HoCo SAAC presentations on county capital projects

Four slides for you to read

  1. Road Resurfacing, ADA Ramps, Sidewalk Repair, Street Tree, Store Drain Repair, Traffic Signalization
  2. East Columbia 50+ Center, Detention Center, Bain 50+ center, Utilities RTU
  3. Downtown Columbia Capital Projects: New Culture Center (, $47.7 million, FY22), New Central Library ($40 million, FY25), Banneker Fire Station ($20 million, FY28), New Elementary School ($34.6 million, FY30), Traffic Improvements($95.1 million, FY 32), Transit Center ($12.3 million, FY 32)
  4. New Central Library (Estimated cost 68 million (construction 53 million, garage 13 million))

Howard County Housing Opportunities Task Force Draft Recommendations

Proposed Approach and Recommendations for Addressing Challenges:

Five recommendations:

  1. Use land use policy to produce income-restricted, subsidized units
  2. Enable more equitable growth throughout the county
  3. Facilitate the development of lower-cost housing typologies
  4. Remove zoning barriers to mixed-use neighborhoods and developments
  5. Streamline entitlement and review process

Here is the 13-page document.

Public Notice: Howard County Local Bills Hearing 11/17/2020

The Howard County Delegation of the Maryland General Assembly, chaired by Senator Clarence Lam and Delegate Jessica Feldmark, will hear testimony from the public on proposed local bills and Legislative Bond Initiative requests. No testimony on other issues will be permitted as a second hearing devoted to statewide bills will be scheduled. 

The hearing will be held virtually at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 17.  Members of the public may register to testify or to watch the hearing through WebEx by going to https://howardcountymd.webex.com/howardcountymd/onstage/g.php?MTID=e1b32cd17996caef752a24df9f0944fd1 and clicking on “Register”. Registration will be available by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 9, and will remain open until 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 16. Written testimony may be submitted by email to HowardCo.DelegationStaff@mlis.state.md.us. Members of the public may testify on any or all of the proposed legislation within their allotted time to speak. Oral testimony will be limited to two minutes per bill up to a total of five minutes for three or more bills. The hearing will also be streamed live on the Howard County Delegation’s Facebook page.  

Full text of the proposed Howard County bills can be accessed, as they become available from Bill Drafting, beginning Monday, November 9, 2020, at 6:00pm on the Howard County website (Home>About HoCo>State Delegation>2021 Session Proposed Local Legislation):  https://www.howardcountymd.gov/About-HoCo/State-Delegation/2021-Session-Proposed-Local-Legislation. Please monitor this page regularly for the most recent updates. Short descriptions of the local bills and a list of bond initiative requests are included below.

Bond Initiative Requests

Humanim – Remodeling Gerwig, Ho. Co. 16-21; $150,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Patuxent Commons, Ho. Co. 17-21; $500,000

By: Howard County Delegation

8125 Main Street Reconstruction and Renovation, Ho. Co. 18-21; $500,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Centennial Park ADA Improvements, Ho. Co. 19-21; $500,000

By: Howard County Delegation 

Harriet Tubman Cultural Center Playground, Ho. Co. 20-21; $200,000

By: Howard County Delegation 

Robinson Nature Center Amphitheater and Stage, Ho. Co. 21-21; $100,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Expanded Tiber Park, Ho. Co. 22-21; $500,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Patapsco Female Institute Chapel, Ho. Co. 23-21; $300,000

By: Howard County Delegation 

Historic Barnard Fort House, Ho. Co. 24-21; $150,000

By: Howard County Delegation

East Columbia 50+ Center, Ho. Co. 25-21; $1,000,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Harriet Tubman Cultural Center, Ho. Co. 26-21; $750,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Ellicott City Quaker School, Ho. Co. 27-21; $150,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Proposed Local Bills

Howard County – Alcoholic Beverages – Delivery, Ho. Co. 1-21

By: Delegate Watson

FOR the purpose of authorizing a holder of a Class A alcoholic beverages license in Howard County to deliver alcoholic beverages in the county; authorizing certain employees of a license holder to deliver alcoholic beverages; requiring that an employee making certain deliveries be of a certain age; requiring an individual receiving a certain alcoholic beverages delivery to provide certain proof of age; providing for the manner in which an individual receiving a delivery of alcoholic beverages provides proof of age; requiring the Board of License Commissioners for Howard County to approve a certain certification; requiring the purchaser of certain alcoholic beverages or a certain designated individual of a certain age to be present to receive a delivery of alcoholic beverages; and generally relating to alcoholic beverages in Howard County.

