Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

County Surplus

Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It should come as no surprise to the interested observer that Howard County is projecting a budget surplus (Baltimore Sun today).

The two largest revenue streams for the County (income and real estate) are growing more than projections had estimated.

“…property tax revenues are running $14.5 million ahead of projections, while income tax receipts are expected to be up $4.4 million.”

The HoCoMD Blog has written on many occasions that the County always (almost always) under estimates this revenue stream.  The silver lining (I guess) is that these under projections make up for declining tax revenues.

Those increases more than offset about $4.9 million in lower-than-predicted general budget revenues in other categories. The slowing real estate market put a $4.4 million dent in the estimated real estate recordation revenues.

The County Council expressed their appreciation to Raymond Wacks for coming to a Council meeting to discuss the surplus.

With the economy going through gyrations and compared to some neighbors Howard County is in good shape.

In order for Ken Ulman to maintain is B+ grade he is going to have to manage this very carefully.

Although, I think the County taxes us too much, a la 30% tax increases, that is now history – kinda.

While, “the county is projecting a $13.7 million surplus when the budget year ends June 30” that money is not allowed to be spent in the new operating budget.  What is the projected revenue for the next budget and does the County expect to run additional surpluses (they never do expect to but history tells us they almost always do).

The County Executive’s next budget needs to take into consideration a slowing economy and perhaps a recession.  The housing market and consumer spending are taking hits that ripple through the economy and effect tax revenues.  Many businesses and sectors have already written off 2008 as a poor year (economically speaking) and many don’t predict a recovery until 2009.

I would be willing to give Ken Ulman another B+  if he begins to reign in spending now and starts to prepare the County for a minor increase in the next budget.  I will give him an A+ if he reduces the next budget in anticipation of lower revenue estimates.

Since I mentioned the B+ I wanted to briefly comment on that article.

David Keelan gives Ken Ulman a “B+” for his first year as Howard County executive, which might seem unremarkable, except that Keelan is a Republican blogger and a sometime critic of Democrats like Ulman.

“He’s being very deliberate and very careful,” Keelan said, and “he’s got a pretty good staff in place.” Ulman began his second year in office Wednesday.

Keelan’s only complaint, he said, is that Ulman made an 11th-hour campaign promise last year to block the proposed 23-story condominium tower in Columbia but didn’t actively support County Council legislation intended to stop it.

I was not misquoted.  Although I wasn’t fully quoted either.  I have been poised over my computer key board ready to blast Ken Ulman, and honestly he hasn’t provided a lot of opportunity to do so.  He is doing a decent job – through a good staff.

I still despise him for his campaign tactics and resume enhancements, but hey he emulates a winning campaign strategy.  Both those reflect on his character – poorly I might add.  However, he has proven (up to this moment) to be a good manager only in the sense that he lets the experts do their jobs.

What I wish had made it into that article were the good marks I gave to the County Council.  Particularly Calvin Ball, Greg Fox, and Courtney Watson.  We are very fortunate to have a good balance on the council.  Greg Fox, as the lone Republican, is actually relevant and his peers listen to him because he is a valued member of the team (need I mention “FIRE TAX”).  Calvin is independent and Watson is very deliberate. 

I think Ken and his administration would walk all over a weak Council (he has tried to walk over this council – just speak to your Council member) and he needs to coach his team to work more closely and in a more collaborative manner with the council.  This is a strong and unified County Council – we should all be very grateful.  I give a lot of credit to the leadership of Calvin Ball – he fostered collaboration and it showed.  This isn’t partisan – this is about personalities.  Calvin made some mistakes in legislative areas, but in terms of making sure the Council was relevant and worked together he did an awesome job.  He blazed a good trail for Courtney Watson to widen.

The only improvement that could be made to the Council is if it were all Republican (for Pete’s sake I am just kidding – kinda).

This is not Baltimore City where the Mayor can pretty much do what the Mayor wants to do. 

So, Ken’s B+ is mostly due to the A+ I gave to the County Council.


16 Responses to “County Surplus”

  1. pzguru said

    It’s one thing to get things accomplished, not that I believe Ulman has accomplished much, but its completely different to behave and manage things in the way he does – strong arming people if he doesn’t get his way, and he has treid to do the same thing to the Council. He does not understand the concept of playing well with others and respecting other people’s input and opinions.

