Council Reaches Tentative Agreement on $4.8 Billion Operating Budget
The Montgomery County Council reached unanimous tentative agreement on a $4.8 billion total County operating budget for Fiscal Year 2014 on May 16. The budget, which reflects a 4.1 percent increase over the approved budget for FY 2013, “continues to invest in our economic and social infrastructure,” said Council President Nancy Navarro.
The Council is scheduled to formally adopt the FY14 operating budget, and adjustments to the Fiscal Years 2013-18 six-year Capital Improvements Program, on Thursday, May 23. The budget will go into effect on July 1.
The FY14 aggregate operating budget was tentatively approved by a vote of 9-0. Voting to approve the aggregate budget were Council President Navarro, Vice President Craig Rice and Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Valerie Ervin, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer.
The total County budget, including debt service, grants and enterprise funds, will be $4.8 billion, an increase of 4.1 percent from the FY13 approved budget. The overall tax-supported portion of the budget will be $4.2 billion, including debt service, an increase of 4.2 percent from the FY13 budget.
The budget also maintains property tax revenue at the Charter limit. It includes a $692 property tax credit for owner-occupants of principal residences. Because property assessments still reflect the impact of the recession, the weighted property tax rate will increase by 1.8 cents.
Since March 15, when County Executive Isiah Leggett presented his recommended budget, the Council has worked to balance the County’s budget as the deep recession that affected jurisdictions nationwide slowly receded. The budget provided some limited opportunities to address areas that suffered significantly during the recession.
The Council’s budget protects core services and “safety net” programs. The Council continued its strong support of the Montgomery Cares program by adding $256,875 to increase reimbursement for Montgomery Cares services from $62 to $65; $400,000 to increase the number of mammograms and colorectal screenings performed by Montgomery Cares; and $75,000 to allow Montgomery Cares to expand its behavioral health services.
The Council added $997,000 to increase the County matches to 85 percent for the Working Families Income Supplement. It also added $200,000 to implement the County Food Recovery program and $75,000 to enhance homeless outreach in support of the 100,000 Homes Campaign and for outreach to panhandlers.
“We have been able to craft a balanced, sustainable budget that fully funds the school system’s request,” said Council President Navarro. “It begins to reverse the most painful of the cuts made at the height of the recession, prioritizes services for the most vulnerable in our County, enhances out-of-school opportunities for at-risk youth, reduces the energy tax and provides compensation increases for our dedicated County employees for the first time in four years.”
The Council approved a total budget of $2.225 billion, including $2.1 billion in tax-supported funds, for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), an increase of $57.7 million (2.65 percent increase from FY13) in the total budget. The budget provides a County contribution to MCPS that meets, but does not exceed, the State’s Maintenance of Effort Law requirement.
The Council approved a total budget of $280 million, including $228 million in tax-supported funds, for Montgomery College. This is an increase of 4.2 percent from the FY13 approved budget and funds 99 percent of the College’s tax-supported request.
In the years between FY09 and FY12, the County Government workforce was reduced by 1,254 positions (10 percent). The FY13 budget restored 92 positions and the FY14 budget restores an additional 128 positions—including 104 overall in either public safety departments or the Department of Public Libraries.
Funding for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission will increase by $6.2 million to $105.1 million, a 6.3 percent increase and more than 100 percent of the agency’s request.
Tax-supported funding for Montgomery County Government programs will be $1.3 billion, an increase of 3.9 percent, not including payments to the Retiree Health Benefits Trust.
The Council approved the Executive’s collective bargaining agreements with organizations that represent County employees. County employees have not received general wage adjustments (COLAs) for four years or service increments (step increases) for three years; were required to take furloughs of three to eight days in FY11; and have experienced increased cost-sharing for health and retirement benefits starting in FY12.
Given the County’s improved fiscal condition heading into FY14, the Council approved the Executive’s FY14 compensation plan. Under the Executive’s plan, most County government employees would receive a 3.25 percent cost-of-living adjustment or general wage increase in September. Police officers would receive a 2.1 percent increase and career firefighters would receive a 2.75 percent increase, both in July. Eligible employees would also receive service increments (step increases) of 3.5 percent on their anniversary date.
The Executive’s plan also provides for retroactive service increments for some police officers and career firefighters. Eligible police officers would receive a 1.75 percent increment in February 2014 while eligible career firefighters would receive a 3.5 percent increment in April 2014. Eligible employees would also receive longevity increases. The combined increases for all County employees would cost about $32 million in FY14.
