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Thursday, May 14, 2015


Montgomery Council reaches agreement on FY16 County operating budget

The Montgomery County Council today reached agreement on a $5.07 billion total County operating budget for Fiscal Year 2016. The budget reflects a 1.7 percent increase over the approved budget for FY 2015.  The Council is scheduled to formally adopt the FY16 operating budget and amendments to the Fiscal Years 2015-20 six-year Capital Improvements Program on Thursday, May 21. The budget will go into effect on July 1.

Montgomery County Council Reaches Agreement on $5.07 Billion Total Operating Budget for FY 2016; Budget Has 1.7 Percent Increase

Council President George Leventhal: ‘Budget Effectively Addresses the Top Priority Concerns of County Residents’ Education, Public Safety, ‘Safety Net’ Are Priorities, Property Taxes Are at Charter Limit, $692 Tax Credit for Homeowners, Library Funding Increased, Public Election Funding Provided, Childcare Expansion and Enhancement Supported

 

ROCKVILLE, Md., May 14, 2015—The Montgomery County Council today reached agreement on a $5.07 billion total County operating budget for Fiscal Year 2016. The budget reflects a 1.7 percent increase over the approved budget for FY 2015. “This budget effectively addresses the top priority concerns of County residents while holding the line on taxes,” said Council President George Leventhal.

The Council is scheduled to formally adopt the FY16 operating budget and amendments to the Fiscal Years 2015-20 six-year Capital Improvements Program on Thursday, May 21. The budget will go into effect on July 1.

The FY16 aggregate operating budget was tentatively approved by a vote of 8-1. Voting to approve the budget were Council President Leventhal and Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Sidney Katz, Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro, Craig Rice and Hans Riemer. Council Vice President Nancy Floreen voted not to approve the budget.

The total County budget, including debt service, grants and enterprise funds, will be $5.07 billion, an increase of 1.7 percent from the FY15 approved budget. The overall tax supported portion of the budget including debt service will be $4.41 billion, an increase of 1.5 percent from the FY15 budget.

The budget also maintains property tax revenue at the Charter limit (last year’s amount plus an inflation-tied increase). It includes a $692 property tax credit for owner-occupants of principal residences. The weighted property tax rate will decrease to 98.7 cents per $100 of assessed value (from 99.6 cents).

Since March 16, when County Executive Isiah Leggett presented his recommended budget, the Council has worked to complete the final blueprint.

“The budget proposed by the County Executive in March provided a strong foundation,” said Council President Leventhal. “The Council has strengthened it by directing targeted additional resources to top priority concerns of our one million residents, including education, public safety, health and human services, libraries, parks, transportation, and the Public Election Fund. We have done so while holding the line on taxes.”

The Council approved a total budget of $2.3 billion to fund the educational budget request of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). The total tax-supported budget for MCPS is $2.2 billion. This funding level represents an increase of $31.9 million (1.4 percent) from FY15.  The Council’s approved funding for MCPS provides a total of $1.51 billion in County funds, which includes an increase of $24.2 million to meet the State’s Maintenance of Effort requirement and a total of $44.4 million required for State retirement contributions. In addition to these County funds, the approved budget provides an additional $27.2 million of resources to fund MCPS retiree health benefit claims. Together, this meets 97.6 percent of the Board of Education’s funding request.

The Council approved a total budget of $309.9 million for Montgomery College, including a tax-supported budget of $252.2 million and a total of $127.6 million in County funds. This is an increase of $12.8 million (4.3 percent) from the FY15 approved budget. The funding exceeds the State Maintenance of Effort requirement by $10.9 million.

The tax-supported funding for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission of $122.8 million is an increase of $1.95 million (1.6 percent) over the FY15 approved budget.

The Council approved funding for the Executive’s collective bargaining agreements with the three County unions: UFCW Local 1994/Montgomery County Government Employees Organization (MCGEO), the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1664. The agreements call for general wage adjustments (COLAs) of 2.0 percent and annual service increments (steps) of 3.5 percent for eligible employees.