    And don’t get me started on his campaign tactics. I truly think that part of the reason he tries so hard to accomplish anything and everything is that he is overcompensating for his complete lack of personal character. It really is Clintonian in nature. Lie, cheat, smear to get what he wants, then do something in the public eye that is viewed as charitable or kind/humanitarian to make him feel better about himself and quiet his conscience (if he even has one), or in an attempt to make the public think that he can’t really be as bad as some people say. I’m not fooled.

    I believe he really aims to do things beneficial to the County, but I greatly disagree with his desired path to do so – I believe in limited government, whereas Ulman believes in expanding it and creating new Departments for his unqualified friends to run. He bleieves in welfare handouts (his health care directive that he doesn’t even know how to fund), dictating behavior (smoking ban), and a lot of fluffy feel good stuff like how to make the process more open to public input (not like the back door deals he was staging as a Councilperson; Comp Lite; Town Center, etc). And, a lot of attempted good deeds and good intentions now don’t erase his misdeeds of the past. For personal character I still give him a big fat “F”. He’s an excellent politician, but a colossal failure as a LEADER.

  2. My Grades said

    I give him the following grades —

    A+ for “Creative Writing on a Resume”

    A+ for “How Not to Have 10 jobs in your first 10 years out of college”

    A+ for “Inheriting Wealth 101”

    A+ for “How to Get a Plum Job with Your Father’s Firm”

    F- for “How to Keep a Plum Job at Your Father’s Firm”

    A+ for “How to Barely Beat A Much More Qualified Mary Kay Sigaty to Get on the County Council”

    A+ for “Pretending To Stop a Tower to Get Elected”

    A+ for “Negative and Deceptive Campaigning 101”

    A- for “Appointing Your High School Buddies to Key Posts”

    Pretty good grades overall!

    By the way, lying on a resume is a discliplinary violation of the Maryland Bar Association rules.

  3. General Zod said

    A surplus should = tax cut. Government has no business running surpluses with our money.

  4. Freemarket said

    General Zod- agreed 100%, but a $13MM surplus on an $800MM budget ain’t squat. I think it is the $800MM budget that warrants major cutbacks- in both terms of services and taxes.

  5. Kenny said

    YouTube – Anyone But Ulman

  6. Kenny said

    Must be nice to get a 7% raise like Ken Ulman did last week, in this recession. This is completely inappropriate. Just ask the county employees and their families he laid off to “save money”, only to see his increased spending and pay raises for the remainder of employees. Have you had your 7% raise recently??

  7. General Zod said

    Ulman gets a 7% raise and Sheriff Fitzgerald takes his county vehicle to Ocean City every weekend. They’re all a bunch of crooks and act as if their actions should have no consequences while everyone else gets screwed. Ulman should be ashamed of himself regardless if he have that raise to charity or not. It’s still taxpayer money.

  8. Tim said

    I personally think Ken Ulman will keep his raise. His attempt to avoid criticism by passing his raise onto a charity is ignorant. He is missing the point. The real issue is why he was given that extra sum in the first place, with “no way of stopping it”. He is already one of the highest paid elected officials around.

  9. Kenny said

    YouTube – Anyone But Ulman NEW EPISODE

  10. Secretary of the Cabinet said

    Ulman, the estate planning lawyer, will give his 7% raise to charity. Clever, since it will give him a pretty significant tax deduction.

    ‘Tis the season of giving. Give yourself an inflated resume, now give yourself a raise!

  11. Kenny said

    YouTube – Anyone But Ulman – The Ulman/O’Malley Game

  12. GeneralZod said

    What will it take to get Ulman out of office in the next election? It seems that the Republicans need a middle of the road candidate that will appeal to Democrats and Republicans.

  13. Anyone else in 2010 said

    The worst is how Ulman backed into office. Peppering his resume with creative titles from summer interships (and jobs through nepotism) to make him seem experienced. Spending record amounts of time and money to launch his career, yet barely beating Sigaty in a primary.

    Remember: if Guzzone had run, he would have won.

    Maybe a Dem will run in the primary…

  14. Kenny said

    YouTube – Anyone But Ulman – Healthcare anyone?!

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