Howard County – Class A Alcoholic Beverages Licenses – Quota by Election District, Ho. Co. 2-21

By: Senator Guzzone

FOR the purpose of altering the quota system for Class A licenses in Howard County so as to limit the issuance of the licenses to not more than one for a certain number of residents in each election district, rather than in the county; and generally relating to Class A alcoholic beverages licenses in Howard County.

Howard County – Alcoholic Beverages – Alcoholic Beverages Inspectors, Ho. Co. 3-21

By: Chair, Howard County Delegation

FOR the purpose of authorizing an alcoholic beverages inspector to issue a citation in Howard County; requiring an inspector to complete a training program in the use of arrest authority and pertinent police procedures; prohibiting an inspector from carrying a firearm in the performance of the inspector’s duties; requiring the Howard County Police Department to employ certain inspectors, rather than requiring the

Chief of the County Police Department to provide a sworn member of the County Police Department as an inspector; requiring the Chief of the County Police Department to have certain authority over the hiring of inspectors; and generally relating to alcoholic beverages in Howard County.

Howard County – Alcoholic Beverages – Class B Beer, Wine, and Liquor License – Off–Premises Consumption, Ho. Co. 4-21

By: Delegate Watson

FOR the purpose of authorizing the holder of a certain Class B beer, wine, and liquor license in Howard County to sell beer, wine, and liquor for off–premises consumption, subject to certain requirements; repealing certain provisions that authorize the Board of License Commissioners for Howard County to issue a certain permit to a certain holder of a certain Class B beer, wine, and liquor license; and generally relating to alcoholic beverages in Howard County.

Howard County – Board of Education – Redetermination of Geographic Attendance Area, Ho. Co. 5-21

By: Senator Lam

FOR the purpose of requiring the Howard County Board of Education to submit a certain annual report on the program capacity of each permanent school facility, beginning in a certain school year; requiring the county board to submit a certain report to the General Assembly and the Howard County Delegation to the General Assembly under certain circumstances; requiring the county board to implement certain processes set out in a certain policy to make a certain assessment; requiring the county board to submit a certain report to the General Assembly and the Howard County Delegation regarding the outcome of a certain assessment under certain circumstances; defining certain terms; and generally relating to the target utilization of permanent school facilities in Howard County.

Howard County – School Redistricting – Public Testimony, Ho. Co. 7-21

By: Senator Lam

FOR the purpose of requiring, during a school redistricting process in which the redistricting plan proposed by the Howard County Board of Education differs from the redistricting plan proposed by the Howard County Superintendent of Schools, that the county board allow a certain number of members of a household whose school assignment is changed only in the county board’s plan to provide public testimony before the final vote on either school redistricting plan; and generally relating to the Howard County Board of Education and school redistricting.

Howard County – Howard County Board of Education – School Safety Personnel, Ho. Co. 10-21

By: Delegate Atterbeary

FOR the purpose of requiring the Howard County Board of Education to develop a plan to implement certain school safety guidelines that does not assign school resource officers to public schools in Howard County and uses adequate local law enforcement coverage to implement the guidelines; and generally relating to school safety personnel in Howard County.

Howard County – Howard County – Commercial Building Excise Tax – Board of Education Deferred Maintenance, Ho. Co. 11-21

By: Delegate Atterbeary

FOR the purpose of authorizing the County Council of Howard County to impose a certain excise tax; requiring the County Council of Howard County to specify the types of buildings subject to a certain excise tax; authorizing the County Council of Howard County to impose different tax rates on certain construction; requiring the excise tax to be deposited into a certain fund to be used only for a certain purpose; requiring

the Howard County Board of Education to submit a certain report on or before a certain date to the County Council of Howard County, the Howard County Executive, and members of the Howard County Delegation to the General Assembly; requiring the County Council of Howard County and the Howard County Executive to submit a certain report on or before a certain date to the Howard County Delegation to the 15 General Assembly addressing certain recommendations made by the Howard County Board of Education; providing for the termination of certain provisions of this Act; and generally relating to deferred maintenance in the Howard County Public School System.

