Friday, March 26, 2010

How Howard Stacks Up Statewide

The blog Maryland Politics Watch recently published a five part series of posts entitled “How the Counties Spend Your Money. It provides an interesting perspective on how our local spending compares to the other counties in the state. In Part One, Adam Pagnucco examines the total operating budgets of the counties.

“But the biggest spender in per-capita terms is Howard County ($4,298), which is very wealthy but is also competitive between the two parties.”

I know some folks might take issue with Adams statement that our county is competitive between the two parties but Adam is based in heavily Democratic Montgomery County which probably makes us look downright bipartisan from his perspective.

In Part Two he takes a look at the spending on the counties executive and legislative functions. Howard County spends $3.79 per capita on the executive branch and $12.08 per capita on the legislative branch. We are below the statewide average on the executive ($6.59 per capita) but over the statewide average on the legislative ($8.02 per capita).

“Among counties with elected Executives, the biggest per capita spenders on that function are Anne Arundel ($11.08) and Harford ($8.41). Both of their County Executives are Republicans.”

In Part Three he gets into law enforcement, fire and rescue and health and human services. HoCo leads the state in spending per capita on fire and rescue.

“In per capita terms, the leaders on fire and rescue are Howard County ($299.28), Baltimore City ($245.94) and Queen Anne’s County ($212.44). The lowest-spending counties are St. Mary’s ($51.50) and Allegany ($58.06). Does it really cost six times as much to provide fire and rescue service in Howard as it does in St. Mary’s?”

Despite the controversy over the spending on Healthy Howard, we spend $130.84 per capita on health and human services which is less than the statewide average of $148.35 per capita.

Part Four in the series deals with spending on libraries, economic development and debt service. It will come of no surprise to some that we are amongst the biggest spenders in the libraries category.

“The leaders are Harford County ($69.35) - which is run primarily by Republicans – and Howard County ($62.13).”

On the other hand our per capita spending on economic development and debt service are below the statewide average.

Part Five of the series tackles the biggest single county budget item, the schools. Having one of the best public school systems in the country comes at a price. Howard County spends more per capita on schools than any other county in the state and we do it largely on our own. Howard County receives less federal aid ($58.32 per capita) than the statewide average of $93.85 per capita and less state aid ($867.69 per capita) than the statewide average of $942.91.

“On one hand some jurisdictions have overwhelming percentages of their school budgets covered by the state and federal governments, including Baltimore City (83%), Caroline County (80%), Allegany County (78%), Somerset County (76%) and Wicomico County (72%). All of these jurisdictions contribute much less than the state per capita average in local funding to their schools. On the other hand, other jurisdictions largely go it alone, such as Worcester County (28%), Montgomery County (28%), Talbot County (31%) and Howard County (36%). Taxpayers in Worcester, Montgomery and Howard pay very large amounts to maintain their own schools as well as the schools everywhere else in the state.”

Nice job Adam.