PHIA Live Blog: Kamenetz Talks Air Conditioning, School Board
Baltimore county executive took questions from Perry Hall residents.
Starting at 7:30 p.m., the county executive spoke briefly about government issues, followed by a half-hour question and answer session with Perry Hall residents.
Live updates were recorded throughout the meeting.
Organization president Dennis M. Robinson, Jr. reinforced his earlier call that comments to the county executive be polite and cordial.
Kamenetz arrived, according to an attendee, "fashionably late."
Kamenetz joked that County Councilman David Marks still wished he were president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association. He complimented local politicians, state Sen. Kathy Klausmeier and Del. John Cluster.
"For the first time, we are facing declining revenue ... it's very disturbing," he said. "We're finding ways to make us more efficient." He said he has consolidated departments. Court reporters have become automated to save money, he said.
Kamenetz detailed ways to save money, but "you can't lose sight of what your job is ... you have to keep the streets clear of snow." Public works is being downsized but the "job is still going to get done."
Kamenetz: We've avoided layoffs and furloughs and tax increases "not because we have a huge inflow of money like Montgomery County, but because of good fiscal management."
Retirement age has been extended for police and fire fighters.
Kamenetz: County is now paying $4.5 million for state department of taxation because of latest budget approved by state legislature. More state programs are going to be paid for by county. Teacher pension costs could be passed on to counties, "I guarantee counties will have to increase taxes."
"These are the kind of compromises we're going to try and work on."
Federal funding for social services may also be cut, pushing more costs onto the county.
"We'll have to decide to continue funding these programs or not."
"This is the way it is for the next two years."
Kamenetz: "We have the lowest number of county employees we've had in the past 25 years."
Additional positions will be eliminated through early retirement, if a bill is passed by the County Council on Monday.
Kamenetz: The goal is for a citizen to do 100 percent of their county business online.
"The more people use the internet to do these things, the more time employees have to do their jobs."
Kamenetz praises schools, 23rd largest system in U.S., highest rate of African American graduation in the country. Kamenetz praised Superintendent Joe Hairston.
Kamenetz: I want to use money toward school renovation and building new schools.
Kamenetz praised police, lowest reported crime rates since 1970s.
"It's a commitment and priority we have to continue with."
Kamenetz: I know not all schools have air conditioning. All Howard County schools do, but they were built later.
"When people ask for something, I tell them 'no' is the new 'yes.'"
"Now that times are tough, it gives us the opportunity to do things more efficiently."
"I've been in office 17 years, I've never once raised income tax or property tax. That's my goal."
"We're well run in Baltimore County ... When I come back again, hopefully we'll be in even better shape."
Attendee: Why doesn't county take advantage of funding for federal walking to school program? We don't have enough sidewalks.
Kamenetz: I can't speak for the past administration, but it probably came with a match from local budgets. When there's a new housing development, we've been having housing developments build the sidewalks at their cost. A county program applies cost of sidewalks to homeowners. Do we pick sidewalks or curbs and gutters? It's a matter of priorities.
Attendee: Maybe fewer buses and gas costs could fund more sidewalks.
Kamenetz: I think the county could have done a better job in planning Perry Hall and White Marsh.
Attendee: What changes would you like to see to the school board?
Kamenetz: Dr. Hairston has done a good job in the big picture, but anyone in office for 12 years, you get off your game a little. I think there are times he's been politically tone deaf. If things he did happened with a department head of mine, I would have told him what to do. The focus has been who's watching Dr. Hairston? The school board? They are volunteers appointed by the governor.
Dr. Hairston's leaving, so let's see how it works out.
Fifty cents to every county tax dollar goes toward education? I'd like to have more say in how that's spent. In a perfect world, we would give the county executive power of appointment.
An elected school board may not have the fiscal outlook. Parents would vote for "golden doorknobs in every school."
Attendee: Several county employees are in the military, would you support a red shirt Friday rather than purple shirt Friday for the Ravens.
Kamenetz: Absolutely, but we may have to wait until after football season.
Attendee: We have schools built in 1990 with no central air, the lowest percentage in the state.
Kamenetz: It's $450 million to finish air conditioning. "I would be disingenuous if I said we'd take care if this soon."
It's only 10 days a year. Why not build in heat days. I'm going to try to find money, but I also have to look at maintenance.
Kamenetz: "Understand when you talk to [county community rep] Larry Simmons, you talk to me"