Lo­cal fund­ing ques­tions on gen­eral elec­tion bal­lot

The Dundalk Eagle - - BY THE PEOPLE - By BRAD KRO­NER bkro­ner@ches­pub.com

On gen­eral elec­tion bal­lots in Bal­ti­more County are a se­ries of ques­tions per­tain­ing to the bor­row­ing of funds to put to­wards projects rang­ing from pub­lic school projects to wa­ter­way im­prove­ment pro­grams.

In all, nine ques­tions per­tain to county or­di­nances for lo­cal fund­ing. The Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil passed nine bills — Bill 26-16 through Bill 34-16 — to sub­mit the or­di­nances to a voter ref­er­en­dum.

Ac­cord­ing to Ellen Kobler, a Bal­ti­more County spokesper­son, this is com­pletely nor­mal for a gen­eral elec­tion bal­lot and is part of a county gov­ern­ment’s stan­dard op­er­a­tions.

“It’s just a nor­mal process of gov­ern­ment of do­ing busi­ness. It’s stan­dard ev­ery time,” Kobler said.

It’s likely that all of the ques­tions will pass, Kobler said.

“Vot­ers — ev­ery time in the past — ap­prove them with wide mar­gins,” she ex­plained. “We strongly en­cour­age Bal­ti­more County vot­ers to vote for the bond­ing ref­er­enda.”

The bonds al­low the county to in­vest more money on im­prov­ing com­mu­ni­ties, Kobler said.

The to­tal amount of dol­lars in ques­tion — should all nine ques­tions be ap­proved — is around $292 mil­lion.

“The dol­lar amounts are very stan­dard,” Kobler said, ex­plain­ing that the num­ber is not a sig­nif­i­cantly large num­ber in the grand scheme of things.

Kobler said that the county gov­ern­ment was given a triple AAA bond rat­ing by in­vestors, mean­ing that the county’s bond­ing is fis­cally re­spon­si­ble.

“That means we get to bor­row at the low­est rate which saves tax­pay­ers mil­lions of dol­lars,” Kobler said. Bal­ti­more County has a line item in its bud­get for its debt ser­vice.

Gov­ern­ment bod­ies of­ten is­sue mu­nic­i­pal bonds to re­ceive fund­ing for pub­lic projects.

Bal­ti­more County’s bud­get for fis­cal year 2017 is $3.4 bil­lion. The bor­rowed funds would match 8.5 per­cent of this bud­get.

Ap­prox­i­mately eight per­cent of the fis­cal year 2017 bud­get is re­served for debt ser­vic­ing.

Th­ese bonds will be pro­grammed into the fis­cal year 2018 bud­get.

Ac­cord­ing to the county’s brochure on the bor­row­ing ref­er­en­dum, the bonds will be fund­ing spe­cific projects, though those projects may change, based on chang­ing com­mu­nity needs, chang­ing eco­nomic cir­cum­stances or var­i­ous other changes.

Ques­tion B: County Or­di­nance for School Bor­row­ing

The county coun­cil has pro­posed bor­row­ing up to $166,000,000 for con­struc­tion of new schools, as well as ad­di­tions, ren­o­va­tions and cap­i­tal main­te­nance at ex­ist­ing schools.

Ac­cord­ing to the bud­get depart­ment’s brochure, “the em­pha­sis over the last sev­eral years has been on cap­i­tal main­te­nance, elim­i­na­tion of over­crowd­ing and in­stal­la­tion of air con­di­tion­ing.”

Nearly $39 mil­lion will be used for air con­di­tion­ing projects. More than $87 mil­lion will be used for con­struc­tion, ad­di­tions and ren­o­va­tions. Other projects in­clude up­graded equip­ment in school kitchens, trans­porta­tion im­prove­ments and roof re­place­ment.

Ques­tion C: County Or­di­nance for Parks and Preser­va­tion Bor­row­ing

The ap­proval of Ques­tion C would al­low the county to “bor­row up to $4,000,000 for ac­qui­si­tion and de­vel­op­ment of wa­ter­front parks, com­mu­nity and area parks, school recre­ation cen­ters and stream val­ley parks as de­scribed in the Bal­ti­more County Mas­ter Plan,” ac­cord­ing to the brochure.

“Bor­rowed funds would also be used to per­form cap­i­tal main­te­nance on ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties and to buy land for de­vel­op­ment into parks or for preser­va­tion in a nat­u­ral state,” the brochure reads. “The Depart­ment of Recre­ation and Parks ad­min­is­ters this por­tion of the Cap­i­tal Bud­get and is cur­rently re­spon­si­ble for ap­prox­i­mately 13,302 acres of lands at parks, open spa­ces, green­ways, and leased recre­ation sites. This land features a wide range of fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing ath­letic fields, ball di­a­monds, in­door fa­cil­i­ties (e.g., recre­ation cen­ters), in­ter­pre­tive cen­ters, pic­nic pavil­ions, play grounds, sports courts, dog parks, skate parks and trail and path sys­tems.”

The largest ex­pense is $2.3 mil­lion to ren­o­vate recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties.

Ques­tion D: County Or­di­nance for Pub­lic Works Bor­row­ing

Au­tho­riza­tion of Ques­tion D would al­low the Depart­ment of Pub­lic works to bor­row up to $63.3 mil­lion for storm drain projects, street and high­way and bridge projects.

