Anne Arundel County Councilmen unanimously passed the county executive's $1.3 billion 2014 fiscal year operating budget on Tuesday, which includes raises for county employees, and the $201 million capital budget, which includes funding for construction work.
County Executive Laura Neuman has called this budget, her first since taking office in February, a "fresh start" for Anne Arundel County.
Councilmen took several sessions to review all 106 amendments to the budget bill, including corrections to clerical errors, and about $30.6 million cut from Neuman's original budget proposal in May. The budget also includes a $0.9 property tax hike, raising the amount to $.950 per $100 of assessed value.
The council also cut $5 million from school system's capital budget, used to pay for schools maintenance efforts including work like painting and roof repairs. The requested money was instead placed in a contingency fund.
Top school officials said the move was retaliation for a $5 million spat in 2012 over the maintenance of effort payment—the minimum amount the state requires the county to fund schools.
After the Friday council meeting, Councilman Derek Fink (R-3rd District), of Pasadena, told The Capital-Gazette that such talk of retaliation was "just silly." But schools superintendent Kevin Maxwell wrote in a prepared statement that such actions amounted to political theatre.
"There is no crisis to avert by slicing these funds. There is no place for the Council to deflect responsibility, and unlike previous years, no County Executive to vilify," Maxwell wrote.
The council also dodged a water and sewer rate hike of five percent, instead shaving it down to three percent for this year, by reducing $10.2 million from the utilities fund.
Among the final additions to the budget was a $750,000 appropriation to review the so-called MGT study for school construction. The study is what school officials utilize to determine the order in which school construction is done.
County Councilman Dick Ladd (R-5th District), of Arnold, said the council's hope was that in reviewing the study, they could realign it to match recent growth in the county.
"We'll see the sequence corrected for the growth we've seen, rather than the postulations made years ago," Ladd said.
Council Chairman Jerry Walker (R-7th District) said though the council made the appropriation for the study, it would be up to the Board of Education to utilize it.
The study is among the first things parents with students in Anne Arundel County argue over, as it determines how soon their school can get major construction done.
The full budget, Bill 46-13, can be reviewed on the Anne Arundel County Government website.