Update on Law Enforcement & Education in the Budget

Dear Friends,

You have no doubt seen the sherriff’s attacks on my “no new taxes” budget and his intense criticism of my fiscally conservative policies.

For the 8 years prior to my election as County Executive, I was the lead opponent in the State Senate against every anti-police bill, earning awards of appreciation from police agencies statewide.

the sheriff’s exorbitant budget demands would require tax hikes on Harford County families, as I explain below,

The chart below shows the sheriff’s budget requests and funding since 2008.

After years of modest budget increases in the range of $3M-$4M per year, the sheriff’s budget was increased dramatically in the 2023 election year by a record $16.2M, as politics prevailed over sound fiscal policy. At the start of the budget process this year, I met in good faith with the sheriff and explained that our County cannot sustain such a high rate of growth and he needed to adjust to a more reasonable growth rate. I was, therefore, astonished when the sheriff presented a proposed budget increase of $28.5M above the previous record funding. In response, I proposed a budget increase of $6.8M, the highest-ever budget increase for the sheriff’s office outside of the record, political budget of 2023.

The sheriff suggests that a tax increase is not necessary to fund his extreme budget request. Instead, he apparently wants me to blindly assume that the Biden economy will yield growth and tax revenue far above the estimates given by our County Treasurer and the independent experts on the county Budget Affordability Committee.It would be highly irresponsible for me to override the spending recommendations made by these independent experts who were appointed by the previous county administration and whose recommendations were not challenged by the sheriff during the eight years of the prior administration.

Keeping our families safe will always be my highest priority, but no part of our county government is above responsible fiscal policies. Given these uncertain economic times, a current budget deficit of over $60M, and the requests by the sheriff and teachers’ unions to add another $62M to our deficit, I have delayed moving forward on the sheriff’s request to construct an expensive new training center and central precinct in Aberdeen at an estimated cost of $28M. The sheriff is adamant that this facility must be constructed immediately, without delay, to replace the current training facility located at Harford Community College, a facility that just successfully graduated a record size class from a building that is far newer and less crowded than some of our public schools.

While I am working hard to reduce government expenses, it appears the sheriff is unwilling to cooperate in that effort. In addition to his request to create a new police training academy outside of Harford Community College, the sheriff hired two senior attorneys for his own office, at a cost of nearly $400,000 a year to taxpayers, even though the sheriff and all other county agencies have always utilized the County Law Department to provide them with legal services. He has also proposed COLAs for his uniformed and civilian employees that are 10 times those proposed for all other county employees.

Voters elected me to stop spending beyond our means. While I’d like to meet all the funding requests of our law enforcement, teachers, and other county agencies and departments, it cannot be at the cost of increased taxes to local residents. Just like our taxpayers, we must establish and fund the essential needs.

While I will not be held hostage by political agendas, demands for higher taxes, or requests for non-essential projects, my door remains open to discussing amendments to my proposed budget. However, the sheriff and anyone else requesting substantial budget increases in one area will need to identify offsetting budget cuts in other areas to ensure a balanced and fiscally responsible budget.

Please make sure to come voice your support for this responsible budget! Budget public hearings will be held on May 4 and 10, 2023, 7:00 PM at 212 S. Bond St, Bel Air, MD 21014. You must be registered by the start of the FY Budget Public Hearing if you want to provide comments at the hearing. It is strongly recommended you pre-register by mailing Council@harfordcountycouncil.com or calling 410-638-3343 by 5:00 PM the day of the scheduled hearing.

Looking forward to working together to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,