The Council approved $2.71 million for 95 Council community grants to nonprofit organizations to support a variety of programs and services, including food, shelter and other safety net services. The funding also supports proposals from community nonprofit organizations to provide after-school programs for County youth, programs to help disabled residents attain employment, and programs to improve quality of life for seniors. This amount is in addition to the $5.9 million in community grants recommended by the County Executive.

The complete list of Council community grants can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/o3pno83

The Council continued its commitment to enhance library services. The approved budget of $41 million for County libraries is a 7.1 percent increase from the approved FY15 level. This includes full funding for the new Silver Spring Library that will open June 20. The Council added $638,880 to restore hours at the Chevy Chase, Kensington Park, Little Falls, Potomac and Twinbrook libraries to pre-recession levels. The Council also added $150,000 to increase the purchase of materials for libraries, including $50,000 for Spanish language materials.

The Council demonstrated its commitment to the public financing of campaigns for future elections of County Executive and County Council. In 2014, the Council approved, and the County Executive signed, a bill that would create a public election fund that candidates could opt to use to fund their campaigns. The new system will start with the 2018 cycle. However, the County Executive did not provide funding for the election fund in his FY16 recommended budget. The Council added $1 million to begin building the fund.

The approved budget strongly supports the County’s public safety commitment. The budget for the Department of Police is $271 million. It funds the initiation of a body camera pilot program for patrol officers. It also funds the purchase of new bulletproof vests for officers.

The budget for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, $222.3 million, includes funding for a full 35-member recruit class.

In its continued effort to expand adult literacy and outreach services, the Council approved a budget increase of $100,000 for the Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy, resulting in total funding for the organization of $1.36 million.

The Council approved funding of $253,095 to support approved Bill 13-15, the Child Care Expansion and Quality Enhancement Initiative. The bill requires the County Executive to designate a child care and early education officer in the Department of Health and Human Services and establishes the Early Education Coordinating Council.

The County’s Capital Improvements Program (CIP) is the focus of major review every two years. For FY16, the Council approved several amendments to the plan, including increased funding for the future Wheaton Library and Community Recreation Center.

Councilmember statements on the approved budget:

Council Vice President Nancy Floreen: “While I am pleased that this budget holds the line on property taxes and limits our spending increase to 1.7 percent over last year, I remain deeply troubled by the fuel-energy tax rate. Residents and business owners will remember that we doubled this rate when we were in the throes of the recession. At that time, we promised to eliminate the increase entirely when the economy improved. To date, we have only reduced the increase by 27 percent.

“We have been working hard over the past several years to boost our economic development initiatives and bring more jobs, and ultimately more revenue, to Montgomery County. I am very sensitive to the cost of doing business here, and I am not willing to undercut our efforts to improve the local economy with such an onerous fuel-energy tax rate.

“I appreciate the work that has gone into this budget but regret that, ultimately, I cannot support it.”

Councilmember Roger Berliner: “The County Executive sent us a good budget—a budget that our Council made better while remaining fiscally prudent.  We were able to add significant additional funding for basic government services, services our residents expect of us—items such as road resurfacing, stump removal and tree trimming. But I am also particularly pleased that this budget reflects funding for a number of my other priorities that I fought hard for: planning for a first of its kind poverty reduction pilot program; workforce training scholarships for jobs in demand; services that support our senior citizens; and funding for needed positions at our Department of Environmental Protection to help us achieve our greenhouse gas emission goals.  No budget is perfect, but this one, as tight as it was, accomplishes some very important work.”

Councilmember Marc Elrich: “I want to thank the County Executive for sending us a recommended budget that reflects our collective values. I appreciate my colleagues on the Council for working together on this ‘hold-the-line’ budget. While we would have liked to do more, we understand that we have budgetary constraints.