Howard County – Fee–in–Lieu of ModerateIncome Housing Units – Prohibition, Ho. Co. 12-21

By: Delegate Atterbeary

FOR the purpose of prohibiting Howard County from authorizing payment of a fee–in–lieu of a requirement under local law that a developer provide moderate–income housing units in a new residential development project; and generally relating to moderate–income housing unit requirements in Howard County.

Howard County – Homeowners Association Commission – Alternative Dispute Resolution Authority, Ho. Co. 13-21

By: Delegate Terrasa

FOR the purpose of authorizing Howard County to establish a homeowners association commission to hear and resolve, through alternative dispute resolution, certain issues between a homeowners association and a homeowner regarding certain documents; and generally relating to the resolution of disputes between homeowners associations and homeowners in Howard County.

Howard County – Residential Rental Licenses – Fee for Tenant Services, Ho. Co. 15-21

By: Delegates Feldmark and Terrasa

Bill still in drafting. Check this webpage for updates or email  HowardCo.DelegationStaff@mlis.state.md.us to request to be notified when bill text is available for review.

Eliminate fee in lieu development loophole

My short comment on The Business Monthly

I appreciate Mrs. Lisa Markovitz’s article “Can we get affordable housing more affordable”.

I totally agree with that: “this “fee in lieu of” has created a concentration of AFUs in areas with lower-priced housing”. I am seeing a few low-incoming housing projects are being proposed in the low-incoming neighborhoods now. Our advocates on affordable housing either from the community, the county council or the county government should work to remove this “pay as you go” approach. The county has the legal authority to set the criteria for the new development to meet both the affordable housing requirement and APFO standards. We should not allow developers to set this policy. 

There are several  key questions to be answered. What is a reasonable level and distribution of affordable housing units in the whole county? How much more development the county can consume in each area considering APFO? Please take consideration of the cost of infrastructure (school capacity, for example) as another key parameter. What is the highest percentage of affordable housing which will prevent developers not building houses in Howard County anymore? 
I hope this kind of information is publicly available for our county residents to see and understand and guide our policy-makers on new housing developments. 

My article on Baltimore Sun: Proposal for central library in downtown Columbia

I wrote a short article on the Baltimore Sun ( which will be shared on Howard County Times, Columbia Flier).

I am worried about the lack of coherent plan and long term vision for the county. There is a plan to relocate the central library in the 2016 Downtown Columbia TIF plan. Now the County Executive and County Council changed hand, there has not been any discussion (or serious discussion) any more. Recent discussion on the Toby theater, Downtown Culture Center, Affordable housing prompted me to write this article. Columbia will be totally built out soon and we need to process with caution on every land use.

I also shared similar concerns during yesterday’s BOE and County Council meeting. Where do we find school site land for the students from planned 30,000 population for Downtown Columbia?

Any decisions we make today will have a long-term impact for our future. One example is the Turf Vally development where APFO requirement was waived and no school site was reserved. Now we need pay over 6.5 million dollars for an elementary school site (around 10 acres). If they planned/reserved for a school site 20 years, it was probably free.

The reality is that people made those decision some time ago either moved up or retired. We are bearing the consequence now. I believe we can do better.

Timbers at Troy Revenue and Expenses in the last 10 years

Last week I made a motion to put HS 14 in Elkridge back into HCPSS long term capital budget and the board approved that motion. I have been receiving some feedbacks from the community. One feedback is about the Timbers at Troy golf course. That golf course was discussed as one possible HS 14 site.

Here is the Timbers at Troy revenue and expenses in the last ten years. The golf court unfortunately is running red for the last several years. It lost 1.4 million in 2017, 0.439 million in 2018 and 1.5 million in 2019.

I am wondering how many golf courses the county owns and how well they are running in the last 10 years. I know Columbia Association’s golf courses have been facing some financial difficulties in the past several years too. How can we improve this situation? Or the sport of golf is not as attractive as before?

