ROCKVILLE, Md., May 16, 2013—Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro today made the following statement after the Council unanimously reached tentative agreement on the County’s Fiscal Year 2014 operating budget:
First, I want to say thank you to my colleagues, to the Council staff, the County Executive and his staff, everyone at OMB, along with the school system, Park and Planning, WSSC, Montgomery College, and all the other groups and individuals who have worked so hard to put the pieces of this budget together.
Budgets are a reflection of our values. There are always more needs, and more wants, than there are resources available. This year’s budget continues to invest in our economic and social infrastructure.
We, as a Council, have been entrusted by our Charter and by the voters who elected us to decide how to allocate these limited resources, and our decisions reflect the values of our County residents. In my view, this is our most important responsibility.
I was elected Council President by my colleagues, but at the end of the day I’m still just one of nine votes. My primary responsibility as President is to shepherd the body through its work.
Montgomery County prides itself on having an open, democratic decision-making process and I am proud of our broad-based and inclusive budget process.
At this year’s public hearings, 153 people signed up to testify about their priorities, including 8 who testified in languages other English. We heard from people like:
Diego Diaz, a Montgomery College student who testified about how the College’s biotechnology program has enabled him to discover his passion and launch him on a promising career path.
Timothy Hill, a Community Living Assistant who works with people with developmental disabilities, who testified about how critical County funding is for the services he provides.
And Hanna Marken, a young girl from Kensington who testified about the importance of providing adequate services for the mentally ill.
We also received hundreds of letters, emails, and phone calls.
Through this process, we have been able to craft a balanced, sustainable budget that fully funds the school system’s request, begins to reverse the most painful of the cuts made at the height of the recession, prioritizes services for the most vulnerable in our County, enhances out-of-school opportunities for at-risk youth, reduces the energy tax, and provides compensation increases for our dedicated County employees for the first time in four years.
We met the Board of Education’s request without exceeding Maintenance of Effort. This funding will allow MCPS to continue providing a world-class education to students across the County, while expanding programs designed to address the persistent academic achievement gap. In addition, this year’s budget includes nearly $300 million in funds outside the MCPS budget that serve our students and their families.
We also approved 40 new positions in the Police Department, allowing Chief Manger to continue his targeted approach to reducing crime in the highest risk areas of the County.
We approved continuing the youth enhancement initiative I proposed last year with the support of the County Executive, which included an additional Excel Beyond the Bell site, and new funding for other youth programming. The Council also expanded the Student Teen Employment Program.
This budget also:
· Reduces the increase in the Energy Tax by 10 percent, providing a 20 percent reduction over the last two years.
· Increases the Working Families Income Supplement by 10 percent, bringing the County match to 85 percent.
· Adds a 3 percent cost of living adjustment for the many non-profits that do vital work for our most vulnerable residents. In all, we added almost $5 million to the HHS budget recommended by the Executive, strengthening one of the agencies hit the hardest during the recession.
As I said, budgets are a reflection of values. For me, this budget reflects the diverse needs of the people we serve, while recognizing that we are One Montgomery. As we emerge from the Great Recession, we must never forget the difficult choices we’ve had to make. Our investments must be strategic, recognizing the new fiscal reality faced by our County and the entire nation.