The Montgomery County Council today announced unanimous agreement on an operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that invests in the school system, after-school programs, transportation, public safety, and services for vulnerable County residents, while reducing property taxes by $122.5 million to the Charter limit.
The Council also approved a six-year capital budget of $2.8 billion, a 25 percent increase over the previous capital program, that fully funds the schools’ capital budget request and pushes forward new transportation initiatives, new fire and police stations, and more infrastructure maintenance.
The County Council approved $ 2.2 billion for public education, including $ 1.85 billion for the Montgomery County Public Schools, a $137 million increase – or 7.4 percent. The Council plugged a $17 million gap in the County Executive’s recommended budget left when the State of Maryland refused to fund the promised Geographic Cost of Education formula funding.
The Council expanded full-day kindergarten to the remaining 30 County elementary schools, bolstered gang prevention and school health programs, and
continued class size reductions initiatives. The Council significantly expanded after-school programs to all County middle schools, and made the first payment on a three-year effort to eliminate waiting lists for English–language classes in the County.
The Council also approved funding for projects to relieve overcrowding in the Churchill cluster – an accelerated modernization for Bells Mill elementary, new classrooms and a gym as part of Seven Locks modernization, and portables and more maintenance dollars for Potomac elementary. The Council also bolstered its oversight capacity by adding two analysts to exclusively focus on the Montgomery County Public Schools budget.
The Council, which has increased County transportation funding by 72 percent over the past four years, also boosted funding on new roads and transit to alleviate congestion by setting aside $160 million to work with the state of Maryland in forward-funding needed improvements on state roads and transit projects. It also approved expansion of Ride On bus service and matching transit subsidies to companies whose employees use mass transit to get to work.
In addition, the Council doubled to $10 million the Montgomery Cares program, which provides health care to uninsured County residents. It also increased County investment in efforts to fight homelessness and increased care for seniors and those with disabilities.
The Council lowered the property tax rate by five cents per $100 assessed valuation (compared to last year’s four-cent cut), which will save the owner of a home assessed at $440,000 about $220 in property taxes. Every County homeowner will also receive a credit of $221 on their property tax bill (compared with $116 last year), for a total tax relief package of $441.
Also, under an expanded Council-initiated “circuit-breaker” tax credit, homeowners with incomes lower than $64,000 can receive additional targeted tax relief based on the first $300,000 of their home’s assessed value – tax relief that would average $804 per household for those eligible, which is four times the current average credit.
All told, the average County homeowner with a home assessed at $440,000 will see at least a $ 441 reduction from what he or she would otherwise pay in property taxes – more if they qualify for the circuit-breaker credit. The Council’s property tax package is also more progressive, giving a greater percentage property tax reduction for those with homes worth $400,000 or less.
The Charter limit requires the County to limit property tax revenue on existing real property to last year’s revenue plus 4 percent inflation, unless seven Councilmembers vote to exceed it.
“We have benefited enormously from the improved economy,” said Council President George Leventhal. “Because of that, we’ve been able to meet critical needs in education, transportation, public safety, and our social safety net – while still providing significant property tax relief.”
Among the budget highlights are:
• $1.85 billion for the Montgomery County Public Schools – a 7.4 percent increase.
• Funding for an accelerated Bells Mill elementary school, an expanded modernization at Seven Locks elementary, and more portables and increased maintenance at Potomac elementary.
• Operating funds for five new schools due to open in the fall: Clarksburg High School and Great Seneca Creek, Little Bennett, Down County Consortium #27, and Roscoe Nix elementary schools.
• $3 million to extend full-day kindergarten to the remaining 30 elementary schools (one year ahead of the state mandate).
• $38 million increase for Montgomery College, fully funding the College’s request.
• $575,000 to reduce waiting lists on English-language classes for County adults, the first year in a three-year effort to eliminate waiting lists for such classes.
• $400,000 to begin work on a new Poolesville High School magnet program.
• $2.3 million for elementary school class reductions and $750,000 to reduce large high school classes.
• 15 additional assistant principals for elementary schools are in the budget, at a cost of $1.6 million.
• $250,000 for violence prevention efforts.
• $250,000 to support the Middle School Reform Initiative.
