By Amanda Fiedler
Councilwoman, District 5
On June 14, the Anne Arundel County Council passed the Fiscal Year 2020 budget by a vote of 4-3. The county council consists of four Democrats and three Republicans. Votes fell along party lines. This marked the conclusion of 45 days of deliberation, hours of analysis and discussion.
The county executive’s proposed budget remained essentially intact with minimal reductions. There were many areas of the budget that were necessary and that I supported. However, the budget also included expenses that, in my opinion, are not necessary. In a budget with tax increases our county hasn’t experienced since the early ‘70s, it was essential to identify the “needs” from the “wants.”
I cosponsored over 45 amendments that would have cut $20 million in the operating budget without eliminating a single teacher, firefighter, police officer or merit step. In the capital budget, I cosponsored over $142 million in reductions without eliminating a single school construction project, library project or defunding any reoccurring capital projects like sidewalks and park renovations. All amendments failed down party lines, with Republicans favoring the amendments and Democrats voting them down. There were areas where the council found common ground, though the votes didn’t always reflect it.
To rein in the overall budget, one that has historic levels of spending, I also cosponsored an amendment that would have reduced the cost of living increase (COLA) by .45% for all county employees. A 1.5% cola would have remained, as would have all proposed merit increases of 3%. While this amendment “in theory” was supported by the councilwoman for District 6, the amendment failed along party lines. With bipartisan support, an amendment that reduced funding for new textbooks and increased funding for additional music teachers, mental health professionals and an internal audit of the school system passed unanimously. It was a net zero or shifting of dollars from one area to another. I was happy to give my support to this amendment. My commitment to addressing the mental health needs in our community remains a priority, and so do the commitments I made when I knocked on over 4,000 doors in our district.
On every piece of literature and in all my conversations at doors, I have supported the property tax cap. This budget exceeds that cap. The county budget comes before the council as one expense bill and doesn’t allow for cherry-picking of areas a council member may support. Hard decisions had to be made. The budget and supplemental budget, which reallocated $1.3 million in reductions, were simply too much.
July 1 is the new fiscal year for our county and the revenue and expense allocation for the new budget. July also brings new legislation before the council recesses for August. Two of County Executive Steuart Pittman’s recent bills will be up for public hearing and potential amendments in July. The fair housing bill and workforce housing bill will have public hearings on July 1.
My second bill, Bill 59-19, was introduced at our June 17 meeting. This bill would require a developer to send notice to certain parties when a subdivision is granted approval. Notification would be sent via first-class mail within 10 days of project approval.
Currently, residents and communities track approvals by logging on our county website and then searching for approved projects. My bill is an effort to add transparency to the approval process of subdivisions and reduce human error in notification by requiring this additional safeguard. Bill 59-19 will be heard at the July 15 meeting.
Council meetings are located in council chambers at 44 Calvert Street in Annapolis and begin at 7:00pm. Those wishing to speak on any legislation are encouraged to arrive before 7:00pm to sign up to speak. Any bills not amended will be voted on the same evening as the public hearing.
You can always reach me to share your thoughts on any legislation or community concerns by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.