Leggett Unveils a $4.8 Billion Montgomery County Budget Proposal
The plan holds the line on property taxes and schools aid and boosts aid for public safety.
A $4.8 billion county operating budget plan unveiled by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett on Friday holds the line on property taxes and schools spending and adds more than 100 new jobs in public safety and libraries.
Leggett (D) presented his budget plan for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, at a news conference in Rockville.
The plan would keep property taxes within the limit allowed by the county charter and below the rate of inflation. Average monthly property taxes would increase by $6.67. Tax-supported government spending would increase by 3.9 percent—less than half the increase in fiscal 2013—to $1.3 billion.
Leggett also proposed a slight increase in aid for Montgomery County Public Schools to meet Maryland's maintenance of effort law, which requires that counties fund schools at the same level or greater from year-to-year or face a fine.
Leggett's plan calls for a schools budget of $2.23 billion—an increase of $65.8 million, or 3 percent more than the budget approved for the current school year.
The plan also would add about 128 county jobs. One-hundred-eleven, or 81 percent, of those jobs would be in public safety or county libraries.
A series of cuts, including slashing 1,254 county jobs between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2012, has saved the county $210 million between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2013, Leggett said. The fiscal 2014 plan calls for reduced contributions to retirement and health plans and the elimination of the Student/Teen Employment Program, among others. The program provided training, a minimum wage stipend and landscaping or support jobs within the county recreation department for high school students.
Leggett pushed the plan while admitting that the county isn’t yet where it needs to be.
“This is a day we are making a transition, but it is not the day we hoped for our budget, overall,” he said.
County Council President Nancy Navarro said the budget plan “provides a good starting point” for council debate. The council is scheduled to adopt a budget in May.
“Over the past several years we have made many difficult decisions to address the severe fiscal challenges of the Great Recession,” Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring said in a statement. “Now, as the economy continues to recover slowly, we must carefully balance a wide array of county needs.”
Despite the potential for Montgomery County to suffer what Leggett called “devastating effects” should sequestration strike, he remained upbeat.
“The job market is expanding, our foundation is strong again, and our public school system is excelling as we pass the 1 million mark in our general population,” he said. “We have wrestled with deficits and downturns in our county, but because we have made difficult choices, we are now emerging ever stronger from the recession.”
Visuals from the County Executive’s presentation can be viewed above.