Howard County Executive Elizabeth Bobo said yesterday she would not rule out a property tax increase this year, but she said any increase would be less than last year's 10 percent increase.
"I am committed to a stable tax rate," Bobo said. "By stable, I mean close to $2.50 per $100 of assessed home value, where it's been for the last 25 years. I'm not ruling out a tax increase or a tax decrease. I'm making no predictions."
Bobo's administration raised property taxes last year to $2.49 per $100 assessed value from $2.27. The tax rate had been cut the previous year.
Bobo also said she likely will include in her budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July, a county-owned golf course, a training center for police officers and firefighters, and a branch library on the east side of Columbia.
At the same time, she said she probably will not support early efforts by Howard Community College officials to locate a cultural arts center on their campus. She also said she was unwilling to support giving high-ranking school system employees an 8 percent pay raise, which has been promised to teachers and principals.
Bobo outlined some of her budget priorities during her monthly meeting with reporters. The county Planning Board is scheduled to hold public hearings next month on the new capital projects that department heads have requested. The county executive has to forward the capital budget -- dealing with sewers, roads, public buildings and other physical structures -- to the County Council by March 31. She has to recommend an operating budget, which includes day-to-day costs such as salaries, by April 20.
Bobo said she is still reviewing departmental requests with her staff but indicated she would follow a consultant's recent recommendation that the county begin work on an 18-hole public golf course at a cost of about $5 million.
She said she would not make a decision before getting a second report on possible sites, due out late next month.
Another popular cause Bobo said she would support is the building of a branch library in east Columbia. Residents have gathered more than 6,000 signatures in support of it, but County Council member Angela Beltram has favored building a new central library in the Savage area instead.
Bobo also said a joint training facility for police officers and firefighters would receive her blessing ahead of the county's first police station outside of Ellicott City -- a project Police Chief Frederick Chaney has requested -- and an additional fire station sought by Fire Administrator Richard Shaw. The location of the training facility, which probably will cost at least $5 million, has not been determined, she said.
Bobo said the training facility is one of several multipurpose buildings the county government would construct within the next few years.
But Bobo said she would be unlikely to approve the $600,000 community college President Dwight Burrill has said he needs to plan the proposed cultural arts center.
She praised the recent position taken by the county PTA limiting pay raises raises to 2 to 3 percent for about 50 top school administrators. Last year, the union representing Howard County teachers and principals negotiated a three-year contract guaranteeing its members 8 percent salary increases each year, an increase that the school board then extended to the administrators.