To aid both residents and businesses, the Council took another significant step in rolling back the energy tax increase approved as an emergency measure three years ago. Last year, the Council reduced the increase by 10 percent. This year, the Council reduced the increase by another 10 percent.
The Council approved $2,250,857 for 72 Council community 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. This amount is in addition to the $4.6 million in community grants recommended by the County Executive.
The Council continued its commitment to restore recent reductions to the County Libraries budget. The approved budget of $34.8 million is an increase of $3.4 million (10.8 percent from the approved FY13 level) and supports the reopening of Gaithersburg and Olney libraries and expanded services hours at Poolesville and Long Branch libraries. The Council added $100,000 to the Executive’s recommendation to increase the purchase of e-Books.
The budget maintains the County’s commitment to prudent fiscal policies that the Council and Executive mutually agreed are critical to maintaining sound fiscal management. The budget increases County reserve levels to cushion the County against any additional unanticipated economic setbacks. It also again increases the pre-funding of retiree health benefits.
The approved budget strongly supports the County’s public safety commitment. The budget for the Department of Police is $260.5 million, an increase of $9.99 million (4.0 percent) from the FY13 approved budget. The budget implements the second year of the Police Department’s three-year staffing plan, adding 40 positions. The number of School Resource Officers assigned to Montgomery County Public Schools was doubled from the current six to 12.
The budget for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is $218 million, an increase of $13.5 million (6.6 percent) from the FY13 approved budget.
The Council re-emphasized its support of school-based after-school programs by approving the RecExtra and Sports Academies programs, addition of one middle school site for the Excel Beyond the Bell program and addition of three summer Extended Learning Opportunity programs.
The County’s Capital Improvements Program (CIP) that is the focus of major review every two years and adjustments in the other years saw approval of several adjustments for Fiscal Years 2013-18. The Council added $3.82 million for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) replacement projects in school facilities and accelerated $8 million for HVAC and roof and other building components. The Council accelerated more than $17 million for street resurfacing and sidewalk repairs and added $4 million for bridge renovations (including the Elmhirst Parkway bridge in Bethesda). The Council kept on track funding for the Capital Crescent Trail and Bethesda South Entrance. The Executive had recommended delaying funding for the projects.
Councilmember statements on the approved budget:
Council Vice President Craig Rice said: “While this budget year has not been as difficult as some of those in the past, I am pleased that we have done the right thing for our residents by prioritizing and allocating our funds where they are most needed. And although I personally believe we could have taken some of our energy and put it into other important areas, our budget is one that utilizes our existing resources to provide the most important and vital services.”
Councilmember Phil Andrews said: “I’m very pleased that the County Council has voted to reduce the County’s energy tax increase of 2010 by 10 percent as I proposed in March. It is important that the Council is keeping its word that the huge 2010 increase in the energy tax is a temporary, not permanent, increase. While I am voting for the overall aggregate County budget because of the decision of the Council on the energy tax, I will vote against the FY14 budget for County Government (which next week the Council will vote on separately from other agency budgets, and from the overall budget) because it includes excessive pay raises for most County employees of 6.75 percent to 9.75 percent. These excessive pay raises not only will cost $31 million directly in FY14 (and more in FY15 and beyond as they are annualized), they will also increase overtime and pension costs more than is defensible.”
Councilmember Roger Berliner said: “Every budget reflects a balancing of multiple, often competing, priorities and this year’s budget was no different. I believe our Council struck the right balance for our FY14 budget that includes cost of living increases for our hard working employees who have gone without increases the past several years, restores core government services and reduces the energy tax burden by 10 percent. As Chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, I am especially pleased that we were able to restore funds for pedestrian safety efforts, tree maintenance, bike infrastructure, and road maintenance.”
Councilmember Marc Elrich said: “I am happy that we were able to do a lot of positive things in this year’s budget. We restored some of the working families income supplement; we increased our funding to non-profit agencies so they can increase their worker’s pay; we were able to give our employees salary increases for the first time in four years; and we added substantial new positions in the police and fire departments, which were long-overdue. Although we were able to accomplish a lot, I am not happy with some of the decisions we made to get here. The recession is not over yet, and given a choice, I would have preferred to use the funds we had to support and restore essential social services to our residents, like mental health counseling, adding more recreation opportunities for county youth and additional funding for the working families income supplement. I think if most of our residents were given a choice between reducing their average energy tax bills by just 65 cents per month or restoring some of these services, they would choose the services.”
