Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. on Thursday called his $4.9 billion spending plan the “single largest increase in history” for the county school system and a “record investment” for public workers.

Olszewski, a Democrat from Dundalk who won re-election in November, proposed cost-of-living increases for educators and county employees and announced in his speech in Baltimore that Community College of Baltimore County classes would be free for residents earning less than $150,000 a year. County Council in Towson.

State lawmakers, county agency leaders, Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger and Olzewski’s father, former County Council member John Olzewski Sr., also attended.

Olszewski Jr. made only a passing reference to COVID-19 in his speech, which he focused mostly on increasing his budget, which if enacted would give county employees.

“Baltimore County continues our epidemic recovery while setting bold new standards for our government,” he said. “The growth provided in this year’s budget allows us to balance multiple obligations… [while] Ensuring that our most valuable asset – our people – get the pay and compensation they deserve.”

The budget, which would take effect July 1 if the council passes it, would grant county workers a 4% cost-of-living raise, create a $500,000 student loan relief fund for workers with educational debt, set aside $119 million for the county. Retirement system, and raises for more police officers, sheriff’s deputies and corrections officers.

County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. provides an overview of his proposed fiscal year 2024 budget at Baltimore County's 6th District 2023 Budget Town Hall at Towson High School.

The fiscal year 2024 proposal is 1.8% larger than the current year’s budget, though Olszewski told reporters that its nearly $5 billion price tag is “still a significant amount of money.”

Under his plan, Baltimore County Public Schools would receive $3.3 billion, $71 million more than the state-mandated amount the county must pay to school systems, which would fund phased increases and guarantee a $59,000 starting salary for teachers.

The county Board of Education approved a $2.6 billion budget proposal last month, following requests from teachers unions to raise teacher pay to stop younger employees from leaving for higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

“We appreciate the county executive’s ongoing commitment to Baltimore County Public Schools,” Superintendent Darryl Williams and Board Chair Jane Lichter said in a joint statement. “We urge the County Council to support the County Executive’s recommendations and provide the funding we need to better serve students, provide increased compensation for staff and improve educational outcomes for all BCPS students.”

Olszewski, a former teacher at Patapsco High School in Dundalk, said last week that he supported the teachers’ request, but that the decision rested with the district, which would have to use his proposed “historic investment” to raise teacher pay.

He told reporters after the budget speech that he believes his budget plan will give the school system “the resources it needs to make significant progress for all.” [its] employee group.”

Baltimore County Proposed Budget

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The budget will allocate $9 million to build a new Catonsville fire station; $9 million for the Sparrows Point fire station and training facility; $30 million to renovate Baltimore County Public Library locations in Essex, Lansdowne, Randallstown and Woodlawn; State funding will match $5 million to redevelop Security Square Mall, and $3 million to renovate the Pikesville Armory.

The county Department of Corrections, which investigates the conditions of youth held in Baltimore County Detention Centers, will receive $50.9 million, a $3.7 million increase from last year, according to budget documents. That would include funding for officers to serve 12-hour shifts instead of 8 hours, with mandatory overtime to cover vacancies, Olszewski said.

Councilman Pat Young, a Catonsville Democrat, said the council would address the jail situation after Olszewski’s speech and public corrections director Walt J. Pesterfield’s findings during the agency’s budget hearing, which is expected next month.

Pesterfield previously told the county’s General Assembly delegation that children under the age of 18 are often held in rooms for long periods of time due to staff shortages.

Under the proposed budget, the county Office of the Inspector General would increase by $835,042, or $232,000. Olszewski said some of that money will be used to hire a new director of ethics under the law office, as recommended by a county blue ribbon commission on ethics and accountability.

The Baltimore County Council will hold a budget hearing on April 25 The final version of the budget is expected to be voted on on May 25

Baltimore Sun reporter Sabrina LeBeouf contributed to this article.

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