“I applaud the Council’s work on the FY11 Operating Budget.
“My Recommended Operating Budget for the coming fiscal year included many difficult choices and continues the work that I began three years ago of putting the County’s fiscal house in order. I’m pleased that the Council approved 99 percent of what was originally recommended.
“While my budget closed 83 percent of the $1 billion gap with spending reductions, restructuring and other measures, unfortunately, some additional revenues were needed to avoid reducing critical County services even more.
“Although I believed strongly that the County should not increase property taxes beyond the Charter limit, the Council did approve, with adjustments, my recommended increases in the energy and cell phone taxes. These increases are unfortunate, but necessary.
“My budget recommendation closed a nearly $1 billion gap for this year – making a total of more than $2.2 billion in budget gaps closed over the past four years.
“We are restoring the County’s reserve funds to six percent – and I will forward later this week my proposal to strengthen our reserve policy to provide more flexibility for the County by saving more in good years to better weather the bad years.
“The Council approved the Emergency Medical Transport fee, which will bring in $13 million this year – and nearly $170 million over ten years -- in revenue from funds already set aside by private insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid.
“Other jurisdictions are already using these funds to improve services and save lives – with no adverse effects. Passage of this fee will allow Montgomery to do the same. County residents with health insurance will pay nothing – no co-pays, no deductibles, nothing. County residents without insurance will also pay nothing.
“My recommended budget reduced County government tax-supported spending by 7.7 percent over last year’s budget. And, total County spending for all agencies – including the school system -- decreased over the previous year’s budget for the first time since adoption of our current Charter in 1968.
“I negotiated and sent to the Council collective bargaining agreements with no cost-of-living increases and no step increases. I have also assumed that County employees will be furloughed in FY 11.
“These were not easy choices. I thank the Council for supporting adoption of a budget that fully supports our priorities in education, public safety, and assistance for the most vulnerable.
“I also want to thank the Board of Education, Montgomery College and the Planning Board for working closely with us to develop solutions to the worst fiscal crisis this County has seen since the Great Depression. The cooperation and hard work of these agencies to minimize the impact on their constituents is appreciated.
“Given the continued distress in the economy, our challenges as a County are far from over.
“Beyond this budget, I look forward to working with the Council on further steps to restructure County government to make it more efficient and cost-effective, create more jobs to bolster our County tax base, and provide critical services to County residents.”