Affordable Housing and Pay As You Go Loophole

Howard County Citizens Association is asking the County Executive and County Council to adopt a bill to remove a loophole for developers. I came to know this loophole when Howard Hughs was proposing a new large scale downtown development with county finance help in 2016-2017. The TIF (Tax Increment Finance) was 170 million. They did not build the affordable housing units as promised in their previous developments and then they used affordable housing units again as a wedge to get their new deal approved. Here is the article I wrote four years ago on this issue: https://chaowu.org/2016/07/27/columbias-downtown-and-affordable-housing/: Columbia’s Downtown and Affordable Housing .

We should not allow developers to pay a tiny fee to skip the affordable housing requirements in their project. I am especially looking forward to affordable housing proponents to put the pressure on the county council and the county executive and remove this loophole.

We should put the developers’ interest aside and the residents’ interest first.

Some Retrospect and Prospect after HCPSS FY 2020-2021 Budget Vote

Some Retrospect and Prospect after HCPSS FY 2020-2021 Budget Vote

By Dr. Chao Wu,

Board Member, Howard County Board of Education


After the FY 2020-2021 budget vote, I reflected and wrote a short essay on this. Hopefully this will help and guide us for the next year’ HCPSS budget discussion. The article has the follow sections:

  1. FY 2020-2021 Operating Budget Snapshot
  2. Funding Increase Needed for FY 2021-2022
  3. Funding Category is Complicated
  4. More Communication to the community
  5. Future Budget Process Improvement
  6. County Tax and HCPSS Budget

I want to thank every teacher and staff members who have been working really hard during this unprecedented time. I want to give every teacher a raise, a competitive salary among neighboring counties. I want to raise our substitute teacher salaries to be competitive with other counties too. 

Unfortunately, we have to make a budget based on how much money we have and what we can do. We are not laying off any staff. Job security for our staff is my number one priority in this challenging situation. We are still providing an average 2% salary raise for teachers and 1% for AMT staff. We are ramping up support for special education. We are fully funding the health care cost and gradually reducing the historical health fund deficit. We are able to continue on the equity path to provide quality education to all students. As an intermediate solution, we are seeing another class size increase for three consecutive years unfortunately. 

I thank our staff, the superintendent, and all bargaining units, who have come together and make the budget happen.

After the vote, I have been self-reflecting on the budget process and where we can further change and continue to improve, especially for our future budget.

FY 2020-2021 Operating Budget Snapshot

The board unanimously adopted its FY 2020-2021 budget on Thursday, June 18,2020. The operating budget is 918.7 million, an increase of 17.2 million over FY 2020. We used a 5 million fund balance for FY 20-21 budget. Among the efforts: 

  1. adding 106.8 new positions for special education
  2. increasing employee compensation on average by 2% in the bargaining units, with 1% increase for non-represented(AMT) staff
  3. accelerating HCPSS’ diversity, equity and inclusion work through addition of three new positions
  4. funding actuary projected employee health insurance cost fully, for three consecutive years

Unfortunately the class size will be increased for the third consecutive years. On average, elementary school will increase class size by one in FY 2020-FY 2021. Middle school and high school will increase class size by 1.25. 

Funding Increase Needed for FY 2021-2022

I have been asking HCPSS staff to project our future funding needs. Instead, I created a short table as follows with explanations below. Please note this is not an extensive or complete or accurate list. This is a rough projection. 

Budget Increase Need Per YearAmount
Student Growth Budget Need (800 new students)10.22 million ***
Fully Fund Health Care5 million
Possible COLA Salary/Step Increase for Our Workforce6 million
Total21.22 million

Student Growth Cost

Board Approved Tuition Rate:  In-State Elementary/ Secondary in the amount of $10,650 and Special Education in the amount of $31,950.

Each year, the school has around 800 new students, where 10% are special education students. The total county cost for student growth is around 10650*720+31950*80 = 10.22 million.  

So we need to invest extra 10.22 million dollars to catch up with the student growth each year. Please remember the county funding formula (MOE) for HCPSS is using the student population from the previous year such that this extra 800 new students are not funded in the formula. This is the common problem for many school systems which see a continuous student growth and the funding increase could not catch up with the increased need.

