Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today unveiled his first full six-year capital construction budget that reflects the tough choices made in uncertain economic times.
Education is Leggett’s highest priority and his spending plan increases school construction funding to more than $1.4 billion – the largest commitment ever made in Montgomery County. To provide schools with this level of funding, Leggett is proposing to cut County government spending by nine percent.
The Executive’s $3.2 billion fiscal year (FY) 2009-2014 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) keeps overall spending to a very modest 1.1 percent increase, while expanding school construction by more than 17 percent, and moving important affordable housing, public safety, infrastructure preservation, transportation, economic development, and environmental protection projects forward. The CIP’s modest one percent increase compares with the previous two full CIP recommended increases of 24.3 percent and 26.2 percent.
“Our region is facing economic times that demand a prudent approach to budgeting for next year,” said Leggett. “We have to make hard choices and make every dollar count, while continuing to invest in our future. Despite these constraints, this CIP supports my priorities for excellence in local education at the K-12 and College levels, and I am increasing funding for school construction and modernization by 17 percent.”
Children Prepared to Live and Learn
To continue to provide a world-class school system with world-class facilities, Leggett’s recommendation for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) supports critical school capacity, modernization, capital maintenance, and health and safety projects. Leggett is recommending funding 95 percent of the Board of Education’s request at a record $1.42 billion for public schools, which represents a 17.4 percent increase from the previous CIP of $1.21 billion. This recommendation increases the local share of school funding by $212.7 million, a more than 22 percent increase, and General Obligation (GO) Bond funding for school facilities by almost $180 million, a nearly 27 percent increase. GO Bond funding is $30 million more than the $150 million increase in bonding capacity that was approved as part of the Council’s spending affordability process. Included in the recommended six-year total is $266.6 million in FY09 to fully meet the Board of Education’s request for that year.
Leggett’s budget supports expanded facilities at all three Montgomery College campuses to serve the growing student population. Included is the investment in capital maintenance to improve and preserve existing facilities. In addition, funds for information technology resources will maintain and enhance the functionality of current facilities. The budget fully funds the Rockville Science Center project that will provide expanded and up-to-date facilities for the science departments and leverage significant state funding. Under the County’s current approach to facility projects, only design funds for certain College projects have been designated, because they are not at a stage where it would be possible to estimate full construction costs with confidence. Leggett has pledged to aggressively pursue federal aid for the College and work with the County’s delegation to increase Maryland’s participation in expanding and renovating College facilities.
Safe Streets and Secure Neighborhoods
Montgomery County continues to upgrade its public safety and emergency readiness. This CIP includes funds to complete construction of new or replacement fire stations in Clarksburg, East and West Germantown, Travilah, and Takoma Park. Continuing collaboration with local volunteer fire departments will relocate the Wheaton Rescue Squad and expand the Burtonsville Station. Funding is also included to begin planning and design to replace or renovate Cabin John Station # 30, Glen Echo Station # 11, Glenmont Station # 18, and Kensington (Aspen Hill) Station # 25.
This budget includes full funding to complete the 6th District Police Station in the Upcounty, as well as funds to begin planning and design of the replacement or renovation of the 3rd District Police Station in Silver Spring/White Oak, the 1st District Police Station in Rockville, the 2nd District Police Station in Bethesda and the 5th Police District Station in Germantown.
The Judicial Center Annex project is funded to continue planning and preliminary design work to be consistent with the proposed consolidation of County facilities in the Rockville Core.
This budget fully supports ongoing assessment of the Property Use Initiative plan, which will re-locate and improve the Public Safety Training Academy and the 1st District Police Station. The plan will ultimately make it possible for the County to more efficiently and effectively use its existing facilities, as well as address other important policy objectives, including supporting transit-oriented development.
An Effective and Efficient Transportation Network
Leggett’s budget includes important transportation projects that will help relieve traffic congestion, including continued funding to complete the Silver Spring Transit Center and Montrose Parkway West, as well as increased funding to complete the Montrose Parkway East, Father Hurley Boulevard, Nebel Street, and Woodfield Road Extended. Funding is also included for traffic improvements along Randolph Road from Rock Creek to Charles Road and for planning and design of the Goshen Road South project. A connection for Thompson Road and Rainbow Drive in Spencerville will improve access for residents in the community. Funding is recommended, as well as, for new or expanded transit centers at Takoma/Langley Park and Montgomery Mall.
