Montgomery County Council Approves $4.1 Billion Operating Budget for FY 2008
Schools and Public Safety Are Priorities; Homeowners to Get Breaks Through a $613 Tax Credit; No New Taxes
Credit Means 80 Percent of Owner-Occupied Principal Residences Will Pay Lower County Property Tax Than in FY07
ROCKVILLE, Md., May 24, 2007—The Montgomery County Council today unanimously approved a $4.1 billion operating budget for Fiscal Year 2008, which begins July 1. Due to a property tax credit included as part of the budget, about 80 percent of County homeowners will pay less in County property taxes this year than they paid last year.
Today, the Council unanimously approved 20 resolutions that will allow implementation of the FY08 operating and capital budgets. One week ago, on May 17, the Council finalized the details of those resolutions. The operating budget is up 7.1 percent from the current year.
The budget emphasizes the Council’s priority focus on education, public safety and affordable housing. Health and Human Services, public transportation, improved infrastructure and technology also received strong support.
The budget includes no new taxes. It does include a $613 property tax credit for the County’s 243,000 owner-occupied principal residences, a program which the Council originated in 1998.
The property tax credit is $392 more than last year’s $221 credit. The credit means that County property taxes on owner-occupied principal residences assessed in FY08 for up to $475,200—80 percent of the total number of such residences—will be lower in the coming fiscal year than they were in this fiscal year.
In addition, the County “circuit breaker” tax credit will provide more targeted property tax relief for households with incomes of $64,000 or less—tax relief that is projected to average $685 per residence for eligible recipients. And under a law the Council passed last year, eligible homeowners who are at least 70 years old will receive an added 25 percent circuit breaker credit.
The total operating budget is $4.1 billion, an increase of $277 million (7.1 percent) from the FY07 approved budget.
“This is the first budget for a new Council and a new County Executive. It is a challenging time for local governments and Montgomery County is no exception,” said Council President Marilyn Praisner. “Our revenues are not growing at their previous pace and the State continues to have unresolved fiscal issues. We received a very good budget from the County Executive. The Council agrees that it is time to focus on basic services such as education, public safety and human services for those at risk. The Council’s budget does just that while also improving services in public transportation, the environment and existing infrastructure. And we accomplished this while providing very significant tax relief to our homeowners.”
Funding for Montgomery County Public Schools will be $1.981 billion (an increase of 7.0 percent), representing 99.64 percent of the Board of Education’s request. This is the 13th time in the past 14 years that the Council has funded at least 99 percent of the budget requested by the Board of Education.
Funding for Montgomery College will be $238.2 million, an increase of $19.9 million (9.1 percent) that represents 99.1 percent of the College’s request. The Council added $2.5 million to open the Goldenrod Building adjacent to the Germantown campus of Montgomery College. The building is used for classes and offices and will house the Office of Economic Development’s Germantown business incubator. Funds also were added for 10 new fulltime faculty members and staff support.
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission was strongly supported by the Council, which restored $3.4 million of the funds cut from its budget request. This will enable residents to see improvements in County parks and in land use planning.
The new budget continues the Council’s commitment to public safety by providing for the hiring of 30 new police patrol officers. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue will have 70 new fulltime positions, including 24 starting in June 2008, to expand four-person staffing on fire engines. The Council also added $178,000 for a half-year EMS flex unit.
The Council addressed several transportation needs while also helping the environment.
The Council requested that most new additions to the County vehicle fleet be either hybrids or fuel-efficient. In addition, the Council requested that the Department of Public Works and Transportation use biodiesel or other environmentally sensitive fuel to the maximum extent possible. The Council will fund the purchase of 31 small diesel buses, completing the three-year program to replace this portion of the Ride On fleet, and will replace 27 regular size Ride On buses. After these purchases, 38 percent of the fleet will be fueled by compressed natural gas, hybrid diesel/electricity or ‘clean’ diesel by January 2009 (compared to 27 percent of the current fleet).
The need for improved mental health care was aided by $253,130 that will enable the Mobile Crisis Team to provide 24 hours a day coverage seven days per week.
The budget sets aside $31.9 million to address the Governmental Standards Accounting Board’s (GASB) new disclosure standard for the full cost of retiree health benefits. The Council agreed in April to phase in this cost over five years.