Councilmember Valerie Ervin said: This budget honors the Council’s legacy of making education a priority. We fully funded the Montgomery County Board of Education’s operating budget request of more than $2.2 billion, with a slight reduction in state aid, while staying within the funding level mandated by the State Maintenance of Effort law. We also added resources to the capital budget to improve the learning environment in the classroom by adding funding for facility planning and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. We provided nearly $280 million to support Montgomery College, which is the largest community college in the state and has undergraduate enrollment that surpasses the University of Maryland, College Park. We were able to hold the line on tuition increases at Montgomery College, and enhanced funding for Achieving Collegiate Excellence, which provides academic coaches, mentors and support to high school students, who are members of minority groups, living in low-income or single-parent households, first-generation college students, or those who are homeless or are in need of special education.
I am excited that I was able to secure funding for the Food Recovery Initiative, which is the first county-wide effort in the nation to help feed those who are suffering from food insecurity. The purpose of this program, which I spearheaded on the Council, is to recover food that would otherwise go to waste and provide it to our community partners who fight hunger. This initiative is a win-win because it will not only help our area non-profit organizations, but it will reduce the amount of food that ends up in our waste stream. Recent estimates show that 19 percent of the County’s waste stream is made up of food, and for the non-residential sector alone, this equals more than 48,000 tons.
This budget takes a holistic approach to supporting multi-modal transportation options. BikeShare is finally a reality in Montgomery County and the Met Branch Trail is in the final stages of completion. It is essential that we construct safe connections for our residents as they travel by bicycle to and from work and for recreation in the Washington Metropolitan Area.”
Councilmember Nancy Floreen said: “In this budget, we made economic development and job creation high priorities. We fully funded the Montgomery Business Development Corporation so that it can continue to provide us with an invaluable business perspective on expanding our economy. We also added new positions in the Department of Economic Development that will allow the department to pursue new and innovative job development programs. With these decisions, we are investing in our long-term growth. Only through job creation will our residents, and our county as a whole, be able to achieve the future we envision.”
Councilmember George Leventhal said: “As Chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, I am pleased that we are continuing to expand access to health care for Montgomery County residents. I am also excited that Montgomery County is enlisting in the national ‘100,000 Homes Campaign’ to identify medically vulnerable homeless constituents and assist them to get care and housing. While this budget demonstrates our strong concern for the most needy, it also provides the tools for a healthy and growing economy: expanding business marketing through the Department of Economic Development and Convention and Visitors’ Bureau and further reducing energy taxes. We are taking a balanced approach that will maintain our competitiveness and high quality of life.”
Councilmember Hans Riemer said: “I am pleased that the Council funded 100 percent of the MCPS budget request—the funds are clearly needed in our schools. The pay increases for County workers are affordable and funded within a budget that reflects a modest increase in spending with large amounts devoted to savings programs such as our reserve funds and our retiree benefits advance funding. A key priority for me was to increase the County Government’s EITC and I appreciate that the Council agreed to add about $1 million to the Executive’s budget for this key anti-poverty program. The Council also supported a number of my priorities including tree planting and maintenance, funding for bike lanes to support our bikesharing program, business counseling for child care providers, senior mobility programs and optimizing our traffic signals.”
Key Council Actions Regarding FY 2014 Montgomery County Operating Budget and Adjustments to the FY 2013-18 Capital Improvements Program:
Montgomery County Public Schools
• Approved a total budget of $2.225 billion, an increase of $57.5 million (2.65 percent) over the FY13 approved budget. This includes $34.5 million for the pension cost shift, grants and enterprise funds.
• The approved budget includes $2.1 billion in tax-supported funds.
• The approved budget funds 100 percent of the Board of Education’s budget request.
• Approved a total budget of 280 million, including $228.5 million in tax-supported funds. This is an increase of 4.2 percent over the FY13 approved budget.
• The approved budget funds 99 percent of the college’s budget request.
• Added $500,000 for the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program aimed at those who are under-represented in higher education to create a seamless educational pathway and support structure from high school to college completion.
Fire and Rescue Service
• Total approved budget is $218.6 million, an increase of $13.6 million over FY13.