This section may be updated depending on how this calculation is revisited based on feedback from our staff and other people. Another calculation I am thinking is to use the average per student cost, which is around 16k. Then the total is 16k per student per year * 800= 12.8 million.

Health Care Cost Increase

On average, the health care cost increase is around 5 million dollars per year. In some years, it was an 11 million dollars increase. 

Salary/Step Increase

In the past 10 years, our workforce has received a salary increase between 1% and 5%. That is the reason I am writing a possible 1% increase at least. The 6 million dollars is an estimate based on this year’s 2% salary increase (12 million dollars). 

Historical Health fund deficit

We have a historical 32 million dollars health fund deficit inherited from former superintendents’ era, which has to be paid down over the years. With the plan worked out with the county government, we need to pay around 8 million dollars per year to pay it down. The original deficit was 50 million dollars.

Funding Category is Complicated

During the discussion, we heard the teacher salary (State Category 2) increase was fully funded. In reality, when there is an increase of salary, other expenses (benefits, retirement) will go up as well. We will not be able to give a teacher salary increase, but not give them the associated benefit increase. So unless everything associated with a full compensation package for an employee is fully funded, we could not call the salary increase fully funded. 

Second, many teachers’ salaries are not funded in State Category 2. For example, there are more than 1200 special education teachers whose salaries are not funded in Category 2. 

Third, the health care cost keeps increasing at a faster pace than anything else. In order to avoid the health fund deficit issue that happened before ( with an accumulated deficit of 32 million now), we need to fully fund the health care cost. The school system cannot run at a deficit by law. 

It is a little complicated and I want to make it easier for the general public to understand it.  

More Communication to the community

During the last two weeks of the budget discussion, we received thousands of emails asking the board not to cut the budget. In reality, the board is not generating money ourselves. We fully rely on the funding from the county and the state to operate. They give us money and we make a budget and balance the budget.

Furthermore, when the board was in negotiation with the unions, we were not allowed by law to discuss anything about employee salary and benefit publicly. We were not able to comment on the negotiations publicly. The public and our workforce definitely felt the frustration because of the communication restriction on these topics. We had to rely on the union leadership to relay the message back to union members. 

Future Budget Process Improvement

For the school budget, if we don’t ask for it, we don’t get it from the county government and the county council. At the same time, we know the county has so much need and we will not get the full amount we ask. So we have a very delicate balance here since we want to present a fair and reasonable budget for discussion. 

Furthermore, the county executive and the county council can claim they fully fund something by State Category. However, all categories are interconnected when our staff is preparing for the budget. In general, we are not able to separate one category totally from other categories while considering funding. 

Realizing our funding will be short for the near future, I have been advocating for a change in the budget process to avoid the last minute change and uncertainty which is painful and hurts the morale of our workforce.

We could consider a budget into two parts. 

  1. The first (basic) part is the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) budget which the county and the state are bound legally to fund the school. At the MOE level, we can check to see:
    1.  whether the class size will increase or not, 
    2. whether our workforce will be surplused or not, 
    3. where the special education will be fully funded or not,
    4. whether the health fund is fully funded or not, 
    5. whether the instruction materials are fully funded or not
  1. The second part is the add-on above MOE part. Based on our need and priority, how much extra money we need to fully fund the school system. 
    1. whether/how we can decrease class-size.
    2. whether /how we can add/change programs.
    3. whether/how much we can give our teacher a salary increase. 
    4. Whether/how we can renovate school service without increasing budget
    5. whether we can launch any new initiative to improve mental health service, further close the student achievement gap, and many others.

County Tax and HCPSS Budget

Many people are now realizing that HCPSS is facing a structural deficit issue. The funding increase could not catch up with the student population growth and other increasing needs. 

In reality, the share of the county funding into HCPSS is swinging up and down. HCPSS budget was previously mismanaged and underfunded such that we are facing such a difficult situation now. 

We hear there are people calling for higher tax. However, tax for our county residents is very high already. Our tax rate is top 3 in Maryland.  Raising tax may have a detrimental effect on our economy and in the end it may hurt our tax base in the long run. 

Furthermore, additional tax revenue does not mean it will be provided to HCPSS. I want to avoid the failed promise and fiasco that Maryland state gambling money would go into education when some people promoted the gambling industry. Yes, some gambling money went into education, but original money was diverted away. 

