ROCKVILLE, Md., May 20, 2010—In an austere year caused by the deep recession, the Montgomery County Council today approved a $4.3 billion total County operating budget for Fiscal Year 2011, which begins July 1. The budget is 4.5 percent less than the approved budget for FY10, marking the first decrease in a total budget since the adoption of the current County Charter in 1968.
Since March 15, when County Executive Isiah Leggett presented his recommended budget, the Council has worked to achieve equity in the allocation of limited funds. On Wednesday, the Council unanimously agreed to reduce the budget for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) by $24.4 million, 1.3 percent less than proposed by the Executive. These funds will be used to mitigate deep cuts in the safety net and other vital services, including Montgomery College.
At today’s meeting, the Council voted to restore a number of significant items to the budget, including key additions that address health and human services needs. Items added today include additional funding for the Montgomery Cares, the Patient Navigator program, MCPS school health room aides, residential treatment providers, the Community Vision program, Parent Resource Centers, residential treatment provider supplements and the Mental Health Association suicide hotline. Funds also were restored so that contracts for health services would be reduced by 5 percent, instead of the 7 percent recommended by the Executive.
The budget re-establishes the reserve at 6 percent, which should help maintain the County’s AAA bond rating. The reserve was reduced to 5 percent in FY10.
The overall tax-supported budget of $3.66 billion reflects a decrease of $190.3 million from the FY10 adopted budget, a decrease of 4.9 percent. This is the second consecutive year the tax-supported portion of the budget has decreased.
“In this austere budget year, we are all in this together,” said Council President Nancy Floreen. “Despite a record drop in revenue, we have worked to develop a budget that is fair – fair to our residents who rely on County services, fair to taxpayers and fair to employees. We have also increased our reserve, and we are working on a balanced fiscal plan for the next six years.
“In allocating sharply reduced resources, we have given top priority to our school children – the MCPS share of total agency spending is 57 percent, up from 55 percent in FY10 and over the last decade – as well as Montgomery College, public safety and the safety net.”
The Council also approved the total Fiscal Years 2011-16 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) of $3.9 billion. The six-year CIP plan for all agencies (excluding the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission) addresses major projects. The approved CIP is an increase of $167 million (4.5 percent) from the previous CIP. The $3.86 billion for the tax-supported part of the CIP is an increase of $197.5 billion (5.4 percent) from the previous CIP. The CIP for Montgomery County Public Schools increased by about 10 percent, including funds for 28 new schools and additions (including 11 projects new to this CIP).
In a budget year complicated by the national and regional economic downturn, the Council’s budget protects core services and “safety net” programs, but does not exceed the County’s Charter Limit on property tax revenue. The budget includes a $692 property tax credit for owner-occupants of principal residences. It freezes pay for employees of County government, Montgomery College, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) and MCPS.
Employees at all agencies except MCPS will be asked to take unpaid furlough days in FY11. Furloughs for County Government employees, including elected officials, will be progressive: three days for employees whose salaries are less than $50,000; five days for those with salaries of $50,000 to $100,000; and eight days for those with salaries greater than $100,000.
The budget includes a plan to consolidate recreation facility and athletic field permitting, class/program registration and additional recreation programs into County Government from the Department of Parks to create a more streamlined and user-friendly system for County residents. The Council believes this consolidation, over time, will lead to budget savings and operational efficiencies.
Councilmember statements on the budget agreement:
Councilmember Phil Andrews: “Although I strongly support the Council's decisions to eliminate pay increases and furlough employees to minimize layoffs, I cannot vote for an operating budget that most unwisely relies on revenues from ambulance fees that will likely be rejected on referendum and that hikes energy taxes on homeowners by 150 percent."
Councilmember Roger Berliner: “In the most difficult and painful year in our County’s history, our task was to allocate pain equitably. If we are measured by that standard, I believe we performed well in respect to our responsibility.”
Councilmember Marc Elrich: “Today the Council ended an extraordinarily difficult budget process in which we reduced spending from last year’s budget by 4.5 percent. This could not have been done without the very close collaboration of my colleagues. But most importantly we had the cooperation of the County employee unions who gave up cost of living raises, length of service step increases and will get an average of five furlough days. In addition, 450 County employees will lose their jobs. Even with these sacrifices, we have been forced to make major cuts to county services while raising new revenues to address the challenges of an almost $1 billion deficit. I will continue to push efforts to reorganize and restructure County Government because our long-term sustainability depends on our ability to achieve all possible efficiencies.”
