Montgomery County Council Approves $4.3 Billion Operating Budget for FY 2009
Public Safety, Schools Are Priorities; Property Tax Rate Remains Unchanged; Homeowners Receive $579 Tax Credit
County’s 3.1 Percent Increase in Tax-Supported Portion of the Budget Is Lowest Annual Rise Since Fiscal Year 1997
ROCKVILLE, Md., May 22, 2008—The Montgomery County Council today unanimously agreed on a $4.3 billion total operating budget for Fiscal Year 2009, which begins July 1. In a budget year complicated by a slowing economy, the Council agreed on a budget that protects core services, keeps the property tax rate unchanged and includes a $579 property tax credit for owner-occupants of principal residences.
The $3.8 billion tax-supported portion of the budget is up 3.1 percent from the FY08 approved budget—the lowest annual increase since FY 1997. Including current revenue for the Capital Improvements Program (CIP), it is $5.6 million less than the tax-supported budget recommended by County Executive Isiah Leggett in March. The $4.3 billion total operating budget, which includes grants and self-supporting funds (but excludes current revenue), is up 4.3 percent from FY08.
The Council today also adopted resolutions to provide $4.2 billion in funding over the next six years for the FY09-14 CIP.
The Council agreed with the Executive’s recommendation that funding the FY09 operating budget would require exceeding the County’s Charter limit on property tax revenue for the fourth time since voters approved it in November 1990. However, the Council reduced the Executive’s proposed property tax increase by $20 million.
By keeping the tax rate unchanged rather than raising it by 7.5 cents as proposed by the Executive, the Council provided help for renters. Those who rent would have absorbed increases passed on by apartment owners if the property tax rate had been increased. The Council plan also offers some relief to owners of small businesses who rent their spaces.
In addition, the County “circuit breaker” tax credit will provide more targeted property tax relief for households with incomes of $64,000 or less. And under a law the Council passed two years ago, eligible homeowners who are at least 70 years old will receive an added 25 percent circuit breaker credit.
The Council entered the budget season facing a gap estimated at nearly $300 million. The budget adopted by the Council restored core services including police and fire and rescue services; addressed the social and health needs of those on the lower end of the economic spectrum; maintained facilities and programs that continue the high quality of life expected by residents; and plans for the future with a responsible six-year Capital Improvements Program.
The budget emphasizes the Council’s priority focus on education, public safety, affordable housing and immediate and long-term programs to protect the environment against the threat of global warming. Health and Human Services, public transportation, improved infrastructure and technology also received strong support.
“Our budget acknowledges that these are difficult times for our residents and for our county,” said Council President Mike Knapp. “We have slowed the growth rate to 3.1 percent—well below the rate of inflation—and provided a $579 property tax credit for homeowners. Just as important, we maintained our commitment to core government services, like public safety and education, that make our county such a great place to live and work. By working closely with—and listening to—residents, service-providers and each other, this Council has crafted a responsible and responsive budget based on our county’s priorities and principles.”
Funding for Montgomery County Public Schools will be $2.07 billion, an increase of 4.1 percent over the FY08 adopted budget. The total figure represents 98.5 percent of the original funding request from the Board of Education.
Funding for Montgomery College will be $257 million, including $14.3 million for workforce development and continuing education. The total figure represents 98.7 percent of the college’s original funding request.
The Council adopted a carbon surtax that will increase certain fuel/energy tax rates to reflect carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas generation. The carbon surtax is expected to raise $11.1 million in annual revenue. Of that amount, the Council will direct $1 million to support implementation of seven new bills to reduce carbon emissions.
The seven bills, including 25 separate initiatives, combine to form one of the nation’s foremost climate change initiatives by a County government. The bills include a provision that will require new homes built in the County to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Energy Star” standard. That will make Montgomery the nation’s first county to adopt such legislation.
For the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Council restored $4.9 million of the funds reduced in the County Executive’s recommended budget. These funds will help protect services for County parks and land use planning.