The county may receive 20 million dollar additional revenue by increasing some tax rate, but the county may give only 1 or 2 millions to HCPSS. I have been advocating for HCPSS to receive a larger share (percentage) of the county revenue. 

There are many “wants” in the county budget and we may need to shrink those “wants” and redirect the money to HCPSS. Our excellent school system is one of the most important reasons that many families come here and 90% of county revenue comes from property tax and income tax. 

We need to cherish the support and trust from families who live here and HCPSS must provide an excellent, equitable and individualized education for our students. 

Thanks for reading this.

2020-6-25 Board Member Report

2020-6-25 Board Member Report

Revised for publication.

First I would like to thanks our student board member Allison Alston, who has demonstrated a strong leadership. When I saw her performance at Reservoir High School’s Black History Month, I was really surprised and admired. You are a super star. We will miss you.

Today, I will talk about something different. The nation is watching the hardship, struggle and pain the African American community are experiencing. As a community member and a school board member, I share the same pain and the same concern:  Where are we going? How can we get to  the point where injustice will go away? When will everyone have the same opportunity to pursue their dreams and reach their full potential?

Two recent events highlighted here:

  1. I read the petition from more than 400 HCPSS high school students shared with the board. A 2015 Glenelg High School graduate is leading the campaign. Glenelg High School unfortunately had been on the newspaper front page for several racist incidents. Just reading the petition, for example:
    1. Some students called black students “N word” and there were no consequences. 
    2. Some teachers could not remember Asian American Students’ names or faces in a small classroom for half the semester. Some of our staff could not pronounce students’ family names.
    3. Some staff or teachers discouraged African American students or Latino American students from entering  into AP classes. 
  2. Many community members called me regarding a recent social media post from an HCPSS administrator. They feel the post was insensitive and offensive. They  believe our officials  should have been more thoughtful and responsible when they express their opinions  publicly, which includes clicking the “like” button on social media platforms. 

All these events made me think: What can we do to eliminate explicit and implicit biases, microaggression, discrimination and oppression? How can we systematically implement the necessary actions steps?

The questions are tough to answer as we are naturally inclined  to find a fast and easy way out, yet unsuccessfully so. The inconvenient truth is, only when we are able to face the reality truthfully and do self-reflecting and soul-searching, we are able to move forward. We can aim big, however, we should act small, starting with incremental steps for which we have the ability to execute as well as to examine the outcomes each step along the way. 

I agree that HCPSS should include more anti-bias training to help our workforce to better connect with the students and families. These connections will create stronger motivations for our students to work hard and also provide more opportunities for them to excel. We also need to increase culture proficiency training.When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I agree that HCPSS should work hard to reduce bias during the hiring process to increase workforce diversity and leadership diversity. When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I agree that HCPSS should include a more diverse curriculum to help our students expand their learning horizon which will promote better cross-group, cross-culture understanding and respect. When we do so, we need to ensure that everyone is included. No individuals or groups should feel being ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed.

I want to make a motion: 


The Howard County Board of Education denounces any bias and racism towards African American, Asian American, Latino American, Muslim American, LGBT community,  and any other groups who have been ignored, marginalized, discriminated against and/or oppressed. 

Final report from 2019-2020 Charter Review Commission

Here is the final report from 2019-2020 Howard County Charter Review Commission. County charter is like a constitute for our county. There were so many meetings for a whole year. Thanks for the committee members.

Main recommendation:

  1. The Commission recommends expanding the County Council from five members to seven members, comprising seven individually-elected districts.
  2. There are many other recommendations on how to implement this change and on how to modify some other commissions.

It is a rather dense report. Please read it. The commission provides analysis and rational for each recommendation.

Then one open question: will BOE election be changed to seven individually-elected districts? We have 7 board members right now.

Personal Budget Testimony for 2021 County Operating Budget

2020-3-30 Howard County Budget Testimony

My name is Chao Wu. I am a member of Howard County Board of Education.  

Before I begin my testimony, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to our County Executive Dr. Ball who has worked with the school board to develop a solid plan to address the historical health fund deficit issue.  My family and I, along with all Howard County residents, also appreciate very much our county government’s tremendous effort in addressing the coronavirus crisis. Unfortunately this epidemic will most likely incur additional pressure on the county’s budget for next year. 

