© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Olszewski pitches budget with “historic” education funding to the County Council

John Lee

New teachers in the Baltimore County Public Schools would get a pay raise and county employees would see a bump in their paychecks under an annual budget proposed Thursday by County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

The $4.9 billion spending plan Olszewski presented to the County Council Thursday also includes free tuition for most county residents at the Community College of Baltimore County.

To a near-capacity crowd of department heads and other county officials, legislators and union leaders, Olszewski said he is investing an historic amount into the school system, more than $70 million above what the state requires.

“This budget reaffirms my commitment to being the education executive, one who will always make the necessary investments but who will also demand accountability and performance to ensure that our students, parents and communities get a return on that investment,” he said.

The county executive said he is providing the money to pay new teachers $59,000 a year, an increase of $4,500 each.

Baltimore County Public School Superintendent Darryl Williams said that’s needed to attract new teachers.

“That was one of the agreements we really talked about to look at the starting salary of our teachers,” Williams said.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski delivers his budget message to the Baltimore County Council on April 13.
John Lee
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski delivers his budget message to the Baltimore County Council on April 13.

Contract negotiations continue between the school system and the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, the teachers’ union, over salaries. Union President Cindy Sexton said some of the money the school system is getting from the county needs to go to experienced teachers too.

“The $59,000 starting salary is a great step for recruitment,” Sexton said. “But we have teachers we need to retain.”

Olszewski said there is also money to hire more people to run pre-K classes and three dozen additional English as a second language teachers.

Also in the budget is a 4% pay raise for county employees.

“These investments represent the highest year over year increase in pay in at least three decades,” Olszewski said.

Both the county and the school system have been struggling to hire enough people. The county currently has around 200 vacant positions, according to Erica Palimisano, Olszewski’s press secretary.

In the spending plan, there is money so most county residents can go to the Community College of Baltimore County tuition-free. Four libraries in Essex, Lansdowne, Randallstown and Woodlawn can either be replaced or renovated.

There’s $10 million in additional money to help redevelop the rundown Security Square Mall in Woodlawn. The county and the state have already committed $20 million.

There is $7 million set aside so police officers who live in the county can take home their cruisers.

Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents District 5, likes that.

“Our most fundamental responsibility is public safety,” Marks said. “That will have a direct impact on public safety in our neighborhoods.”

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski leaves the chamber after delivering his annual budget to the county council.
John Lee
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski leaves the chamber after delivering his annual budget to the county council.

There is $150,000 the county inspector general can use to hire outside counsel. Inspector General Kelly Madigan has had to rely on the county attorney for legal advice. She said that can lead to a conflict because the county attorney serves at Olszewski’s pleasure, and Madgian’s investigations can include members of his administration.

There is money being sprinkled around the county for parks and athletic fields, including the county’s first cricket field at Cloverland Park in Phoenix and court renovations including, Olszewski said, “an expansion of our beloved pickleball courts.”
Republican Councilman Wade Kach, who represents District 3, praised the Democrat Olszewski’s budget.

“This county executive has made a concerted effort to bring our parks, recreational facilities up to date, so I’m very pleased with that,” Kach said.

Democratic Councilman Izzy Patoka, who represents District 2, applauded the budget as well, particularly $3 million in county money for the Pikesville Armory project in his district. A foundation is redeveloping the armory, built in 1903, to make it a center for cultural arts and recreation.

“I appreciate the county executive for being bold in this budget and addressing the needs that have been sorely needed over many years,” Patoka said.

The county council will now consider Olszewski’s budget, including holding a public hearing April 25.

The Council will vote on the spending plan in late May but in reality its role is limited. It can only cut the budget, it cannot add to it or move money around. The last two times Olszewski gave them a proposed budget they didn’t change a thing.

The $4.9 billion spending plan is about a 2% increase over the current year’s budget. It will take effect July 1.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
Related Content