The Howard County Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a $2.4 billion operating budget for the coming fiscal year that holds the line on property taxes while increasing spending on public safety and schools.

After a month of public hearings and legislative meetings, the council approved a spending plan that makes minimal changes to the one recommended by County Executive Calvin Ball.

“I am so proud to be a part of this government knowing that Howard County has so many dedicated public servants who always have our residents’ best interests in mind when going through the budget process,” Council Chair Deb Jung said. “And I want to say that that includes my council colleagues.”

She said that she wasn’t a fan of the amount of spending in the nondepartmental expenses category, and would have liked to see less one-time pay-as-you-go spending.

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“These are great problems to have, and we are lucky that our revenues are so strong in this county,” Jung said.

Ball on April 16 requested $2.4 billion for the operating budget, which included $1.14 billion for the Howard County Public School System.

Last year’s approved budget was $2.2 billion, which is $200 million less than the coming fiscal year’s budget.

Council Vice Chair Liz Walsh expressed concern about late changes made to the school system’s budget, stressing that council members have had weeks to review the budget.

By and large, though, council members said they were happy with the level of collaboration between the school district and the administration.

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“This year has been the most positive and collaborative budget that I’ve ever experienced on this council,” said council member Christiana Rigby of District 3.

Here are a few takeaways from the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1:

Total budget

The total operating budget is $2.4 billion, with $413 million allocated to the capital budget for needs such as schools, community centers and storm water management. The county library system will get $26.5 million, with $4 million going to expand and renovate the Elkridge branch of the county library system.

Holding the line on taxes

The budget would modestly increase the real property tax rate from $1.014 per $100 of assessed value to $1.044 per $100 of assessment. While that tax rate would go up, the fire tax will decrease, resulting in no change to what residents are paying in taxes, officials said.

North Laurel pool

The North Laurel pool project will get $20.1 million under the approved capital budget. It also includes $11.5 million for a new Elkridge Community Center, $2.5 million for an indoor track at Troy Park in Elkridge and $1 million for a new public ice rink in the county.

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There is $14.7 million in county funding for sidewalks, bike lanes and other Complete Streets infrastructure, and $15.1 million for road resurfacing needs and to help maintain the road network.

Schools funding rises

The total approved budget for the school district is $1.15 billion. Officials said this amount exceeds the state-mandated Maintenance of Effort funding by $52 million — funding per pupil equal to or greater than last year’s budget.

Public safety

The budget includes funding to hire four firefighters to staff two new ambulances, and “funding has been allocated for equipment and uniforms for 38 new firefighter trainees in classes that began in spring 2024,” Ball said in a press release about the approved budget.

The spending plan also allocates $13.1 million to the Howard County Police Department to support 24 more sworn police officers who will patrol in the county starting this month.