The new budget provides $687,600 for a police recruit class of 20 in January 2009 and $623,000 to restore positions for six community outreach officers and six community policing officers that work from the district stations to assist communities in solving problems and preventing crime. The Executive’s budget did not include those funds.
The Council also included $1.87 million to restore staffing for a ladder truck based at Hillandale Station 12 and $870,000 to restore nighttime staffing for ambulance services based at the Glen Echo and Laytonsville stations. The Council added $429,000 for 10 slots for new recruits.
The budget reserves $4.5 million in the Housing Initiative Fund to implement a County “Housing First” plan. Housing First focuses on reducing the time individuals and families spend in homelessness by moving them into long-term, stable, supportive housing. In addition, $2.6 million in the Housing Initiative Fund will come from new revenues from the recordation tax. About $800,000 of these funds will be used to provide emergency rental assistance and eviction prevention and $1.8 million will be used for local housing voucher programs.
In transportation, the Council restored $490,120 for the Fare Share and Super Fare Share programs that help buy down the cost of transit fares if an employer is willing to buy down a portion as well. The Council also included $250,000 for maintenance on bikeway and pedestrian trails. The County’s continuing efforts to upgrade pedestrian crossing signals will receive an additional $175,000 in funding.
Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, who chairs the Council’s Management and Fiscal Policy Committee, praised her colleagues for today’s unanimous vote.
“Throughout the review process conducted by MFP and in my discussions with colleagues, labor leaders, the County Executive and citizens, I have adhered to an unwavering course. During an economic downturn, we must lift people up who can’t always speak for themselves and depend on government that’s always there.
“That’s why from the start, I opposed an excessive property tax rate increase and I’m pleased that my colleagues reduced the amount of property tax by $20 million and kept rates at the current level. Also, I am very optimistic that the proposed labor-management cooperation program will create additional savings in the coming years by tapping into the talent and experience of our front line county employees.”
Councilmember Nancy Floreen, chair of the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, said of the budget agreement: “If you look at this budget as a map of the upcoming year, then we are sitting on the ‘X’ that says, ‘You are here.’ Ultimately, this budget is a compromise of eight perspectives that were indeed all over the map, and the fact that we are all here in agreement is a testament to the leadership of our president, Mike Knapp. Although I believed we could have achieved more savings, I have confidence in the spirit of compromise that got us here, and I fully support this budget.”
Councilmember Valerie Ervin, chair of the Council’s Education Committee, said of the Council’s commitment to education: “With federal and state aid decreasing and enrollment numbers increasing, the County is having to step up to the plate to help close the gap for education, so that our students at Montgomery College and MCPS can continue to get the quality education that they deserve and that our residents expect. We have to do more with less, but still ensure that our children continue to receive a top-notch education.
“MCPS has to serve more special education students and children who are eligible for free and reduced meals. These are serious challenges. I have and will continue to advocate for programs that work for all of our County’s children, such as universal pre-kindergarten, universal breakfast, and projects aimed at ending the achievement gap.”
In regard to the negotiated agreements with various employee unions, Councilmember Ervin said: “Budgets are about people—teachers, who educate our children; police and firefighters, who protect our families; bus drivers, who get us to and from work each day; and nurses and support staff, who care for our residents. All of our dedicated employees make Montgomery County the extraordinary place we call home.”
The Council this spring also addressed important needs in the six-year CIP budget. Funding was added for the first phase of the North County Maintenance Depot in Clarksburg ($74.5 million) that will eventually house 150 new buses. Funds were appropriated for a new southern entrance to the Bethesda Metro Station ($60 million) that will provide easy access to the Bethesda Row area. Money also was set aside for a new 1,200-car parking garage at the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues in Bethesda ($89 million). Funding was provided for the new judicial annex that will expand the Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville ($139.8 million). The Council supported the building of a new Montrose Parkway East ($51 million) over the next eight years and major renovations to the Gaithersburg Library ($26 million).