“As chair of the Public Safety Committee, I was pleased that we could maintain a decent level of services, and I am appreciative of our Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, which does so much to rehabilitate people so that they can be integrated into the community, with jobs, after they leave.  I am glad we were able to fund the schools, but I regret that we are facing another year of class size increase. We will have to tackle this issue in the future. On child care, living wages and energy efficiency, we have made a commitment to provide for enforcement so that our intentions in these areas can be realized. And, I am glad we were able to restore some hours to the recreation centers and libraries, which were hit hard during the economic crisis.

“As the County Executive said, ‘We are facing some major challenges,’ and yet, through a strong co-operative effort by all of us, we were able to produce a good budget.”

Councilmember Tom Hucker: “This budget lays out how we will continue to push forward an agenda that guarantees every child a world-class education; ensures we are training workers with the skills they need; provides a strong safety net for the most vulnerable; and makes the investments to create more good jobs. We did this in a balanced and responsible way that restrains spending growth and saves money in our rainy day fund.

“Our budget is about choices and values. We value greater transparency and accountability—that is why this budget beefs up the Office of the Inspector General, and will introduce body cameras in our police department. We know we must prepare for a changing climate today, so this budget expands our investments in sustainability and transit. We are committed to a more effective and responsive government, which is why we restored programs important to residents including sidewalk repair and stump removal. But the decisions we have made are but the first step. We have to keep working to address sick leave and child care. We have to keep working to increase our investments in school construction, modernization and maintenance. And we have to keep working to make Montgomery County attractive for high-wage jobs, especially in communities like White Oak.”

Councilmember Sidney Katz: “This budget has been a most interesting process. Budgets always have more needs than dollars to fund them—and while there are places I might have hoped for a different outcome, I am impressed by the amount of hard work and thoughtful deliberation that has gone into the FY 2016 budget. I thank our staff and my colleagues for their consideration and assistance as we worked together to finalize this important document.

“That said, I think the Council has made a critical error in not taking the opportunity with this budget to reduce the energy tax. We like to say that Montgomery County is open for business—and we really failed at this opportunity to make good on our own message. Businesses are hit hardest by the energy tax—and if we are truly serious about our commitment to business and making our County a truly good place to set up or relocate a company, we need to stop making it so cost prohibitive for them to do so.  Reducing the energy tax is truly an investment in economic development. And we deliberately chose not to make that investment.”

Councilmember Nancy Navarro: “This budget affirms our values. We are making important investments in Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College and our social safety net.

“This is a budget that truly puts young people first. We included $250,000 for the Children’s Opportunity Fund, which is an important first step toward creating a dedicated Children’s Trust. The Council voted to fund the newly created Child Care and Early Education Policy Officer and Child Care Strategic Plan, which was established as part of the Child Care Expansion and Quality Enhancement Initiative, which I sponsored. The Council added more than a half a million dollars to the County Executive’s recommended budget to provide child care subsidies to the lowest income families in our County. This budget expands the hours of operation for recreation centers in the mid- and east-county and will ensure that the Wheaton High School Wellness Center will open at the same time as the new Wheaton High School.

“I am pleased the Council decided to make a down payment on fair elections by approving $1 million for the Public Campaign Election Fund. This landmark program will make Montgomery County a national model for public financing of elections. We also are making sure employees of County contractors are treated fairly by fully funding my recently passed legislation to strengthen the Living Wage Law’s reporting requirements.

“The approved budget funds our priorities in a fiscally responsible way. We kept the property tax rate at the County’s Charter Limit, while fully funding our future pension, health care and reserve obligations. We are restoring funding for libraries that was drastically cut during the recession and providing much-deserved compensation for our County employees, who made many sacrifices during the economic downturn. The tough decisions we have made will put Montgomery County in a favorable position to retain our Triple-A bond rating.”

Councilmember Craig Rice: “As chair of the Council’s Education Committee, my fervent hope was to be able to fully fund the MCPS budget like we were able to do just last year.  Circumstances due to reduced revenue and funding from the State caused the Council to make some very tough choices this budget year, as was discussed in the Education Budget Forums I held earlier this year in conjunction with MCPS and Montgomery College. We did the best we could in regard to our public schools and community college, and were able to provide additional funding above the County Executive’s recommendation for both institutions.

