Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman on Wednesday proposed a $2.31 billion budget for fiscal year 2025 that increases spending, boosts the starting pay of police officers and provides funds to staff three new schools.

The spending plan represents an 8.2% increase from the $2.14 billion budget approved for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Pittman would fund the investments through a modest increase in the local income tax rate, as well as higher permitting and 911 service fees.

“People say they want investments in public safety and education, and that’s where most of our new money is going,” said Pittman, a Democrat in his second term. “The next largest growth area is health, the thing that matters most to us, in the end.”

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Here is a breakdown of spending in Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman’s proposed FY 2025 budget. (Courtesy of Anne Arundel County)

The general fund would pay to create 12 new positions: Six in the police department, three in recreation and parks, and one each in the legislative branch, aging office and a new chief administrative officer. It would eliminate one position each in the county executive’s office and in recreation and parks (for child care).

The county will hold two public hearings on the spending plan: May 15 at Linthicum Elementary School and May 22 at the Arundel Center in Annapolis. The County Council must approve the budget by June 15.

Here’s a breakdown of Pittman’s spending plan:

Schools get $48M boost

The proposed budget fully funds Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell’s compensation request, including step increases and a 3% cost-of-living adjustment for teachers and school staff.

“Failure to deliver would have been exactly the pause in progress that we ruled out,” Pittman said.

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Pittman would boost education funding by nearly $48 million, allowing the county school system to add staff for three new schools opening in the fall: Severn Run High School, Two Rivers Elementary School, and New Village Academy, a charter school. The allocation would also pay for a new middle school athletics department and help the district meet Maryland’s Blueprint for Maryland’s Future requirements.

County officials said the proposed budget funds about 69% of the Board of Education’s request.

Pittman would also increase county support for Anne Arundel Community College to $52.5 million, an increase of $2.4 million. AACC, which has a $138.9 million annual budget, gets funding from the state, county, tuition and other sources.

Cost-of-living increases

Pittman said he wants the county to become more competitive in hiring.

His budget calls for a 3% cost-of-living raise for county employees and merit/step increases for all county employees.

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“Failure to do so in this labor market would leave us with so many vacancies that essential services would not be delivered,” Pittman said.

The budget also includes $1.6 million to provide benefits and supplemental salary adjustments to school health staff.

Public safety

Pittman said police and fire departments, the sheriff’s office, detention and emergency management are the services that have seen the most growth over the last five years. He stressed the importance of offering competitive pay for law enforcement in a costly market.

Under the budget, the starting pay for police officers would go from $62,160 to $70,000, the highest in Maryland, officials said.

In addition, county officials said in an executive summary, the county would spend $5 million on what it called a “generous pay package” aimed at retaining existing officers. An additional $2.9 million is budgeted for projected police overtime.

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“Staying strong means continuing to grow that investment and attracting and maintaining the right personnel,” Pittman said.

The budget also includes funds to train 70 Fire Department recruits, with $2 million set aside for projected overtime.

Pittman also wants to set aside $150,000 for hiring bonuses to address vacancies at its two detention facilities. Another $400,000 would go toward staffing the Real Time Information Center, a crime-fighting tool.

Community services

Programs that were previously funded by American Rescue Plan or the CARES Act, two pandemic-era federal programs, would continue to receive county funding.

Pittman proposed providing $1.5 million to the Anne Arundel County Food Bank, and $1.2 million for the Opioid Abatement Fund, a community grants program. Turnaround Thursday, a program that moves incarcerated people into the workforce, will receive funding as well.

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The spending plan would allow for the addition of two new Child Enrichment Center programs that could provide care to 60 additional children of low-income working families.

The county would also fund the summer SNAP program, estimated to benefit 36,090 children in the county.

The budget maintains funding for violence interruption, health ambassadors and expanded hours at community health clinics.

A position would be added to manage the Department of Health’s Cure Violence Program. The budget would allow for the hiring of an early childhood specialist and a chief affordable housing officer.

Pittman said the county needs to focus on the backbone of government. This means paying the costs of information technology, such as the contracts with software and hardware companies that deliver the new Police Real Time Information Center, Land Use Navigator and other tools.

The IT investments will cost an additional $5 million.

Money is also set aside for environmental efforts.

A new environmental subcabinet will deliver projects paid for by state and federal grants that total $32 million, with another $58 million in the pipeline.

The proposed budget also includes funding for the county’s first overnight nature experience in cabins and campsites at Jug Bay Emory Waters Nature Preserve and to expand Anne Arundel River Days to five waterfront locations this summer, so families can get on the water with no cost.

Fees, local income tax would rise

Pittman proposes paying for the additional spending in three ways.

The county executive wants to update permit fees at Inspections and Permits for the first time in 21 years. Linking fees to costs would produce an estimated $5.9 million.

Raising the fee that residents pay each month for 911 service from 75 cents to $1 would generate $1.7 million, officials said.

Pittman also wants to raise the local income tax rate on “middle-tier” earners from 2.81% to 2.94%, a move that would generate $6 million a year. This would apply to single filers with taxable income of $50,000 to $400,000, and joint filers with taxable income of $75,000 to $480,000. As a result, someone who earns $75,000 a year would pay $2205 in local income taxes, an increase of $97.50.

Pittman stressed that Anne Arundel has one of the lowest local income tax rates in the state.

The county’s property tax rate for properties outside Annapolis would rise slightly, from 98 cents to 98.3 cents per $100 of assessed value, the so-called “cap rate.” The county limits how much property tax revenue can be collected each year.

Officials said in their summary that the “property tax rate remains the lowest in the region as we continue to honor the tax cap.”

“I don’t look for political middle, or the left, or the right,” Pittman said. “What I look for is to build trust — trust between the outstanding public servants whose work this budget funds and the people whose money pays for their salaries.”

This story has been updated to clarify that the county's property tax rate would increase slightly, to 98.3 cents per $100 of assessed value, under County Executive Steuart Pittman's proposed budget for fiscal year 2025.

Royale Bonds attended Southern Illinois University. Go Salukis! She previously worked as an affordable housing reporter in Greenville, South Carolina. Royale enjoys long naps, snacking and endless scrolling on social media. She looks forward to reporting on Anne Arundel County and covering the stories that matter.

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