The Montgomery County Council at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 14, will consider adopting a plan that will provide Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) with its full funding request for the Fiscal Year 2015 operating budget and also for the MCPS Technology Modernization project. On May 12, the Council’s Education Committee unanimously recommended that the Council adopt the plan.
The actions the Council takes on Wednesday will work toward concluding its review of County Executive Isiah Leggett’s recommended Fiscal Year 2015 operating budget. The Council is scheduled to reach a tentative agreement on the overall operating budget at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 15, and is scheduled to formally adopt the budget on Thursday, May 22. The budget will go into effect on July 1.
The Council’s Wednesday session will be held in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. It will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon). The broadcast also will be streamed at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/ondemand/index.html
Wednesday’s meeting will begin with an overview of FY15 revenues and expenditures from Council Administrator Steve Farber.
The session will also include a worksession on the fuel/energy tax rate. The Council will discuss a proposed resolution that in FY15 would reduce by 10 percent the 2010 increase to the fuel/energy tax rates. The original legislation carried a two-year sunset provision, but the County Executive included the increase in his recommended budgets each of the past three years. In each of the previous two years, the Council reduced the increase by 10 percent.
Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Phil Andrews are the sponsors of the resolution to reduce the increase in the energy tax. The tax applies to electricity, gas, steam, coal, fuel, oil or liquefied petroleum gas. A 10 percent reduction in the increase in the fuel/energy tax would amount to a decline of approximately $11.5 million in revenue.
If the 10 percent overall decrease in the fuel/energy tax is approved, it would reduce rates by about 7 percent for suppliers of residential energy and 4 percent for suppliers of non-residential energy.
On Monday, the Education Committee, which is chaired by Council President Craig Rice and includes Councilmembers Andrews and Cherri Branson, voted 3-0 to recommend that the Council approve the plan to provide MCPS with its full FY15 funding request.
The recommended plan provides resources for the full amount of the Board of Education’s requested FY15 operating budget. It also provides the appropriate local resources to reflect the State's Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirement, the State's pension shift requirement and the full amount of the MCPS general fund balance. The plan additionally funds the Board of Education’s requested increase for its Technology Modernization project in FY15 and FY16 through a combination of local funds and Federal E-rate funds.
The plan primarily achieves its objectives through a combination of drawing down the large fund balance in the MCPS Retiree Group Insurance Fund and the Other Post Employment Fund (OPEB) trust and by reallocating funds within the MCPS budget request from Category 12 (Fixed Charges) to educational priorities.
The plan funds the Board of Education’s operating budget request by providing $11.2 million from the existing MCPS general fund balance; $13.3 million from the excess MCPS Retired Employees Group Insurance fund balance; and $27.2 million applied from funds from the MCPS OPEB Trust to retired employees pay-as-you-go group insurance costs.
The Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, which is chaired by Nancy Navarro and includes Councilmembers Branson and Hans Riemer, unanimously recommended that the Council set the weighted average property tax rate at $0.996 per $100 of assessed property value. This would place real property tax revenue at the County’s Charter Limit. Owners of residential properties—if the properties are their main residences—will receive a property tax credit of $692. For FY15, approximately 250,000 households will be eligible for the credit.
The Council is scheduled to take action Wednesday on a resolution to implement several changes to the County’s Ride On bus service starting July 1. The changes would:
• Equalize the regular cash and SmarTrip fares at $1.75, and for seniors at 85 cents per trip.
• Increase the Route 70 (Germantown-to-Bethesda) Express fare to $4.00.
• Increase transfer charges commensurately.
• Extend the eligible hours for Kids Ride Free to 8 p.m. (from 7 p.m.) weeknights.
For FY15, no changes are recommended to parking fees, fines or charging hours. There are no recommended changes to the residential permit parking fee or transportation management district fees.
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