• $13.2 million to improve pension benefits for MCPS teachers and non-teacher employees.
• Ten new positions are funded for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs in the school system, which serves 13,700 ESOL students.
• $265,000 for 7 new School Health positions at 5 new schools.
• $605,000 in capital budget for developing Linkages to Learning and a School Wellness Center.
• $55,000 to establish a new site of the SHARP Suspension Program for Watkins Mill High School students and $100,540 to strengthen the existing 6 SHARP sites.
• $1 million for the George B. Thomas Learning Academy’s Saturday schools.
• $4.4 million for Linkages to Learning programs, including $678,400 to establish two new Linkage to Learning sites at Loeiderman Middle School and Weller Road Elementary School.
• $131,670 for the High School Wellness Center as another part of the Gang Prevention Initiative.
• $160 million for the State Transportation Participation program to forward fund needed transportation projects on state roads and facilities and committed to such projects as a new southern entrance to the Bethesda Metro Station (the western terminus of the planned Purple Line), the Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road interchange, and the I-270/Watkins Mill Road interchange.
• $18.7 million for a second Glenmont Metro garage, adding 1,200 spaces for transit commuters by 2008 (part of State Transportation Participation program).
• $11 million to improve the safety of, amenities at, and access to most bus stops in the county during the next six years.
• $8.7 million for 10 new noise walls to be built along County roads during the next four years.
• $7.5 million annually for resurfacing needed for major County roads, a 38 percent increase in funding.
• $250,000 to provide free bus ridership for seniors and people with disabilities for rides between morning and evening rush hours.
• $7.5 million to install a state-of-the-art tracking system in all Ride On buses, which will lead to better on-time service.
• Keeping several planned bike trails on schedule, including the Matthew Henson Trail, the Shady Grove Access Trail, the Rock Creek Trail bridge over Veirs Mill Road, and several others.
• $2.3 million for tree pruning, $1.4 million for tree planting and maintenance, and $164,000 for removing foliage around traffic signs.
• $250,000 increase in “Fare Share” and Super Fare Share” subsidies to match employers’ subsidies to employees who use mass transit to commute.
• $50,000 for general trail maintenance and $200,000 to address deterioration along the Georgetown Branch trail.
• Increased Ride On service on 24 routes at a cost of $2 million and purchased 44 new buses.
• $16 million for new North County Bus Maintenance Depot.
• $250,000 to improve bicycle routes and access.
• $100,000 for Glen Echo Heights storm drain study.
• 16 percent increase in the Fire & Rescue budget, including 91 new positions.
• $3 million for staffing and operating interim Clarksburg fire station.
• Capital budget funding for new Clarksburg and East Germantown fire stations.
• 12 percent increase in the Police budget, including 56 new Officer and non-sworn positions.
• $3.2 million to implement Speed Camera Enforcement Program.
• $952,000 for two Police (CAT) Community Action Teams.
• Three new robbery investigators and increases in Silver Spring and Wheaton Central Business Districts’ staffing.
• $227,830 increase for Fire & Rescue recruitment.
• $93,000 to strengthen juvenile prosecutions by the State’s Attorney.
• 19 new Correction Officers and five additional deputy sheriffs.
• $61,550 to bolster Fire & Rescue volunteer recruitment.
• $142,500 increase (to $400,000) for the grant program for local Fire & Rescue departments.
• $88,430 increase in domestic violence funding for Sheriff.
Property tax relief:
• Reduction in the County property tax rate by 5 cents per $100 assessed valuation, which will save the owner of a home assessed at $440,000 $220 in property taxes.
• A tax credit of $221 for homeowners’ principal residence.
• An expanded “circuit-breaker” tax credit for homeowners with incomes of less than $64,000 who can receive additional targeted tax relief based on the first $300,000 of their home’s assessed value – County tax relief that would average $804 per household for those eligible.
Health & Human Services:
• $5 million increase (to $10 million) in Montgomery Cares, providing health care to County residents with no insurance.
• Increase by $500,000 (to $973,000) Permanent Supported Housing for people exiting homelessness and people with the special needs.
• $400,000 for inflation adjustments for non-profits contracting with County government to meet human needs.
• $10.4 million for Child Care subsidies serving 1,870 children.