With the County’s bus transit system nearing capacity, new and expanded bus depots to park and maintain the bus fleet are needed. The budget includes funds for planning, design, and property acquisition for the North County Maintenance Depot. To support doubling of transit ridership by 2020, planning and design funds are included for the Equipment and Maintenance Operations Center (EMOC). The location and schedule of the EMOC project may be affected by the Property Use Initiative, which will also relocate a large portion of the County’s industrial uses from the Crabbs Branch Service Park to allow for private, transit-oriented development near the Shady Grove Metro Station.
In December, the Executive announced a Pedestrian Safety Initiative that sets out a blueprint for action to reduce collisions and improve walkability throughout the County. Pedestrian safety will be enhanced by this budget through continued funding of the Annual Sidewalk program and the Sidewalk and Infrastructure Revitalization project, construction of the Dale Drive Sidewalk, design and property acquisition for the Falls Road East Side Hiker/Biker Path, and continued construction of the US Route 29 Sidewalk projects.
The Department of Public Works and Transportation has completed a representative assessment of the County’s road network, revealing that a substantial portion of the County’s rural and residential roads are in need of immediate repairs. This budget reverses an historical trend of under-funding basic infrastructure road maintenance by doubling funding for the Resurfacing Rural and Residential Roads project and establishing a Rural and Residential Road Rehabilitation program to fund extensive replacement work. Other important infrastructure projects will receive additional funding, including replacement of the Clarksburg Road and East Gude Drive bridges.
This budget also contains full funding to modernize the County’s Traffic Signal System, which is nearly 30 years old and vulnerable to a system-wide failure unless it is replaced with a modern, state-of-the-art, traffic control system.
Leggett has pledged to aggressively pursue additional State aid to upgrade the overburdened transportation network, including securing financial commitments to construct the Corridor Cities Transitway and the Purple Line.
A Strong and Vital Economy
To maintain Montgomery County’s position as the strongest economy in Maryland, economic development projects are vitally important. The Wheaton Redevelopment Program is revitalizing this important economic center, and full funding is included in the Executive’s budget to complete streetscaping and façade improvements. To further enhance urban environments, streetscape and revitalization efforts will also continue in Fenton Street Village and South Silver Spring. This budget also recommends the establishment of the Burtonsville Revitalization project to begin planning and design for streetscape, signage, and other improvements.
To expand on the success of the County’s business incubator program, the CIP includes continued funding for a business incubator at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus and to establish a business incubator in Eastern Montgomery County. There is funding for a live music venue in downtown Silver Spring to further economic development and revitalization.
Healthy and Sustainable Communities
To improve water quality in the County’s streams, this CIP includes an increase of nearly 25 percent to the Stormwater Management program largely funded by the Water Quality Protection fee. This increase will expand efforts to repair the stormwater management facilities for government and private operations where the County has obtained easements.
The CIP recommends funding for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) for three additional local parks, including the Darnestown Square Heritage Park, Evans Parkway Neighborhood Park and the Falls Road Local Park. Funding is also included to enhance Lake Needwood by removing sediment and leveraging State aid to convert the Woodlawn Barn to a visitor’s center focusing on the Underground Railroad and the Quaker experience in Montgomery County.
Leggett is recommending funding the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s full budget request of $864 million to invest in expanding replacement of its aging water and sewer lines and support capital investment at Blue Plains.
A Responsive and Accountable County Government
To enhance County employees’ ability to quickly and effectively respond to resident requests for services and information, this budget supports the County’s Government Technology Modernization efforts. The project will provide long-needed improvements to the information technology and business processes of the County Government and create the 311/Constituent Relationship Management system
Vital Living for All of Our Residents
Enhancing the quality of life for Montgomery County residents remains a priority. Full funding is included in this CIP for the completion of renovations for the Olney Library and continuing support is included for the renovation of the Gaithersburg Library, Potomac Library, Wheaton Library, and Davis Library. Continuing support is also included for the Silver Spring and Clarksburg libraries.
Two new recreation projects will address deteriorating conditions in the Plum Gar Neighborhood Recreation Center. Leggett is also recommending creation of the Recreation Modernization project to begin to address deterioration at other neighborhood community centers. Funds are also included for the completion of the White Oak and Mid-County Community Recreation Centers and to begin the Wheaton Community Recreation Center project.
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