Update: On July 28, 2015, the Council approved an FY16 Budget Savings Plan with significant differences from what was proposed by the County Executive. Click here to learn more.
When County Executive Isiah Leggett released his recommended Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) Operating Budget in March, he suggested that next year’s budget would be difficult. He said, “it’s almost unavoidable down the line that we’ll have a tax increase.” The FY16 Budget that he proposed was essentially a “same services budget,” with one of the few changes being salary increases for County employees.
In May, the Council approved a responsible and responsive budget that reflects Montgomery County’s progressive values. Throughout the budget process, we heard from our constituents about your priorities, and the budget we passed included many of those items:
- The Council funded recently-passed legislation to support child care and health insurance assistance for low-income workers.
- We included housing support for homeless veterans.
- We provided additional money for workers who serve the developmentally disabled.
On July 8, County Executive Leggett transmitted an FY16 Savings Plan to the Council that would eliminate these priorities. After the negative U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Wynne case and lower than expected income tax revenue distribution, budget reductions are certainly necessary; however, that doesn’t mean we should be cutting — and in some cases, gutting — programs that serve our most vulnerable residents.
Budgets are moral documents — and so are budget savings plans.
Council committees began reviewing the County Executive’s proposed savings plan on Monday and will continue to make recommendations through next week. On July 28, the full Council is scheduled to discuss and vote on the committee recommendations.
The Council has set up a special website to solicit your feedback on the proposed budget savings plan. You can share your views using the Council Budget Savings Plan Web Portal, or you can e-mail County.Council@MontgomeryCountyMD.gov to send a message to the entire Council. To keep up-to-date with the latest news about the budget savings plan and other issues, be sure to follow me on Twitter and “like” my Facebook page.
As we move through this challenging budget process, I will continue fighting for our shared values and priorities.
Tough Decisions by the County Council Have Strengthened Recovery Effort
Tough decisions by the 17th Montgomery County Council at the height of the Great Recession are paying dividends, according to the County’s FY15-20 Fiscal Plan, approved by the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee this morning. While some other jurisdictions in the Washington Metropolitan Region continue struggling to balance their budgets – raising taxes, reducing services, and cutting teaching positions – Montgomery County is moving in the opposite direction.
The six-year fiscal plan is based on the FY 2015 budget approved by the Council May 22. The budget fully funds the Board of Education’s request for Montgomery County Public Schools, increases the number of police officers, and provides additional support for safety net and other critical services that were cut during the recession, including libraries, parks, and transportation. The average County homeowner will see an $18 reduction in their property tax bill. The Council also reduced the 2010 energy tax increase by 7 percent, bringing the total reduction over the last three years to 27 percent. Overall, Montgomery County’s tax burden on residents has decreased in each of the last three years.
At the same time, the budget includes reserves at historic levels – $379 million, or 8.4 percent of adjusted governmental revenues – to guard against a future downturn. The fiscal plan shows that the County is ahead of schedule in reaching its policy goal of 10 percent reserves by 2020.
“This strong fiscal plan reflects the hard decisions the Council made over the last four years to deal with the Great Recession,” said Government Operations Committee Chair Nancy Navarro. “Those decisions have enabled the County to weather the worst fiscal conditions since the Great Depression, preserve our AAA bond rating, and slowly restore the services that mean so much to our residents.”
The Council is scheduled to vote on the plan on June 17.
For details on the fiscal plan, see http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/Resources/Files/agenda/cm/2014/140612/20140612_GO3.pdf.
Last month, as Council Committees began worksessions on the budget, Council President Navarro sent a memo to the Council Staff Director about her priorities for the year. On Thursday, May 23rd, the Council unanimously voted to approve the FY14 Budget and all of the Council President’s top priorities were included. Some items include:
- Fully funded the Board of Education’s budget request for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)
- Approved an additional $280 million in funds outside the MCPS budget to serve students and their families
- Significant funding increase for the Wheaton Urban District for marketing, light pole banners, gateway signs, and increasing the “Clean Team” from 5 to 7 days a week
- Pedestrian Safety Outreach and Education Campaign
- 2 new Linkages to Learning sites in District 4 (Arcola Elementary School and Georgian Forest Elementary School)
- 2 new school-based health centers in District 4 (Viers Mill Elementary School and Weller Road Elementary School)
- Reinstating funding for Montgomery Housing Partnerships to continue outreach in Glenmont
- Funding for streetlights along New Hampshire Ave. in Colesville
- New funding for IMPACT Silver Spring for community building in Bel Pre and Wheaton
- Increased funding for the Student Teen Employment Program and additional staff for the Department of Recreation to support youth and senior programming
- Additional funding to reduce the waiting list for Montgomery Coalition for Adult Literacy (MCAEL)
- Increased staffing for the Street Outreach Network gang-prevention program
- Funding for a “Village Coordinator” position to help communities establish villages throughout the county to help support seniors aging in place
- Funding for 40 additional police officers, including 6 more School Resource Officers
- Increasing the Libraries budget by nearly 11% compared to FY13, including additional funds to purchase E-Books
- Increased Code Enforcement staff in the Department of Housing and Community Affairs
- Expanded funding for the Working Parents Assistance Child Care Subsidies Program
- Added about $5 million to the County Executive’s recommendation for the Health & Human Services Budget, including a 3% Cost-of-Living Adjustment for nonprofit service providers
- Increased the Working Families Income Supplement (County match of the Earned Income Tax Credit) by 10% compared to FY13
- Reduced the Fuel & Energy Tax Increase of 2010 by 10%, bringing the 2-year total reduction to 20%
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.
Public hearings on the FY14 Operating Budget, the FY14 Capital Budget and amendments to the FY13-18 Capital Improvements Program (CIP), and WSSC’s FY14-19 CIP are scheduled for April 9, 10, and 11, 2013 at 7:00 pm, and April 10 and 11, 2013 at 1:30 pm.
Beginning March 15, 2013, persons wishing to testify can sign up by calling 240-777-7803.
- January 10th: Security Changes in Works at Montgomery Co. Elementary Schools | NBC4 Washington
- January 8th: Gazette.Net: Budget move advances security upgrades to Montgomery elementary schools
- January 8th: Montgomery County board OKs elementary schools security boost | WashingtonExaminer.com
- January 2nd: In/Out 2013: A New Year’s Guide To What’s Hot And What’s Not in Montgomery County – Takoma Park, MD Patch