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Highlights of the Fiscal Year 2009 Montgomery County Operating Budget:
• The average tax rate will remain unchanged from FY09, resulting in an average tax rate of 90.3 cents per $100 of taxable value (there are 21 property tax rates in the County).
• Every owner-occupied principal residence will receive a $579 property tax credit.
• The County “circuit breaker” homeowners’ tax credit will provide significant property tax relief for homeowners of all ages with household incomes of $64,000 or less.
• Under a law the Council passed two years ago, eligible homeowners who are at least 70 years old will receive an added 25 percent circuit breaker credit.
• $2.07 billion for Montgomery County Public Schools (an increase of 4.1 percent over the FY08 adopted budget). The total represents 98.5 percent of the Board of Education’s original request.
• $257 million for Montgomery College (an increase of 7.9 percent). The total represents 98.7 percent of the college’s request.
• $269 million for special education, an increase of 10.3 percent ($25 million).
• $6.7 million in the CIP to support construction of school-based health centers at four MCPS elementary schools.
• $745,000 for the Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy (MCAEL).
• $280,000 increase for Montgomery College to operate its own Campus Connector service.
• $632,503 for staffing at Montgomery College’s new Goldenrod facility.
• $240.3 million for the Police Department (an increase of 9.5 percent over the adopted FY08 budget).
• $623,060 to restore six community outreach officers and six community policing officers that work from the district stations to assist communities in solving problems and preventing crime.
• $687,600 to fund a January 2009 police recruit class of 20. This action will allow the department to fill vacancies from normal attrition and stay at full strength.
• $150,000 to provide the overtime needed to implement a second Police Community Action Team.
• $159,000 for background investigators.
- Fire and Rescue
• $191.7 million for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (an increase of 1.2 percent over the adopted FY08 budget).
• $435,000 to continue nighttime staffing of Glen Echo ambulance.
• $435,000 to continue nighttime staffing for Laytonsville ambulance.
• $1.87 million to continue staffing for Hillandale Station 12 ladder truck.
• $429,000 to add 10 fire and rescue recruit slots.
• $817,430 million to open West Germantown Fire Station in early 2009.
• $134,460 for a new position to implement recommendations of the Senior Citizen Fire Safety Task Force.
• No EMS Transport (ambulance) fee at this time. (Fee legislation to be introduced on June 10.)
- Correction and Rehabilitation
• $65.6 million to fund the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation.
• $191 million to fund the Department of Transportation, including $118 million for the Mass Transit Fund (that supports Ride On bus service).
• Increase cost of 20-trip Ride On pass to $25 (starting Oct. 1, 2008).
• $250,000 for bikeway maintenance.
• $53,500 for increased parking enforcement outside of parking districts (estimated to produce $133,000 in additional revenue).
• $175,000 for reassessment of pedestrian signal timing.
• $490,120 to restore Fare Share and Super Fare Share programs that help buy down the cost of transit fares if an employer is willing to buy down a portion as well.
• Increase hourly, daily and monthly parking fees in Silver Spring and Wheaton Parking Lot Districts. Changes would make short-term parking fees in Silver Spring equal to fees in Bethesda.
• $10.6 million to fund the Department of Economic Development.
• $802,440 for the Economic Development Fund that loans funds to businesses and including funding for the impact assistance program which provides grants to small businesses impacted by County revitalization projects.
• $2 million to match State funds for the Live Nation Music Hall project in Silver Spring.
• $700,000 for Phase II of a three-year commitment of $2.1 million for development of the Adventist HealthCare medical facility in Long Branch. (Repeat of last year’s commitment).
• $850,000 to match state funding for the Germantown Incubator to be opened in September 2008.
• $125,000 to CIP for the Life Sciences and Technology Centers project to develop land use plans for the East County Center for Science and Technology.
• $695,450 for the Conference and Visitor’s Bureau that promotes the County as a tourist destination.
• $54.8 million for the Housing Initiative Fund.
• $25 million to implement a revolving acquisition and preservation program that will allow the County to respond quickly when affordable properties become available and prevent the loss of affordable housing in the County.
