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Tax money for golf tournament briefly lands in Baltimore County Council sand trap

 The Baltimore County Council. Photo by John Lee/WYPR.
John Lee/WYPR
The Baltimore County Council.

The Baltimore County Council Thursday had to take a mulligan when voting on whether to spend $2 million on a PGA golf tournament coming to the county.

The council first voted to slice the money, then later reversed itself.

The $2 million is to help pay for the cost of the BMW Pro Golf Championship, which is returning to the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills in 2025. It is in County Executive Johnny Olszewski’s proposed $4.9 billion budget for the coming year.

District 7 Councilman Todd Crandell, a Republican, called spending the money on a golf tournament an irresponsible expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

“If you want to subsidize a bunch of rich people having a golf tournament then that’s on you,” Crandell said.

But County Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Democrat, countered that when the county hosted the tournament two years ago, hotels were full and restaurants were packed.

Jones quoted from a study by the Sage Policy Group on the financial benefits the county received from the 2021 tournament.

Jones said, “$23 million in local spending that would not have occurred in the region had it not been for the tournament.”

The County Council first voted 4-3 for the cut.

Later it did a do-over when one council member, Democrat Mike Ertel, said he was confused by the first vote when he supported the cut.

On the second vote he opposed it, even though he agreed with Crandell that “the optics of this look horrible.”

Ertel criticized the Olszewski administration for not better explaining the $2 million request.

“It would have been nice if we would have had some kind of briefing on that,” Ertel said.

County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers agreed.

“We should have sought a briefing,” Rodgers said. “We’re learning as we go.”

A fuming Councilman Crandell called that second vote on the tournament money an embarrassment, saying there was plenty of time during the budget process for council members to ask questions.

“This is a mockery and you all should be embarrassed that you don’t know what you’re doing,” Crandell said.

The County Council only has the authority to cut Olszewski’s proposed budget. It cannot add to it or move money around.

During Thursday’s budget deliberations it agreed to one cut, $500,000 in administrative costs for the county schools.

The County Council is scheduled to approve Olszewski’s budget May 25.

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