The proposed $5 billion budget for Baltimore County includes pay raises for educators and public safety employees, tens of millions for library buildings, and no tax increases.

County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said the budget “reaffirms our tireless commitment to support all of our residents and uplift all of our communities” when he presented it to the County Council last week. Olszewski, a Democrat, is running for Congress and acknowledged this could be his last county budget.

But some members of the council — including its chairman — are unhappy with the proposal for the budget year beginning July 1.

Councilman Izzy Patoka, a Democrat who currently serves as the body’s chair, said the council “will go through the budget with a fine-toothed comb.”

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Patoka said he would not look to police, fire or education for budget changes. “But everything else is fair game for cuts. We’re going to try to identify potential cuts and then have those dollars redirected,” he said.

In Baltimore County, the council does not, by itself, have the authority to make changes or additions to a budget proposal, only cuts.

Patoka’s thinking, he said, is to make cuts to the budget and wind up in one of three scenarios: Olszewski accepts the cuts and finalizes the budget as is; Olszewski and the council work to offer some tax relief to the county; or Olszewski redirects some of the cut funds in a supplemental budget.

“It’s just disappointing, that’s all I can say,” Patoka said. “I feel like it [the budget] doesn’t provide the resources that were requested by residents.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Olszewski said the spending plan delivers “on the promise of long-awaited projects, answering the calls of residents for critical investments in our communities, and continuing to provide historic funding for public schools, public safety, and infrastructure.”

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“As we always have, we will continue conversations with the Council, the school system, our employees, and the public so that we can continue to comprehensively deliver the high-quality services and projects our residents expect and deserve,” Erica Palmisano, Olszewski’s press secretary, added.

Patoka and Councilman David Marks, a Republican, both said they were disappointed to not see budget line items that set aside money for specific projects in their districts, such as road resurfacing or the installation of new traffic lights.

Road resurfacing projects in Baltimore County are generally included in bulk accounts, not written out as individual line items, to provide flexibility and responsiveness, Palmisano said. Marks raised the use of bulk accounts, but said he and others on the council were feeling a lot of uncertainty.

Marks said he was grateful for some things included in the budget, especially funding for the C.P. Crane park project. He called other expenditures “a bit curious,” including $1 million put toward the county’s Fair Election Fund, which candidates can make use of beginning in the 2026 election cycle.

Marks said he would support the idea Patoka raised of making cuts to the budget to encourage a supplemental budget.

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Councilman Mike Ertel, a Democrat, also said the budget would probably need cuts.

“I know we’re going to as a council take a deep dive on this and really look at it hard this year,” Ertel said, but added that it’s too soon to propose specific.

Ertel called the idea of using cuts to encourage a supplemental budget “intriguing” but said he wouldn’t look at it as a “tit-for-tat” scenario, but instead redirecting funds to “issues that the public really wants us to deal with.”

Councilmen Julian Jones and Pat Young, both Democrats, did not share similar concerns with the budget. Jones said his “red line” was making sure there were no new taxes, which the proposed budget does not include.

Jones said he hadn’t had time to fully dive into the details of the budget, “but the framework looks good to me.”

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Young said it was “short-sighted” to talk about budget cuts so soon after it was presented.

“Approving a budget and making decisions based on what’s sent to us is one of the biggest responsibilities that we have as a council. After not even comprehensively reviewing anything, we shouldn’t be talking about cutting department funds for political purposes,” Young said.

The $5 billion budget proposal is scheduled to be voted on by the council next month. It is slightly larger than last year’s budget and meets the school system’s funding requests.

It requests nearly $600 million in borrowing authority, about $244 million more than anticipated, Olszewski said during his budget message last week. That borrowing authority would have to be approved by voters. If it’s not approved, it could mean delaying, deferring or canceling capital projects, Olszewski said.

Other budget proposals include:

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Councilmen Wade Kach and Todd Crandell, both Republicans, did not respond to requests for comment.

Cody Boteler is a reporter on The Banner’s Express Desk, reporting on breaking news, trending stories and interesting things in and around Baltimore. His work has appeared in The Baltimore Sun, USA TODAY, Baltimore magazine and others.

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