Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
"Again and again, the impossible decision is solved when we see that the problem is only a tough decision waiting to be made." — Dr. Robert Schuller
These are very challenging economic times in Baltimore County, and we have to develop creative solutions to complex problems. We have an aging infrastructure. Some of our police and fire stations are more than fifty years old. Eighty percent of Baltimore County’s schools are over 40 years old. When I took office, 52% of all of the schools in the County did not have air conditioning. In two years, we have reduced that number to 36%.
So how do we pay for replacement of public safety buildings and upgrade our schools with air conditioning and needed technology, while still holding the line on taxes?
We can sell three existing County parcels and generate enough cash to pay for the replacement buildings to be located at other County-owned sites, and with the leftover profit, even invest in school improvements for air conditioning and technology. And at the same time, when the parcels are sold, we will generate new property tax revenue for the County, and new jobs.
Think about this for a second. We have three run-down buildings that need to be replaced. The two police stations were built in 1953 and 1964. The fire station was built in 1958. The old government way was to borrow millions of taxpayer dollars to build replacement buildings on the same site. Our new creative way of doing things will allow us to sell the land, and in essence, construct the new buildings for free. Yes, that is F-R-E-E! And we will be able to re-allocate that money we were going to spend to use for other important infrastructure needs.
Innovative ideas like this allow us to avoid any increase in the tax rates. And by the way, this is now the 24th year in a row that we haven't raised the property tax rate, the 20th year in a row we haven't raised the income tax rate, while still retaining our exclusive Triple AAA credit rating.
The ability to air condition or upgrade technology at additional schools will depend upon the net revenue generated from each sale. For example, if the Towson Fire Station site at York and Bosley generates sufficient revenue, Baltimore County will use those funds to air condition Dumbarton Middle School. If the North Point Police Station site on Wise Avenue generates sufficient revenue, those funds will be used to air condition one or two elementary schools in the southeast area, and to provide technology upgrades to Holabird Middle School. Should the sale of the Randallstown police substation on Liberty Road generate sufficient revenue, any funds will be used to air condition or upgrade technology for a Randallstown area school.
As part of the continued strong working relationship between the County and its school system, the North Point Police precinct would be relocated to an under-capacity school. This would save the school system money by closing one school building and allow for more efficient utilization of existing space in another school. The current North Point police precinct was itself a product of consolidation in 1981, having previously been North Point Junior High. The building was constructed in 1953. The school system is evaluating as part of the proposed plan the relocation of Eastwood Elementary Magnet School to other schools in the area depending on the organizational model that is selected by the school system. Models under consideration by the school system would utilize Holabird Middle School and perhaps Norwood Elementary.
For any of these projects to move forward, each sale must generate a sales price that the County finds acceptable. If that does not happen, Baltimore County is prepared to reevaluate moving forward with the proposed project.
While the Towson Manor Park site is an option for the fire station, I have met with the surrounding community, and I remain hopeful that we will be able to locate an alternate site that will enable us to retain the open space in East Towson. Alternative sites must already be owned by the County, of sufficient acreage, and acceptable to the public safety standards of the Baltimore County Fire Department. I hope to have engineering analysis on additional sites in the next three to four weeks.
The police substation in Randallstown will be relocated to a newly renovated space in the County's Vehicle Operation and Management (VOM) facility that now occupies a former auto dealership on Liberty Road that was recently purchased by the County. As a result of the purchase of the VOM facility, the County will generate the profit from the sale of one building and terminate two existing leases of VOM facilities. The proceeds from the sale of the building will be directed to Randallstown-area schools. This could include air-conditioning or technology upgrades.
Once the SFP’s are issued, the Solicitation for Proposal may be accessed on the County website at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/budfin/purchasing/currentsolicitations.html .
I remain committed to providing the people of Baltimore County a government that is innovative, responsible, and efficient. I look forward to keeping you informed about that latest initiative.