“The current pressing issue is the Governor’s reluctance to release funds in the State budget for the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) designed to help those jurisdictions where it costs more to provide educational services.  It is critical that we continue to impress upon our Governor how important this allocation is to our continuing the important work being done in our schools and to release the $17 million in GCEI for Montgomery County.   

“While limited resources meant that a number of excellent programs were unable to be funded this year, I am pleased that several of the Health and Human Services Committee priorities were able to be included in this budget and that we were able to add to our important pedestrian safety initiatives.”

Councilmember Hans Riemer: “I thank my Council colleagues for supporting many of the initiatives I have championed and that are part of the prudent and balanced final budget package we are approving. I am especially pleased that funding is included for a new Child Care and Early Education Officer and developing a Child Care Strategic Plan, improving pedestrian and bike infrastructure, an expanded tree planting campaign, broadband network management, a County sidewalk inventory and digital map that will allow the County to do more to clear sidewalks in the winter, a groundbreaking partnership with startup accelerator 1776, maintenance of playing fields in the County, additional maintenance funds for recreation and library facilities, increased support for urban districts in Silver Spring, Bethesda and Wheaton, a significant increase in the County EITC to support working poor families, five new Ride On buses, and three new County liquor stores, which will generate significant revenue in coming years."

Key Council actions regarding FY 2016 Montgomery County Operating Budget and amendments to the FY 2015-20 Capital Improvements Program:

Montgomery County Public Schools

Approved a total budget of $2.3 billion, including $1.51 billion in County funds for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). The total tax-supported budget is $2.2 billion. The funding represents an increase of $31.9 million (1.4 percent) from FY15. This meets the State Maintenance of Effort requirement.

The approved budget funds 97.6 percent of the Board of Education’s educational and programmatic budget request.

Approved budget includes a total of $44.4 million in County funds as the local contribution to State retirement for teachers, as required by a State law enacted in 2012.

$2.0 million approved for MCPS Technology Modernization, for a total of $25.5 million in FY16.

Montgomery College

FY16 total budget of $309.9 million includes a tax-supported budget of $252.2 million and a total of $127.6 million in County funds. This is an increase of $12.8 million (4.3 percent) from the FY15 approved budget.

$7.9 million added above Executive’s recommendation to approve the College’s proposed tuition level, increase the College’s ending reserve and fund compensation increases and some program enhancements.

$300,000 added for Workforce Training Scholarships.

Fire and Rescue Service

Total approved budget is $222.3 million, a decrease of 1.3 percent from the FY15 approved budget.

Funds included for one 35-member recruit class.

Police

FY16 budget is $271 million, a decrease of 1.2 percent from the FY15 approved budget. 

Funds included for the initiation of a body camera pilot program for patrol officers.

Funds included for the purchase of new bulletproof vests for officers.

$80,000 added for a Pedestrian Safety Initiative.

Health and Human Services

FY16 budget is for the Department of Health and Human Services is $289.2 million, an increase of 1.6 percent from the FY15 approved budget.

$253,095 added to support new Child Care Expansion and Quality Enhancement Initiative.

$550,880 added for supplemental child care subsidy payments for children ages 2-5 from low-income families.

$683,790 added for 2 percent inflationary adjustment for contracts with non-profit organizations.

$20,950 added for 2 percent inflationary adjustment to residential treatment providers.

$50,000 added for Montgomery Cares to expand behavioral services.

$160,056 added to increase Montgomery Cares reimbursement rate to clinics by $2.

$75,000 added for Montgomery Cares to increase specialty care.

$182,000 added for Montgomery Cares to expand dental services at Muslim Dental Clinic.

$32,700 added for planning for anti-poverty pilot program.

$49,910 added for bonding and attachment services for children and families involved with Child Welfare Services through the Lourie Center.

$960,045 (with $749,752 in offsetting revenues) added to provide resource coordination for 500 developmentally disabled adults.