The board is united in our commitment to bring down the health fund deficit with a clear path and vision. However, I am here today to testify not as a board member but as a parent. 

First, I would like to point out that without extra money coming into HCPSS, it would be extremely difficult in keeping class size small, paying teachers well, improving special education and maintaining academic excellence. 

HCPSS is in a crisis mode where schools are overcrowded, buildings lack maintenance and resources are needed everywhere in the school system. The recent need on Technology also highlights our long-term underfunding issue in this aspect. HCPSS has a 500 million deferred maintenance list and many large capital  projects : High School 13, Hammond High, Talbott Spring Elementary, and Turf Valley Elementary, Dunloggin Middle. The list can also go on and on. When HS 13 opens in 2023, we will probably need another extra 10 million dollars for its operating cost.

Second, with the HCPSS budget crisis, I believe our county government should not operate as business as usual. In my opinion, the county budget needs to shift its priority to the education of our children. The county needs to shrink its spending in some other areas and increase the share of spending for HCPSS.  

I ask the county to have a thorough cost and benefit analysis for each project. We need to differentiate the Needs and the Wants. There are several big projects that in my opinion belong to the category of Wants. They are ranging from 15 million dollars, to 60 millions, 80 million dollars, even to more than 100 million dollars in the county’s budget book now and in the future.  

In addition, since public libraries in the digital age will have less physical books, their space could be used as a community center for our kids, parents, seniors and community groups. To save cost, the relocation and rebuilding of the central library, or any future library renovations should be incorporated with a community center concept, vice verse. I would also suggest that the county could collaborate with Columbia Association or other partners to offer services for our residents instead of building our own facilities.

At the same time, please slow down residential development since our school capacity could not catch up with the pace of the rapid development. I sincerely hope the county government and the county council eventually find the balance on this most pressing developmental issue our county is facing now.

Our school system is one of the greatest assets for our county. With ever growing budget constraints, we would not be able to keep our renowned world class high education standard. The school system’s reputation is the single most important factor that Howard County is able to keep attracting more families to move here. About 41% of our county revenue comes from property tax and 49% of it comes from personal income. If these two revenues drop because of the deterioration of the school system, our tax base will decrease and eventually everybody will suffer.   

Howard County is at a critical moment. Our school’s good reputation is on the life line now. If it starts going downwards, it would be very difficult to reverse the trend. We have witnessed this alarming pattern in some neighboring counties. We need to work very hard to avoid this disaster happening in Howard County. 

Please invest in our County’s future! Please invest in our school system!

Thank you.

Howard County Housing Projection

Here is the presentation from the County Government, talking about three phases of APFO history, how housing units have been allocated by different regions, how the general plan is playing a role in it. We are going to have a new Howard County General Plan very soon.

I hope this new Howard County General Plan will balance growth, affordable housing, school capacity, infrastructure and sustainability much better. The county has very few land left (9%) for new development. Revitalization of some old village centers are as important as developing on new land.

Here is the presentation for your reference.

Revisiting 2020 Howard County Budget

I spent some time tonight and examined 2020 Howard County Operating Budget, including HCPSS, Howard Community College and others. Only HCPSS and HCC have a separate budget. Others are inside the county budget book. I would encourage our residents spending some time to read them. It will help us where to advocate and how to advocate. For example, maybe the county can have a different funding priority considering the problem HCPSS is facing now. Many parents come to Howard County for education and we should not let them lose faith in HCPSS.

Here is the FY 2020 approved Howard County Operating Budget.

Here is the FY 2020 approved HCPSS Operating budget

Here is the FY 2020 approved Howard Community College Operating budget.

2019 HoCo APFO Amendment Fiscal Impact Analysis

Howard County hired Urban Analytics to calculate the potential fiscal impact on the 2019 APFO amendment.

Summary from the report:

New development in Howard County “pays for itself” and generates net surplus to the County
• Amended APFO results in a net loss to Howard County compared to the General Plan scenario; in other words, bring
less net gains to the County
• Land use decisions by policy makers have consequential short and long term economic and fiscal implications to the

Here is the presentation you can download.