• $4.5 million reserved in the Housing Initiative Fund to implement a County “Housing First” plan. Housing First focuses on reducing the time individuals and families spend in homelessness by moving them into long-term, stable, supportive housing.
• $2.6 million in the Housing Initiative Fund will come from new revenues from the recordation tax. About $800,000 of these funds will be used to provide emergency rental assistance and eviction prevention and $1.8 million will be used for local housing voucher programs.
• $4.9 million in Community Development Block Grant funds including $1.4 million that will be used for housing rehabilitation and production and $590,000 in grants to non-profit organizations.
• $6.1 million for the Housing Opportunities Commission to support resident services, parent resource centers, opening of the HOC Customer Services Centers and other programs that support families living in HOC sponsored housing.
• $350,000 to provide a $50 rebate to offset the County’s energy tax for 7,000 households that qualify for state or federal energy assistance programs.
• $146,840 to the “Welcome Home” program that will be opening a new group home for previously homeless, chronically mentally ill women.
• $200,000 to continue to provide staff and services at the Gude Men’s shelter during daytime hours.
Health and Human Services
• $272.8 million in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services.
• $450,000 to fund a 2 percent inflationary adjustment for contracts with eligible health and human services providers.
- Aging and Disability Services
• $4.697 million for in-home aide services including $100,000 to allow the director to approve additional hours in critical cases.
• $1.687 million to continue the senior food program.
- Public Health Services
• $461,310 to fund contracts with the Mobile Medical Service, the Spanish Catholic Center and Proyecto Salud that, in coordination with the funding received through Montgomery Cares, will allow these clinics to provide needed medical services to the growing of uninsured county residents.
• $100,000 for in-home aides for critical care cases.
• $100,000 for a nurse practitioner for the Mobile Medical Care service.
• $130,000 for special care and a volunteer coordinator for the Mobile Medical Care service.
- Children, Youth and Family Services
• $10.9 million for Child Care Subsidies.
• $20.85 million for School Health services (increase of $2.79 million from the FY08 adopted budget).
• More than $2 million to fund an initiative that addresses high risk youth behaviors including gang involvement, violent behavior, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy, including the Youth Opportunity Center in Langley Park, the Wellness Center at Northwood High School, and the Street Outreach Network, a cadre of outreach workers, who connect with and provide support to gang involved youth.
• $2.7 million for services focused on increasing the quality early care and education programs available to young children, including a $150,000 increase for early childhood mental health consultation services.
• $2.3 million for evaluation, assessment, and early intervention services to families with children under age three when there is a concern about development, including a $113,750 increase in state funding.
• $5.175 million for Linkages to Learning, an increase of $13,330.
• Funding for Ruth Rales Reading Program: $39,390 for George B. Thomas Learning Academy; $39,390 for Interages; $24,540 for Passion for Learning.
• $190,000 to support community-based pre-kindergarten services provided by Centro Nia for 40 children.
• $155,560 for Pre-Kindergarten Curriculum Training to continue training that prepares child care providers to implement instructional strategies in their existing programs.
- Behavioral Health and Crisis Services
• $5.2 million for 24-hour crisis services including funding for the 24/7 Mobile Crisis Team, which is available to respond to crisis situations, in conjunction with County Police, for residents in need of immediate intervention.
• $5.9 million for outpatient addiction services including $215,000 in increased funding for the Avery Road Treatment Center to ensure there is no loss of capacity in detoxification and treatment services to help addicted individuals change their lives.
• $89,780 to increase the caseload for the Adult Drug Court from 45 to 60.
• $40.3 million for the Department of Public Libraries.
• $27.7 million to support library services to the public, including support of 20 full-service branches and other special branches.
• Maintains current hours at all libraries.
• $33.7 million to fund the Department of Technology Services.
• $925,000 to support additional modernization for 311/Constituent Relationship Management and Infrastructure support for the Enterprise Resource Planning project.
• $7.1 million for desktop computer modernization.
Arts and Humanities
• $5.31 million for Arts and Humanities.