$146,688 added to offset portion of minimum wage impact on providers of services for the developmentally disabled.

$10,000 added for grants for assisting emerging villages in diverse neighborhoods.

$125,000 added for Care for Kids program to sustain FY15 funding level.

$100,000 added to increase capacity at the County’s dental clinics.

$271,300 added for Positive Youth Services at Wheaton High School Wellness Center.

$30,000 added for outreach for health insurance requirements.

Arts and Humanities Council

$20,500 added for increase in administrative costs.

$128,089 added for increase to large arts organizations.

$82,326 added for increases to small and mid-sized arts organizations.

Board of Elections

The FY16 budget of $6.41 million is a decrease of 4.7 percent from the FY15 recommended budget.

$50,000 added for outreach to explain new voting equipment and encourage voter participation.

$100,000 added for staffing for new voting equipment.

Circuit Court

$3,900 added to restore Children in Need of Assistance (CINA) juvenile mediation.

$11,200 added to restore supervised visitation.

$12,250 added to restore child custody and access mediation.

Consumer Protection

FY16 budget of $2.39 million is an increase of 5.9 percent over FY15 approved budget.

Funding includes $41,000 for contractual services for public outreach for the Commission on Common Ownership Communities.

Correction and Rehabilitation

FY16 budget of $70.29 million, a 1.2 percent decrease from FY15.

$171,335 added to restore deputy warden position.

$145,773 added to restore food services management position.

Council Community Grants

FY16 budget of $2.71 million for 95 Council grants to nonprofit organizations to support a variety of programs and services, including food, eviction prevention, utility assistance and other safety net services to help low income families facing severe economic hardships.

$29,473 added for Care for your Health home-based health support for seniors.

$50,000 added for equipment and furnishings for expansion of Chinese Cultural Community Services.

$71,372 added for a nurse and medical staff to support the Community Ministries-- Rockville Kaseman Health Clinic.

$35,000 for a patient navigator at the Community Ministries—Rockville Kaseman Health Clinic.

$35,000 added for the Mercy Health Clinic prescription management program.

$50,000 added for the Mobile Medical Care diabetes program.

$25,000 added for the Muslim Community Center quality assurance program.

$48,552 added for a patient centered medical home nurse manager for the Proyecto Salud Clinic.

Economic Development

FY16 budget of $14.56 million is an increase of 7.9 percent over the FY15 approved budget.

$1.85 million approved for Economic Development Fund.

$61,000 added to fund a mobile agricultural laboratory.

$50,000 added to increase funding for Montgomery Business Development Corporation to implement its FY16-18 marketing strategy.

Energy and Environment

FY16 budget of $25.3 million for Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is a 13.2 percent increase over FY15 approved budget.

FY16 budget of $111.9 million for Division of Solid Waste Services is an increase of 2.1 percent over FY15 approved budget.

Water Quality Protection Fund increased by $2.75 million (13.4 percent).

$250,000 (an increase of $200,000 from FY15) for increased tree planting related to County’s tree canopy law.  All expenditures are assumed to be covered by fees paid by developers going through the sediment control permit process.

Voted along with Prince George’s County Council to increase water and sewer volumetric charges for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission by 1.0 percent, to recalibrate the existing Account Maintenance Fee and to create a new Infrastructure Investment Fee.  The net impact from the rate increase and fee changes on an average residential customer (160 gallons of water usage per day) is estimated to be about $4.20 per month.

Supported WSSC’s new customer assistance program which will provide ongoing relief to an estimated 17,800 low-income customers in the WSSC service area by waiving the Account Maintenance Fee and the Infrastructure Investment Fee for a total estimated savings of $7.33 per month per eligible customer.

WSSC FY16 operating budget is $715.1 million, which is $7.9 million (1.1 percent) more than the FY15 approved operating budget.

"Literacy is important to Montgomery County because it allows individuals to speak, read and understand and be heard and be understood.  Literacy promotes communication which is critical to success."
Mary Ngo
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