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.