Baltimore County Council voted unanimously to approve County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s $5 billion budget, which includes enough money to meet the county schools’ budget needs and doesn’t raise taxes.

But Council Chairman Izzy Patoka indicated multiple concerns about Olszewski’s staff sharing information with council members. Of particular note, he said, was a Towson building that the county asked to buy about a year ago. At the time, Patoka said, county staff told the council that the structure, built in 1991, was move-in ready for county employees. But in the current budget, staff is asking for $4 million more for HVAC, roof and infrastructure repairs, and $3.5 million for renovation costs.

“It seems as though the Baltimore County Council was on a need-to-know basis, only being informed when a budget-year appropriation or end-of fiscal-year action was needed,” said Patoka, a Democrat who represents northwest Baltimore County neighborhoods, including Pikesville.

Nevertheless, he said, “we are also mindful that the county is now the owner of this building. And for better or worse, we need to make sure it is in good and safe condition.”

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Council members opted to cut $600,000 from a $1.2 million request to renovate the historic Towson courthouse, where the County Council meets. Some in the community questioned whether this cut means the council is no longer looking at expanding from seven members to nine, as a task force looking at the issue recommended. But Patoka said earlier Thursday that those matters were not connected. He said he believes the council chambers can be renovated under a reduced budget.

Patoka also noted the turnover in Department of Economic and Workforce Development, and the previous focus on workforce development over bringing new businesses to the county. He said he’s hopeful the newly appointed director, Jonathan Sachs, will “be given the latitude” to implement a vision that brings more businesses to the area.

Other highlights of the Olszewski budget, which would take effect July 1:

  • $1 million toward the county’s new public campaign financing system set to begin in the 2026 election cycle
  • Changing health care benefits so recent hires will no longer pay more than veteran employees
  • Freezing in-county tuition for the Community College of Baltimore County
  • More than $35 million for new and upgraded library buildings
  • $11.5 million to complete a new fire station in Catonsville
  • $6 million more for the Department of Recreation and Parks
  • $3.3 million for the Housing Opportunities Fund to incentivize building affordable housing
  • Adding translation services to every county departmen

Olszewski also asked for the ability to borrow $600 million, about $244 million more than anticipated. He said the county is facing “the perfect economic storm” due to a combination of state budget uncertainty, inflation and the end of federal pandemic recovery dollars.

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Patoka has said he was disappointed in the budget and pledged to go through it with “a fine-toothed comb.” Patoka and David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, both expressed disappointment that the county budget did not include more projects in individual districts, such as road improvements. County staff has explained that engineers have taken a countywide approach to road repair based on needs in the whole county, not just one district.

In the end, though, the council voted to keep things mostly the same — even though the county will be seeing major changes. Olszewski, a Democrat, won his primary and is favored to win the general election for a U.S. House seat in November. The county could have another executive at this time next year, and then again after elections for the post in 2026.

Staff writer Cody Boteler contributed to this story.