Neuman proposes $1.3 billion budget for Anne Arundel

Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman embraced a message of change in proposing her first county budget Wednesday, describing the $1.3 billion operating budget as an effort to reverse a government that had fallen "way behind in culture, attitude and investment."

Neuman, who was appointed executive by the County Council in February to replace John R. Leopold after he was convicted in January of misconduct in office, told the packed council chamber, "We will not be defined by a past of scandal and mediocrity."

Neuman said she had three major goals for the fiscal year that begins July 1: to improve county services; to modernize the county's infrastructure, especially technology; and to help the economy grow.

"I tried to be as candid as I could," Neuman said after outlining a list of what she considers needed upgrades, from computer systems dating to the 1980s to an aging fleet of police cars that, within a year, will see 62 percent of its vehicles with more than 100,000 miles.

For the first time in at least three years, all county employees would see raises, with Neuman proposing a 3 percent across-the-board increase. Union workers also would receive a 3 percent cost-of-living raise starting in January. Nonunion employees would receive a 4 percent cost-of-living raise, half starting in January, the rest in April.

Neuman's plan would lead to an increase in the property tax rate, to 95 cents per $100 of assessed value from the current 94.1 cents. That would represent a $26 increase on a home assessed at $261,000, the county average, county finance officials said.

The council must adopt a budget by mid-June.

"I thought the county executive's budget message was very positive and very collaborative," said Kevin Maxwell, superintendent of schools. "I thought her message of taking care of people and infrastructure is the right way to go."

He said Neuman's budget would be about $5.6 million short of a school system plan for its employees to get 3 percent raises, but Maxwell said the system can make up the difference from its own budget if necessary.

The overall school allocation of $596 million adds nearly $17 million over this year's budget — much of that to handle a shift in teacher pension payments from the state to the counties — and represents about 51 percent of the county budget.

In addition to the operating budget, Neuman unveiled a six-year, $232.2 million capital budget that would fund a new Lake Shore fire station, a long-planned public boat ramp at Fort Smallwood Park and 79 police cars, as well as continued funding for planned school projects.

The plan also seeks to restore public library hours to a full schedule, begin plans for a new Annapolis library and upgrade library computers.

The budget is available for review at http://www.aacounty.org/Budget/FY2014.cfm

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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