Council Adopts Fiscal 2016 Budget
“This budget effectively addresses the top priority concerns of County residents while holding the line on taxes,” said Council President George Leventhal.
The Council also approved amendments to the Fiscal Years 2015-20 six-year Capital Improvements Program. The budget will go into effect on July 1.
The FY16 aggregate operating budget was 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 $5.08 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 $4.42 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 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 $123.3 million is an increase of $2.5 million (2 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.