• $1.1 million for Respite Care for families of seniors and disabled persons.
• $425,000 increase (to $7.4 million) for programs serving adults with developmental disabilities.
• $570,000 in additional funding for Care to Kids to deliver medical and dental services to 1,200 children no longer covered by the State of Maryland.
• $166,556 for the Senior Health Insurance Program to help seniors understand Medicare Part D and access other health resources.
• $80,000 increase (to $4.45 million) for Home Care services.
• Doubled funding for Community Kids to $1.2 million for wraparound services for children and youth with serious emotional disturbances.
• $4 million for rental assistance.
• $260,000 for the Gang Prevention Initiative.
• $1.2 million for homelessness emergency services grants.
• $672,000 for motel placements for homeless families.
• $1.95 million for adult and family shelters.
• $50,000 increase in Supportive Employment to assist persons with disabilities.
• $90,000 increase in senior transportation at Senior Centers.
• $75,000 to develop a Senior Strategic Plan.
• $335,160 increase (to $1.3 million) for the African American Health Initiative.
• $245,000 increase (to $1.1 million) for the Latino Health Initiative.
• $200,000 increase (to $620,000) for the Asian Health Initiative.
• Two new environmental health inspectors.
• $56,000 in scholarships for child care workers.
• $2.8 million for the Maternity Partnership Program.
• $1 million increase (to $12 million) for Addiction Services.
• $631,710 to increase mental health services to children served by Child Welfare.
• $310,000 in start-up funds to establish a County Sobering Center.
• $500,000 to Holy Cross Hospital for a new MRI scanner and facility to house the scanner
• $90,000 for Food & Friends delivery of food to clients with HIV/AIDS.
• $100,000 for electronic beds for the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington.
• $200,000 for the Jewish Federation of Group Homes for a central activity and education center.
• $100,000 to Teen Connection of Takoma, Inc.
• $300,000 toward the cost of a new Jewish Social Service Agency headquarters in Fallsgrove/Rockville.
• $800,000 to expand the Rec Extra after-school programs from the current 10 to all 38 middle schools.
• $348,110 to add an after-school sports academy at Einstein high school.
• $310,000 increase for needed maintenance at recreational facilities.
• $6 million over three years to build a new Gaithersburg Aquatics Center.
• $81,000 to restore senior trip transportation.
• Open the Olney Skate Board Park and fund Blair Sports Academy full-year to serve 433 students.
• $592,000 for increased staffing and materials at the new Rockville and Germantown libraries scheduled to open within the year.
• $350,000 for the acquisition of materials.
• $340,000 increase (to $540,000) to address maintenance needs at County libraries.
• $150,000 to increase front-line staff.
• $75,000 to increase shelving assistance.
Arts & Humanities:
• $260,660 increase to Arts & Humanities Council grant program.
• $90,500 increase (to $500,500) to Imagination Stage.
• $150,000 to Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.
• $200,000 to the Puppet Company.
• $48,500 increase (to $73,500) to Heritage Tourism Alliance
• $260,000 to Historic Takoma.
• $200,000 to Olney Theatre Facility (matching grant).Increases total County contributions to $450,000.
• $35,000 to Friends of Historic Great Falls Tavern.
• $1.25 million for Low Impact Development projects to improve stormwater management and water quality in streams and rivers in urbanized areas.
• $307,000 for outreach on recycling.
• $34,000 for smaller blue recycling bins for apartments and condominiums.
• $20 million in resources for the County Housing Initiative Fund.
• $2.1 million in County support for an Adventist Health Care medical office building and freestanding ambulatory surgery center in Long Branch.
• $300,000 to begin planning for public improvements in the Long Branch commercial area.
• $206, 890 to CASA of Maryland for the Wheaton Workers’ Center, Pine Ridge Community Center, and business and employment services.
• $50,000 for grants and loans to businesses adversely impacted by County revitalization activities.
• $1.5 million for information systems and technology improvements for Park & Planning as part of post-Clarksburg reforms.
• $109,900 for Emerging Communities Initiative in the Regional Services Centers.
• $75,000 to IMPACT Silver Spring.
The Council will formally approve the budget next Thursday, May 25.
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