TO: Chairperson Rigby and members of the Howard County Council
RE: 2023 Capital Budget
The League of Women Voters of Howard County supports many elements in the Executive’s proposed $379 million dollar capital budget. Prudent and responsible capital spending while taking into account the future ability to maintain payments in changing economic circumstances is an essential function of local government.
We urge you to fully fund the Board of Education’s proposed $67.7 million Capital Budget. This amount should not be reduced when state pass-through funding is received. Too many schools in our community need renovation, new roofs, and HVAC systems, which have been deferred too long. School enrollment continues to rise, requiring additional classrooms, and new schools. The Pre-K expansion program will require both additional spaces and the renovation of existing buildings, properly equipped and furnished to educate four-year-olds. We should address these many needs as quickly as we possibly can,while not cutting corners on the quality of construction. The high quality of the Howard County Public Schools is directly implicated in growing the tax base to maintain the financial health of the County Government. The condition of all the school buildings is a major component of the public perception of school quality.
The Education portion of the budget also supports the 30,000 students of Howard Community College and the Howard County Library System. We know that all of our young people will not obtain a four-year college degree, and that we need many people who have specialized skills that are not learned via a four-year degree. We can foresee that increased automation, including the use of robots and artificial intelligence, will require many adults to retrain for new occupations. Workforce Training and Development programs are needed to increase employment opportunities for our residents and attract new employers. Those programs require appropriate spaces and equipment, and should be funded. We also recognize that the community has outgrown the Central Library location of the HCLS, and support replacing the Central Branch with a facility that can accommodate the needs of all of the residents of Howard County.
We support transportation projects, which will make our roads, bridges and pathways safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles. Maintaining and improving infrastructure for stormwater management and public water and sewer systems is critical to keeping our infrastructure in working condition, and is well worth the approximately $45 million investment.
Our growing community is in need of additional community services, parks, and recreation centers, especially the expanded East Columbia Senior Center and the LibraryPark, and the Family Support Center. Existing facilities and parks require maintenance, repairs and security enhancements
Public safety is a primary concern, and we support the additional fire and police stations, the renovations to those stations, and the Technology upgrade to improve the communications systems that support public safety. The Detention Center is in need of renovation, which in the past has been an easy deferment when the budget was tight. We support completing the renovations on the Detention Center.
Howard County lies between two river systems; the Patapsco, which has flooded Ellicott City repeatedly, and the Patuxent, which has flooded in the Laurel area in the past. We support the $44.7 million in funding to finish the Ellicott City Safe and Sound flood mitigation plan and the approximately $18 million to maintain existing stormwater management ponds. It is essential that the county supplement the state and federal funding as necessary.
We find the budget document to be thoughtfully compiled, taking into account various community priorities. The challenge is to balance the high cost of some redevelopment projects against the need to maintain and grow the existing infrastructure in roads, public sanitation, stormwater management, school facilities, parks, and public safety. Voters want what they already have to work as intended, and not deteriorate further, while shiny new buildings rise elsewhere.
Laura Mettle, Vice President for Program
The League of Women Voters of Howard County, Maryland
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