$38 mil­lion would fund road­way resur­fac­ing. Nearly $1.5 mil­lion would sup­port the con­struc­tion of a bridge on Penin­sula High­way in Spar­rows Point.

Ques­tion E: County Or­di­nance for Com­mu­nity Im­prove­ment Bor­row­ing

The bor­row­ing of $1 mil­lion would “fi­nance the con­struc­tion of pedes­trian sys­tems, bus stop shel­ters, park­ing lots, lands­cap­ing, street sign im­prove­ments and other com­mu­nity im­prove­ments” across the county.

No spe­cific projects were listed in the brochure.

Ques­tion F: County Or­di­nance for Op­er­a­tional Build­ings Bor­row­ing

Voter ap­proval of Ques­tion F would al­low the county to bor­row $22 mil­lion for the “con­struc­tion, ren­o­va­tion and cap­i­tal main­te­nance of gen­eral gov­ern­ment build­ings, pub­lic safety build­ings such as po­lice sta­tions, fire sta­tions and the de­ten­tion cen­ter, li­braries, se­nior cen­ters, recre­ation build­ings, other sim­i­lar build­ings and park­ing fa­cil­i­ties,” the brochure said.

“Bor­rowed funds would also be used for di­rect pur­chase of land for such build­ings, pur­chase of land al­ready im­proved with build­ings, move­able fur­ni­ture and equip­ment as­so­ci­ated with and es­sen­tial to the op­er­a­tion of new and ren­o­vated build­ings and space within ex­ist­ing build­ings, lands­cap­ing, fenc­ing, park­ing lots and other sim­i­lar cap­i­tal site main­te­nance and site im­prove­ments as­so­ci­ated with County build­ings and prop­erty.”

Ques­tion G: County Or­di­nance for Refuse Dis­posal Bor­row­ing

The bor­row­ing of $7.6 mil­lion, if ap­proved by vot­ers, would fund “the con­struc­tion, ex­pan­sion, ac­qui­si­tion, im­prove­ment, al­ter­ation, cap­i­tal re­pair or mod­ern­iza­tion of refuse pro­cess­ing, trans­fer and dis­posal fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing land­fills,” ac­cord­ing to the brochure.

“Funds could also be used to close and cap County land­fills. The County has one pri­mary op­er­at­ing land­fill, known as the Eastern San­i­tary Land­fill, lo­cated in the 11400 block of Pu­laski High­way in north­east Bal­ti­more County ap­prox­i­mately one mile from the Har­ford County line. The County also main­tains sev­eral closed land­fills.”

Ques­tion H: County Or­di­nance for Com­mu­nity Col­lege Bor­row­ing

Voter ap­proval of Ques­tion H would au­tho­rize the county to bor­row $15 mil­lion for the con­struc­tion of build­ings, as well as for the ren­o­va­tions and main­te­nance of ex­ist­ing build­ings on the var­i­ous cam- puses of the Com­mu­nity Col­lege of Bal­ti­more County.

Nearly $10 mil­lion would fund ren­o­va­tions and ad­di­tions at CCBC Es­sex. CCBC Dun­dalk would re­ceive $550,000.

Ques­tion I: County Or­di­nance for Agri­cul­tural and Ru­ral Land Preser­va­tion Bor­row­ing

“This ques­tion re­quests voter ap­proval to bor­row up to $2,000,000 to be used to pur­chase de­vel­op­ment ease­ments un­der the Mary­land Agri­cul­tural Land Preser­va­tion Pro­gram and other County pro­grams,” the bud­get depart­ment’s brochure said. “Bonds will be sup­ple­mented with the Mary­land Agri­cul­tural Trans­fer Tax and the Bal­ti­more County Gen­eral Fund.”

Ques­tion J: County Or­di­nance for Wa­ter Im­prove­ment Project Bor­row­ing

Ques­tion J, if ap­proved, would au­tho­rize the county to bor­row $11 mil­lion for “shore­line and stream bank sta­bi­liza­tion, shore ero­sion con­trol, wet­lands restora­tion, dredg­ing of tidal wa­ter­ways and other ac­tiv­i­ties de­signed to ad­dress stormwa­ter and pol­lu­tant load re­quire­ments,” the brochure said. “This pro­gram is pri­mar­ily an ef­fort to re­store and en­hance the wa­ter­ways for County res­i­dents and to re­duce sed­i­men­ta­tion and other pol­lu­tion of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.”

$150,000 would sup­port restora­tion of the Pat­ap­sco Wa­ter­shed, while $9 mil­lion would fund projects re­lat­ing to the restora­tion and mon­i­tor­ing of stormwa­ter man­age­ment.

For more in­for­ma­tion, view the county’s brochure on the bor­row­ing ref­er­en­dum at http://re­sources.bal­ti­more­coun­tymd.gov/Doc­u­ments/ Bud­get/16bud­get/bor­row­ing­brochure.pdf. Fol­low me on Twit­ter

@brad­kro­ner.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF BAL­TI­MORE COUNTY GOV­ERN­MENT

Bal­ti­more County is ask­ing vot­ers to ap­prove over $292 mil­lion in mu­nic­i­pal bond bor­row­ing.

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