An Update from Councilman-Elect David Marks on the Baltimore County Budget

The freshmen County Councilmembers were recently briefed on Baltimore County’s budget situation, part of an orientation as we prepare to take office on December 6. Generally, Baltimore County has weathered the economic recession better than many jurisdictions, but there are some ominous signs on the horizon.

As I have said many times, Baltimore County is one of the best-managed jurisdictions in Maryland. Over the past 16 years, when the county was flush with revenue, it poured money into capital projects that generally did not add to long-term debt or operating expenses. The county also negotiated pension packages with key unions. As a result, the county has avoided the types of layoffs and furloughs we have seen in metropolitan jurisdictions across the United States.

At the end of the last fiscal year, on June 30th, the General Fund had a balance of $109 million, or 7 percent of the overall General Fund budget. Additionally, there was $84 million in the Revenue Stabilization Reserve Account, typically referred to as the Rainy Day account. Thus, the combined surplus balance and Rainy Day account totaled $193 million, or 12 percent of the FY 2011 General Fund budget.

There are, however, signals that the county will not be able to simply glide through the recession to better economic times.

The biggest concern is what will happen with teacher pensions. The state faces a $1.6 billion budget shortfall in FY 2012, and legislative leaders may try to shift the cost of teacher pensions to local governments. If a measure had passed during the 2010 legislative session, it would have cost Baltimore County up to $8 million the first year, and $40 million by the fourth year.

Another ominous sign is the decline in state aid for transportation projects. The state slashed Highway User Revenue from $36 million in FY 2009 to about $1 million in FY 2011. These cutbacks are starting to have a real effect. Congestion isn’t going away, and we may have another bad winter that leads to more potholes on our deteriorating roads.

Finally, the overall national economy affects Baltimore County’s budget situation. We are stuck in a very long and severe national recession that ultimately affects how Baltimore Countians spend their money and when they decide to buy a new home.

So Baltimore County faces a difficult balancing trick over the next few years. The county must continue to look for ways to cut spending, but at the same time, we need to appropriate more money for capital projects like road resurfacing where there has been some retrenchment by the state. Above all, we need to avoid tax increases that would hurt the recovery and set a bad message to businesses looking to relocate in Baltimore County.

I’m going to work with the new County Executive and the other Councilmembers to try to find that right balance that keeps the county moving forward.

Councilman-Elect David Marks blogs on the new Baltimore County Council

On November 2nd, after seven months of campaigning, I was elected to the Baltimore County Council from the Fifth District. The Fifth District is one of the most diverse of the seven County Council districts, an amalgamation of neighborhoods that includes Towson, Loch Raven, Parkville, and Perry Hall. I am the first Republican in more than 40 years to represent many of the communities in the Fifth District.

The new County Council is the most diverse in history. There will be two Republicans and five Democrats; two women; and members from many professional backgrounds. While we each bring unique perspectives to the County Council, I believe several common themes may emerge as we take office.

First, our paramount concern is the need to balance next year’s budget without raising taxes and cutting key services, such as public safety. The County Council reacts to the County Executive’s budget submission; in fact, the Council may only cut from the proposal, not add to it, so we will be very interested in how County Executive Kamenetz crafts his plan.

Baltimore County is one of the best-managed jurisdictions in Maryland. Our county has avoided many of the painful layoffs and furloughs experienced by employees in other counties. During prosperous times, the county has invested its surpluses in capital projects that generally do not add to the county’s payroll or increase its debt burden. Hopefully, we can get to a point in two or three years where funds are available for urgent capital priorities, like transportation and schools.

I also believe there is a strong interest in “good government” reforms that make Baltimore County more open and transparent. For example, we need to move the County Council’s legislative work sessions to a more convenient time for the public. I also believe there will be a strong push next spring for state legislation that reforms the way we select the Baltimore County School Board.

I am honored to serve on the Baltimore County Council. It is the privilege of a lifetime, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to make a difference over the next four years.

David Marks is the County Councilman-Elect from the Fifth District. He may be reached at [email protected]

David Marks: Campaign Update - Week of Sunday, September 19

From a campaign email

The day after the primary election, I called Mike Ertel and congratulated him on his apparent win as the Democratic nominee for the County Council. I have also spoken to Bill Paulshock and Gordon Harden and thanked them for their interest in serving Baltimore County.

I want very much to avoid the harsh, negative tone that characterized the Democratic nomination contest. Elections should be won on issues and ideas, not insults.
Having said that, I believe there are three fundamental qualities that differentiate my candidacy. First, I have a 15-year history of working across party lines to improve communities throughout the Fifth District. Second, I have a background in transportation and planning that is desperately needed in county government. Third, my election would bring greater political balance to the County Council.

A few other events occurred this week. First, on Wednesday, there was a public hearing on the proposed Towson Swim Club. I am glad that proponents of the swim club dropped plans to convert a wooded ravine into a lawn for the pool. On Friday, I attended a Constitution Day reception for Historic Long Island Farm in the Cromwell Valley. I prepared the paperwork that recently led to National Register status for this property.

Looking forward, we will be going door knocking nearly every day. If you can help out (particularly on the weekends), please respond to this email. We are also looking for poll workers for the general election. Thank you again for your support!

David Marks
Candidate for the Baltimore County Council
P.O. Box 42633
Towson, MD 21284-2633
www.votedavidmarks.com

[email protected]

Authority: Friends of David Marks, Charles L. Marks, Treasurer.

Marks announces for Baltimore County Council

Bryan Sears

David Marks, a Republican and long-time Perry Hall activist, will run for the County Council seat currently held by five-term Democrat Vince Gardina.

[...]

Marks is the only Republican so far in the 5th District primary. There are three Democrats who have declared interest in the seat — Mike Ertel and Gordon Harden, both of Towson, and Bill Paulshock, of Perry Hall.

Marks will announce his candidacy tonight - details here. You can also become a fan of Marks on Facebook.

Publisher’s note: In the interests of full disclosure, David has written for Inside Charm City in the past.
(Continue reading…)

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