The Howard County Council Thursday approved the county administration's expense and operating budgets for FY 2013, adopting eight amendments but rejecting a bid by Council member Greg Fox to cut the fire tax.
"This year's adopted budget is lean," Council member Courtney Watson said in an email, "But preserves funding to the areas that preserve the high quality of life in Howard County including to education and public safety."
Fox’s amendment would have lowered the proposed unified fire district’s tax rate of 17.6 cents per $100 of assessed value to 14.25 cents.
Previously, the metropolitan district paid 13.55 cents per $100 and the rural district 11.55 cents.
Last week, Fox, the Council’s only Republican, told the Howard County Times he might vote to approve the budget. “There's a chance I might actually go for it this year,” he said, “Other than the fire tax increase."
In a statement released Wednesday, Fox said that his proposed amendment would allow the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services to move forward with its plans for additional staff, but "not allow the government to sit on over $15 million in taxpayer money," referring to the $15.3 million contingency fund in the newly-passed budget.
The fire tax increase will fund 42 additional positions in the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, some of which will staff the planned Glenwood Station in western Howard County. The money also will provide two additional paramedic units in the county.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, County Executive Ken Ulman said he appreciated the Council's work on the budget. "I am pleased that they agreed with the decisions the administration has made" on education and public safety funding, he said.
With reporting by Patch.com Editor Elizabeth Janney.
This article has been updated.