Hard Choices Made Include Significant Reductions in Employee Staffing and Compensation, plus Cuts in Programs and Services; No Property Tax Increase Beyond Charter Limit
County Executive Ike Leggett has announced his recommended $4.35 billion operating budget that closes a $300 million gap for fiscal year (FY) 2012 that begins July.
Leggett’s budget focuses on protecting essential services and his priorities of education, public safety and the safety net for the most vulnerable, but includes significant reductions in services, staffing levels and employee compensation to address the County’s long-term structural budget challenge. The only major County department seeing any increase is the Police Department.
The budget includes no reductions in County transit routes and no reductions to senior transportation and nutrition programs. Library operating hours and materials costs were maintained. All County recreation centers remain open, and ambulance service levels were maintained. There are no reductions in Police Department specialty units, and County after-school Sports Academies and Recreation Extra programs continue at their current levels.
In addition to the Montgomery County government budget, the overall recommendations include:
- Maintaining local funding for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) at the same level as the current year -- $1.415 billion. This represents a reduction of $82 million, equaling 96 percent of the Board of Education’s request. Overall, with increased state and federal funding, the MCPS budget increases by $67.7 million, a 3.5 percent rise;
- Increasing the total County budget (all agencies, all tax-supported and non-tax-supported funds and debt service) of $76.5 million from the FY11 approved budget, a 1.8 percent increase;
- Increasing the overall tax-supported budget for all County agencies (including debt service) of $111.9 million, a 3.1 percent increase;
- Funding increases for Montgomery College of $1.5 million, a 0.7 percent increase; and
- Funding reductions for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) of $1.7 million, a 1.8 percent decrease.
Among County government departments and initiatives, the largest reductions from FY11 levels include Community Grants (26% less), the Arts and Humanities Council (24 %), Housing and Community Affairs (15%), General Services (11%), County Attorney’s Office (11%) and Public Libraries (10%).
Some services proposed to be eliminated or significantly impacted:
- Public Libraries -- staffing would be reduced in a number of libraries including Silver Spring, Twinbrook, Chevy Chase and Long Branch. Information Service staff would be eliminated on Sundays, although Virtual Services would remain available;
- Recreation -- most youth sports programs would be eliminated, as well as teen special events;
- The Office of Commission for Women, Office of Human Rights and the Regional Services Centers will be consolidated into the newly-created Office of Community Engagement;
- Health and Human Services -- the Conservation Corps program will be eliminated, as well as the Energy Tax Rebate program. An annual co-pay of $25 will be instituted for all Montgomery Cares Program participants; and
- Police -- School Resource Officer program will be eliminated, as would Police neighborhood satellite stations in Piney Branch, Olney and East County.
The Police budget will increase by one-half percent, primarily to respond to growing public safety issues in the Silver Spring Central Business District and the Route 29 corridor. Fire and Rescue funding will decrease by 1.7 percent
The Council’s public hearings on the budget are scheduled for April 5-7. Residents may sign up to speak by calling 240-777-7803. They can also send email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or regular mail to 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850. Comments may be left on the Council’s budget hotline at 240-777-7802.
See budget highlights and the full budget at montgomerycountymd.gov/omb. Additional information on the proposed budget is at montgomerycountymd.gov/budget.