The Budget Office
The Budget Office proposes spending levels to the County Executive based on a variety of revenue and expenditure analyses to ensure a balanced budget. In addition to preparing this annual fiscal plan and special management and financial reports for the Executive and administration, Budget staff also monitors the purchasing, personnel and other spending requests of all county government agencies.
Sec.22.400A of the Howard County Charter mandates the Howard County Office of Budget to formulate and prepare the county budget to be submitted by the County Executive to the County Council each year. A total staff of five full time and one part-time position perform this task. Howard County participates in the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Distinguished Budget Presentation Award Program and has received this annual award for the past nine years. In addition to the budget, this office is responsible for staffing the Spending & Affordability Committee and the Economic Indicators Review Committee.
About the Budget Process
The County operates on a July 1 - June 30 fiscal year. By Charter, Howard County is required to have a balanced budget. The budget development process begins with revenue projections for the County for the upcoming fiscal year. These revenue estimates will determine how much money is available to provide government services, including education, public safety, public facilities, community services and other functions of government.
Developing the budget involves making choices about what local services should be funded and at what level. The public process begins each fall when the County Executive invites County residents to express their budget priorities at a public meeting. County agencies develop budget requests and submit them to the Chief Administrative Officer by early March.
A second public meeting is held in the spring to update the public on the budget in process. In April, the County Executive presents the proposed budget to the County Council. Council review of the proposed budget begins with a series of public meetings in April and May. The Council can reduce the Executive's budget, but not increase it, except in the case of the Department of Education's budget. Here the Council may restore funds back to the level requested by the school board.
The capital budget follows a similar process of hearings. In addition, the Planning Board also reviews this budget. The sites of all new or substantially changed projects are posted, the projects advertised, and the board holds a public hearing in February. After its review, the County Council finalizes the entire budget. The Council sets tax rates needed to generate enough revenue to balance the budget.