Anne Arundel Co. budget adopted by council at $1.2 billion

The Anne Arundel County Council approved a $1.2 billion annual operating budget Wednesday for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The budget, adopted 6-1, ends furloughs for county employees but does not include raises.

For property owners, it creates approximately a 3-cent increase in the property tax rate, the maximum amount allowed by law.

The coming year's 94.1-cent tax rate would mean, for example, that owner of a home assessed at $261,200 will pay about $128 more in property taxes, according to county finance officials.

Trash collection will drop from twice to once a week, a savings of nearly $2 million for the county. For households, the change will mean a slim reduction in the trash bill: from $315 to $298.

"I think it shows that the government can meet all of its obligations without having to go back to the citizens for more money," said Council Chairman Derek Fink, a Pasadena Republican.

Public school funding accounts for 52 percent of the fiscal 2013 budget, officials said. The budget adds about $12 million in education funds and includes $11.5 million toward teacher pensions under a new state law that has local governments shouldering a portion of teacher pension costs.

The council shaved nearly $4 million from the budget that County Executive John R. Leopold, a Pasadena Republican, proposed in mid-April, when Leopold said state mandates were squeezing local government services.

"This balanced budget is a reflection of our focus on providing the level of essential services citizens rightfully expect from their local government," said Leopold.

Council member John Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, cast the lone vote against the budget. He said the budget does not attack the county's structural deficit and borrows funds through bonds to make up for revenue. "If you ran a company like this, you'd go bankrupt," he said.

The budget won praise from Kevin Maxwell, superintendent of schools. The budget gives the school system the authority to add 62 classroom teachers and funding for another 66 teaching and related positions, but does not provide for raises. The school board is set to vote on a $977 million budget on June 20 (it also includes federal, state and other funds).

The council also adopted a $185.9 million capital budget for the coming year. About $116.3 million of that will go toward schools, including to start renovations of Crofton Elementary School and finalize plans to build a new Severna Park High School — though construction of the high school would not begin until 2014.

It also allows the county to move ahead with a new Lake Shore fire station and to offer public boat access at Fort Smallwood Park.

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