The Anne Arundel County Fiscal Year 2024 budget session has concluded. It was a whirlwind 45 days of meetings, hearings and discussions on priorities within the county, competing needs and how to spend your tax dollars.
On the morning of June 14, the Anne Arundel County Council voted on the appropriations bill and each individual tax bill that respectively makes up the spending and revenue of the annual budget. Like most legislation that comes to the council, four of seven favorable votes are required to pass the budget. Should the budget not get the support of four councilmembers, the county executive’s proposed budget is adopted, without changes.
This year’s budget included property tax increases, income tax increases for certain households, recordation and transfer tax increases for home sales over $1 million, increased waste and water fees, and new ride share fees.
Highlights for the operational budget added nearly two dozen additional police and firefighters to keep pace with the public safety needs of the county, and adjusted compensations for teachers in advance of the Maryland Blueprint for Education requirements.
The annual budget historically passes with council approval, and this budget passed with bipartisan support, 6-1.
I voted for the budget, but against the tax increases, and here is why.
As an elected official, I am always looking out for the best interests and safety of the people I represent and advocate for their needs. I know we all want safe communities, and I know how hard our police work to address a variety of criminal activities from petty to violent crimes, traffic safety issues and more. They also invest time to build relationships with the people they serve and protect. Our firefighters need to have the staff to adequately run an apparatus to an emergency call. Properly staffing our public safety agencies, and having the ability to retain the people in these important positions, is critical to the safety of our neighborhoods.
My consistent priority has been to fight for lower taxes on behalf of our families and local businesses. In this budget process, I supported amendments that could have lowered the tax rate but still allowed the county to increase pay packages for county employees, and hire more teachers, firefighters and police officers. Because the county council can only cut the budget, this process would have meant the adoption of one of the proposed tax reduction amendments, followed by support from a majority of councilmembers, through discussions with the administration, to reduce the proposed tax rate.
This would have been followed by amendments that would have adjusted areas of the spending bill to account for the reduction. What those reductions would have or could have been would have depended on the priorities agreed upon by a majority of councilmembers and the administration. Most of the council rejected this proposal, thus ending the discussion to make any adjustments.
My vote against each bill that raises taxes reflects my genuine commitment to the families in our district and the need to demand fiscal responsibility from our county government.
At the same time, over the past year, I have spent hundreds of hours meeting with constituents, local leaders, community activists, teachers, parents, business owners and others who have requested support from county government for our collective needs.
One mother who spoke at a budget town hall really stuck with me. She shared how her young elementary school child hasn’t had one consistent teacher all year due to staffing challenges. In fact, her young daughter has had more than three teachers, instead of one. As a mom of three kids in our school system, I know how important consistency in the classroom is for successful learning.
This budget is not perfect, but there are positive elements that I wanted to support in the interest of our district. In addition to increasing the number of police officers and firefighters, and taking steps to hire and retain teachers, this budget is also investing in our school nurses and critical funding for infrastructure improvements. These are positions and programs that are necessary for essential government functions, safety, and education of our children.
After serious thought and consideration, I supported the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, while rejecting increased tax burdens on families, because I believe that I could not throw out the baby with the bathwater. This was not a hasty decision.
As a public servant, I believe I must be pragmatic in my decisions and weigh every detail.
I want to thank everyone who invested time to share their thoughts with me through email, voicemails and social media. Your communication was an important piece in helping me reach this decision.
I hope in future budgets, the county council can work together in the same way to prevent further tax increases on the residents of Anne Arundel County.
As always, you can share your thoughts with me on this or any other bill before the county council, or you can reach out for assistance on a county related matter by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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