• $500,000 for the American Film Institute in Silver Spring.
• $400,000 to help retire facility debt for the Imagination Stage.
• $165,000 to help with mortgage payments for Pyramid Atlantic.
• $100,000 for Heritage Tourism Alliance that helps the County use its heritage to encourage tourism while protecting and promoting its cultural, historical and natural resources.
• Adopted a carbon surcharge to increase fuel/energy tax rates to reflect carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas generation. Will increase tax rates of electricity, fuel oil and steam by 10 percent; coal by 20 percent and natural and liquefied petroleum gas by 5 percent. Surcharge is expected to generate $11.1 million in FY09.
• The Water Quality Protection Charge rate set at $35.50 (increased from $25.23 in FY08). The increase will help inspect and maintain more than 1,000 stormwater management facilities, implement low-impact development initiatives and to continue targeted street sweeping.
• Approved 8 percent average residential water and sewer rate increase for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission customers.
• $1 million (from the new surcharge on energy/fuel tax) to support implementation of seven new bills to reduce carbon emissions.
• $25,000 for creation of a new Green Business Program to recognize and publicize businesses that are meeting certain environmental standards.
• $561,000 for the Clean Energy Rewards Program for participants who choose to purchase at 50 percent clean energy (such as wind power). This is an increase of $200,000 so additional participants can be added to the program.
• No change in tipping fees at Shady Grove Transfer Station.
Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
• $106.4 million for the budget of M-NCPPC.
• $478,733 to increase funding for master plans and work program.
• $849,000 to prevent the partial closure of Brookside Gardens, Agricultural History Farm Park and cuts to trails, courts, camping and boating facilities.
• $1.85 million to keep the Wheaton Ice Rink open and continue to provide services for nonprofit organizations that lease public land.
• $1.1 for Non-Native Invasive Species and Deer Management programs, maintenance supplies, funding for park activities buildings and across the board increases in service delivery.
• $32.4 million to fund the Montgomery County Recreation Department.
• Funding that includes design costs and a $20 million set aside for construction costs for the renovation of four neighborhood recreation centers: Plum Gar, Scotland, Ross Boddy and Good Hope.
• $2.4 million for funding of camps and classes.
• $2.3 million for sports programs, including adult sports and selected youth leagues.
• $2.7 million for seniors and therapeutic recreation programs.
• $4.3 million for teen programs.
• $228,450 toward expenses needed to re-open Piney Branch pool.
• $572,100 for opening of Wisconsin Place Community Recreation Center.
• $79,560 increase to provide full-year funding for the Seneca Valley Sports Academy.
• $50,000 to support Maryland State Senior Olympics in Montgomery County.
• $14,770 to provide an after school program for middle school students at the Long Branch Community Center.
• $30,000 to add two summer fun centers to serve 200 youth in Olney and Germantown.
• $39.2 million to fund the Department of Liquor Control.
• Recommended that the County Executive consider a change to County policy to allow Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages, to pursue a pilot program for Sunday sales and to make a determination how revenues from Sunday sales would be used for addiction services.
Other Notable Items
• $2.31 million for a total of 58 grants to nonprofit organizations to support a variety of programs and services, including food, eviction prevention, utility assistance and other basic services to help low income families remain in their homes. The Council also funded several youth development proposals from community nonprofit organizations working to provide needed after school programs for County youth.
• $43.4 for the Division of Risk Management, the self-insurance component of the Department of Finance.
• $108,000 for Independence Day celebrations in Germantown and Wheaton ($54,000 for each).
• $55,000 for Emerging Communities Funding through Regional Service Centers for small community development projects in commercial areas that are not in Urban Districts.
• Approved an eight-year phase-in schedule to pre-fund retiree health benefits for all agencies, including $40.6 million in FY09.
• $2.5 million to fund the Office of Human Rights.
• $1.3 million to fund the Commission on Women.
• $315,840 for the Historic Preservation Commission.
• $64,500 for the Montgomery County Historical Society.
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