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Invoking the spirit of three longtime local political leaders who passed away last year and the words of presidents John F. Kennedy and John Quincy Adams, Harford County Executive David R. Craig lauded his administration’s accomplishments in a year of economic uncertainty and warned the year ahead will be equally challenging — but will also see stable real estate tax rates.

“Our major challenge is maintaining a balance, not just a balance of revenue and expenditures, but a balance between our wants — our needs — and our ability to meet them,” Craig said in his annual State of the County Address delivered at Tuesday’s meeting of the Harford County Council on a snowy evening in Bel Air.

Pointing out the proposed new federal budget released Monday contains a $1.6 trillion deficit and a $1 trillion tax increase and the new state budget released last week is “balanced on the chimera of $2 billion in federal stimulus funds,” Craig declared his government will not play similar shell games with its finances.

“I can assure you that our budget will be truly balanced with no increase in the tax rate and will be as close to the constant yield as we can estimate at this time,” he said, later adding: “The balance for which we must strive is a balance between the taxes we pay and the services which we provide. And, which considers the public employee who is in the middle.”

Craig, who became county executive in mid-2005 and then won a full term in 2006, has announced he’s a candidate for re-election this year. Following several years of growing revenues tied to higher incomes and rising home values, the national recession has caused the county to endure its own financial pain in its past two budgets. Last summer, Craig was forced to cut both operational and capital spending, lay off employees and furlough the rest for five days this year. He anticipates another round of furloughs in the 2011 fiscal year that starts July 1.

Craig said achieving his balance between wants, needs and abilities to meet them can’t be concerned “just about the next election; we must be concerned about the next generation.”

To that he spoke of the contributions of former county council leaders John Hardwicke and Joanne Parrott and longtime councilwoman Veronica Chenowith who died last year, saying: “We must ensure that when we pass the baton of leadership on to the next generation that we can do so with pride. Much like John Hardwicke and Joanne Parrott and Roni Chenowith did for us.”

In delivering his annual Legislative Address following Craig’s speech, County Council President Billy Boniface, using a horse racing analogy, said some political touts thought the council’s odds of success were longshots when it took office three years ago. “But now with three seasons behind us and a record of accomplishments to show for it, we’re on track to complete our first term, not as longshots but as arguably the most productive council to serve together.”

Boniface’s speech focused on the economy, the budget process and property tax relief.

The complete text of Craig’s and Boniface's speech can be found on our Web sites, www.theaegis.com and www.exploreharford.com.


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