Local funding questions on general election ballot
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
Baltimore County is asking voters to approve over $292 million in municipal bond borrowing.