore County Council Keeping Its Hands Off Olszewski's Budget

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John Lee
/
Towson Historic Courthouse

The Baltimore County Council is not planning to cut a dime from County Executive Johnny Olszewski’s proposed $4 billion budget. Council members said at budget deliberations Thursday afternoon that they will make no cuts.

The seven council members said they are pleased that hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money for COVID-19 recovery as well as an improving economy gave Olszewski the cash to deliver pet projects to their districts.

“This is the most equitable distribution of the capital budget throughout all the districts in Baltimore County I think that I’ve seen,” said Republican Councilman Todd Crandell, who represents the Dundalk area.

Democratic Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the Catonsville area, said it’s like Christmas came early.

“Fortunate the federal government kept us from going into great depression two maybe for the next 15 or 20 years, really kind of saving us from Armageddon,” Quirk said.

The county is expecting to receive $161 million from the American Rescue Plan, which Congress approved in March. Last year’s CARES Act sent $140 million the county’s way.

The council’s three Republican members, who in past years proposed cuts to pay for a possible tax cut, held their fire this year.

“We do things differently in Baltimore County; we try to be as bipartisan as possible,” said Republican Councilman David Marks. “We try to reach compromise and consensus.”

Marks, who represents Towson and Perry Hall, pointed out that last year, in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, the council had to make drastic cuts.

The county school system takes up half of the county budget. Council members criticized the school system Thursday for what they said is a lack of transparency on how it spends that money. The council also has been critical of School Superintendent Darryl Williams’ leadership during the COVID pandemic and last November’s ransomware attack, but members decided not to punish the school system by cutting its budget.

“I think to make budget cuts where we have no idea how those budget cuts are going to be carried out, an already weakened school system because of COVID could end up even weaker,” said Republican Councilman Wade Kach, who represents the Hereford area.

The council can only cut the executive’s budget. It cannot add to it or move money around.

The county council is expected to approve Olszewski’s budget May 27.

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