Council Vice President Valerie Ervin: "As a former member or the Board of Education and Chair of the Council's Education Committee, I know there has been a lot of anxiety about the additional $24.4 million in cuts to the school system; however, I am confident that this reduction will not impact the classroom. We always put children first, and this Council has protected the services that children need each day. In addition to providing a top-notch education, many children and their families rely on Montgomery County for health care, housing assistance, and transportation.
"We are partners with the Board of Education, and we must work together to repair any damage to our working relationship that has occurred over the last several weeks. The future of our County depends upon our leadership and this collaboration."
Councilmember Mike Knapp: “While this budget is significantly more responsive to the needs of our residents than the one proposed by the County Executive, it still relies too much on tax increases, tenuous assumptions and one-time solutions—which all but guarantees that we will be addressing many of the same issues a year from now. I appreciate the work that has gone into this budget, but regret that, ultimately, I cannot support it.”
Councilmember George Leventhal: “In his 1996 State of the Union message, President Bill Clinton said, ‘The era of big government is over.’ Many of his liberal supporters were dismayed, but we face a similar moment in Montgomery County today. President Clinton said further, ‘The era of big government is over. But we can't go back to the era of fending for yourself. We have to go forward to the era of working together as a community, as a team, as one America, with all of us reaching across these lines that divide us—the division, the discrimination, the rancor—we have to reach across it to find common ground. We have got to work together if we want America to work.’ In Montgomery County today, we know we must reorient our expectations and reinvent county government so that our taxpayers can afford it. As we look ahead to the years to come when we must develop a long-range plan for economic sustainability, I am optimistic – just as President Clinton was -- that our future will be bright if we work together.”
Councilmember Nancy Navarro: “In order to create this budget, my colleagues and I had to make many difficult decisions and some important changes to the County Executive’s proposed budget. Recognizing the importance of our public school system, we approved a final budget for Montgomery County Public Schools that amounted to only a 1.3 percent reduction from its FY10 budget, while increasing its capital budget by 10 percent. I am confident that our School Board and Superintendent Jerry Weast will institute any necessary reductions in a manner that minimizes any impact on schoolchildren. My two daughters are MCPS students and I served on the Board for five years, so I know that their education is in good hands.”
Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg: "Serving on the Montgomery County Council has been a continuation of my life's work to represent our most vulnerable citizens and to give them a voice in policy and budget decisions. As I've often stated, they are not strangers to us, for they are the neighbors and friends and sometimes family members who ride our buses, receive a free meal at the senior center, or seek shelter and refuge in time of crisis. In this year's budget, the Council has once again demonstrated its commitment to putting people first. Despite the reversal of economic fortune, we have prioritized the needs of our citizens and there is no wiser investment in our future than that.
“In the months ahead, the Council will need to define a sustainable fiscal plan; an improved reserve fund policy; a collaborative effort to address our very large compensation and benefit obligations; and a constructive approach in consolidating and restructuring our County service delivery. We must succeed in these efforts for our residents deserve nothing less."
Key Council Actions Regarding FY 2011 Montgomery County Operating Budget:
Increased the July 2010 candidate class from 30 to 36 at a cost of $278,100. This would allow those who have already received job offers the opportunity to move forward in the hiring process, since the January 2011 class has been abolished.
Restored $126,920 to retain the four Police satellite facilities at Olney, Piney Branch, East County and Clopper Road
Restored $2.5 million for enrollment growth and $1.9 million for operation of new facilities
Health and Human Services
Restored $112,000 for the Patient Navigator program
Restored $462,340 for the Montgomery Cares program, allowing for an additional 70,000 primary care visits retaining the current reimbursement rate of $62
Restored $183,300 for Fund 3 Eligibility Screeners
Increased funding $70,000 for Respite Care
Restored $1,541,340 for School Health Room Aides
Restored $66,530 for residential treatment providers
Restored $218,790 for the Community Vision program
Restored $48,120 for Parent Resource Centers
Provided $487,010 so contracts to health providers would be reduced by 5 percent instead of 7 percent
Provided $165,000 so contracts for development disability service providers would be reduced by 5 percent instead of 7 percent
Provided $20,250 so contracts for residential treatment provider supplements would be reduced by 5 percent instead of 7 percent
Restored $25,000 for the Mental Health Association’s suicide hotline
Children Youth and Families
$21.4 million for Child Welfare Services
$15 million for income supports for low-income families and individuals in need of food, medical and other assistance
$4.1 million for services that support youth involved in or at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system or in need of substance abuse of other services.
