I've been looking with great interest at the proposed FY11 Howard County budget. The words that come to mind are "unremarkable" and "not surprising".
Subtracting from the budget state-mandated (but not necessarily state-funded) increases in education spending, the FY11 budget actually represents about a 3% contraction in county spending. For county employees, not too much to like; more furloughs, no pay raises and open county positions remain unfilled.
I'm sure there are some who would call this an election year budget, and well, literally, it IS an election year budget. However, an election year budget in the political sense tends to pander to core constituencies, and this budget doesn't do that.
Much more appropriate to consider this an austerity budget, and a necessary one. The economic picture nationally and statewide is far from settled. Whichever party controls Congress and the State House next year could hold significant impact upon aid to local governments. It is sensible for, on local level, county government to hold the course and wait for the next waves to crash. And it looks as if this proposed budget does exactly that.