$4.8 million for Linkages to Learning
$3.8 million for Child Care Subsidies
$3.5 million for evaluation, assessment, and early intervention services to families with children under age three when there is a concern about development
$3.1 million for services focused on increasing the quality early care and education programs available to young children
$1.8 million for positive youth development and gang prevention and intervention for youth at risk of joining or involved in gangs
Arts and Humanities
Provided $500,000 for Olney Theatre, available if the theatre meets certain conditions
Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
Voted to consolidate recreation facility and athletic field permitting, class/program registration, and additional recreation programs into County Government from the Department of Parks to create a more streamlined and user-friendly system for County residents. The Council believes this consolidation, over time, will lead to budget savings and operational efficiencies.
Voted to consolidate the Park Police and the Montgomery County Police communications and dispatch operations
Restored 95,000 for consulting services for Route 29 Corridor Plan
Restored $81,900 for the deer management program
Approved $968,300 (approximately half of the $1,845,800 approved for Council grants in FY10) for a total of 33 grants to nonprofit organizations to support a variety of programs and services, including food, eviction prevention, utility assistance and other safety net services to help low income families facing severe economic hardships.
This includes programs such as Manna Food Center’s weekend food program for low income school children and A Wider Circle’s donated furniture distribution to low income families.
Funded several youth development proposals from community nonprofit organizations working to prevent teen pregnancy, help low income first generation students get into college and provide needed after school programs for County youth.
Provided $100,000 to assist with capital improvements for the Ivymount School, a special education school for students with disabilities.
Municipal Tax Duplication
Provided $748,820 to restore half of the cut in payments to municipalities recommended on April 22 by the County Executive
Working Families Income Supplement
Provided $1 million to restore part of reductions recommended on April 22 by the County Executive
Restored funding for Summer Teen Programs
Restored $109,420 for the Historic Preservation Commission’s responsibilities
Voted along with Prince George’s County Council to increase water and sewer charges for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission by 8.5 percent
Increased the Water Quality Protection Fund budget to cover the inspection and maintenance of stormwater management facilities transferred into the program
Increased the Water Quality Protection Fund budget for additional staff to assist in the implementation of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
Highlights FY 2011-16 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for MCPS
The FY11-16 CIP adopted by the Council will be just under $4 billion, about 6 percent higher than previous approved CIP. The Montgomery County Public Schools CIP will increase by more than 10 percent. The key changes are:
Funds 28 new schools and additions, including the 11 projects new to this CIP: Bradley Hills Elementary addition, Clarksburg/Damascus Middle addition, Clarksburg High School addition,,Clarksburg Village Elementary (new school), Darnestown Elementary addition, Georgian Forest Elementary addition, Somerset Elementary addition, Viers Mill Elementary addition, Waters Landing Elementary addition, Westbrook Elementary addition, Wyngate Elementary addition
Adds $6.6 million for one or more additions to elementary schools in the Richard Montgomery Cluster, where MCPS forecasts overcrowding within the next 5 years. In the next year or two the Board of Education will identify where the addition(s) will be built
Keeps all 27 school replacement/modernization projects on the Board of Education’s requested schedule
Funds $11.3 million in FYs11-12 to build gyms in the remaining 7 elementary schools that do not have them
Increases HVAC Replacement funding by $9.4 million (168 percent) in FY11
Increases Planned Lifecycle Asset Replacement funding by $1.9 million (45 percent) in FY11
Increases funds for ADA Compliance by $0.9 million (87 percent) annually
Increases funds for Indoor Air Quality projects by $0.8 million (61 percent) in FY11
Adds $6 million to renovate restrooms in 71 schools during FYs11-16
To achieve a balanced budget, the Council took action on several proposals to increase revenue. These actions included:
Approved Bill 13-10 that creates the Emergency Medical Services Transport Fee (or ambulance fee) proposed by the County Executive. Bill 13-10 authorizes the County to charge the health insurance companies of those transported by County ambulances between $300 and $800, depending upon the level of care needed. They also will be charged $8.50 per mile of transport. Residents without health insurance will not be charged. It is estimated the fees could raise approximately $12.9 million annually for the County. Fees could be charged as early as July 1.
Approved Expedited Bill 29-10, which will make Montgomery County the first County in the nation to create a carbon emissions tax on major emitters of carbon dioxide. The carbon tax, whose chief sponsor is Councilmember Roger Berliner, will require a major emitter of carbon to pay an excise tax of $5 per ton of carbon emitted. Currently, the only impacted emitter would be the Mirant Corporation power plant in Dickerson.
Approved a resolution that reflects the County Executive’s proposal to increase the County tax on energy use, including on home heating oil, electric and natural gas. The Executive proposed doubling the energy tax, but the Council reduced the increase to 85 percent. The measure will split the increase between residential and commercial users. The average County household will pay $13 more per month than it currently does, depending upon the type of energy primarily used in the home and the amount of energy used. The bill will sunset after two years.
Approved an increase to the current tax on cell phone lines from $2 to $3.50 per line per month.