• Funded two full recruit classes.
• Provided increased funding to address structural and budgetary gaps in staffing and overtime.
• Approved Executive’s recommended allocation of $17.6 million in Emergency Medical Transport revenues (ambulance fees), including staffing for the new Travilah Fire Station, additional four-person staffing on fire engines and apparatus replacement.
• The FY14 budget is $260 million, a 4 percent increase from FY13.
• The budget implements the second year of the Police Department’s three-year staffing plan, adding 40 positions.
• Added police officers to two identified higher crime areas, including the Robert Sector in Montgomery Village and the Lincoln Sector in the Wheaton Central Business District.
• Increased the School Resource Officer complement from six to 12.
• Added one new Crisis Intervention Team Officer to respond to complex mental health-related calls for service.
• Created a dedicated Missing Persons section to focus on missing persons cases, many of whom are seniors, children, and those with developmental disabilities.
Health and Human Services
• Added $50,000 for the County Child Care Resource and Referral Center to provide technical assistance and training for child care providers.
• Added $41,206 to convert a part-time CSA III position to full-time for the Street Outreach Network to provide additional job skills and employment support services to gang-involved youth and their families.
• Added $338,670 for additional Working Parents Assistance child care subsidies.
• Added $960,000 for 3 percent inflationary adjustment to eligible non-profit contracts.
• Added $256,875 to increase reimbursement for Montgomery Cares services from $62 to $65.
• Added $400,000 to increase number of mammograms and colorectal screenings performed by Montgomery Cares.
• Added $75,000 to allow Montgomery Cares to expand its behavioral health services.
• Added $200,000 to implement the County Food Recovery program.
• Added $25,580 for the SNAP Double Dollars farm market pilot program.
• Added $350,000 to expand the client base of the Developmental Disabilities supplement.
• Added $246,600 for 3 percent inflationary adjustment of the Developmental Disabilities supplement.
• Added $69,501 for a village coordinator for seniors.
• Added $170,640 for an additional Linkages to Learning site at Georgian Forest Elementary School.
• Added $29,895 for 3 percent inflationary adjustment for residential treatment providers.
• Added $52,160 for the stabilization and crisis mental health services program for foster children and families.
• Added $57,630 for attachment and bonding support of children involved with Child Welfare Services.
• Added $60,000 to increase mental health services for seniors.
• Added $22,303 to fund a senior transportation mobility manager as a County position.
• Added $10,000 to fund a survey of street homeless in support of the 100,000 Homes Campaign.
• Added $75,000 to enhance homeless outreach in support of the 100,000 Homes Campaign and for outreach to panhandlers.
• Added $30,000 for African American Health Program’s SMILE nurse.
• Added $10,000 for African American Health Program’s diabetes educator for African community.
• Added $35,000 for the Latino Health Initiative’s asthma management program.
• Added $10,000 for the Latino Health Initiative’s smoking cessation program.
• Added $40,000 for the Asian American Health Initiative’s Hepatitis B vaccine program.
• Added $249,201 for four additional income support staff.
• Added $30,560 to expand IMPACT efforts to the Bel Pre area.
• Added $60,000 to enhance IMPACT services in Wheaton.
• Added $70,000 for contracts for business counseling and support services for child care providers.
Arts and Humanities
• Provided $3,592,700 for the Arts and Humanities Council to assist Montgomery County arts and humanities organizations.
• Provided $200,000 for a new Arts and Humanities fund to provide matching funds for awardees designated by the Executive Ball for the Arts Committee.
• Added $1 million a year for five years to the capital budget for capital improvement grants for Arts and Humanities facilities to leverage non-County funding.
• Added $100,000 for small- and mid-sized arts and humanities organizations.
• Added $94,000 for a court evaluator.
• Added $122,500 for child custody and access mediation.
• Added $112,000 for supervised visitation.
• Added $50,000 for pilot program to increase public access to Silver Spring Civic Building.
• Added $10,000 to increase funding for White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee.
Correction and Rehabilitation
• Approved total budget of $66.59 million, a 2.2 percent increase from FY13.
Council Community Grants
• Approved $2,250,857 for 72 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.
• The funding also supports several youth development proposals from community nonprofit organizations that work to help low income first generation students get into and remain in college, and proposals that provide needed after school programs for County youth.
• Provided $565,000 to assist with capital improvements proposed by the following nonprofit community organizations: Easter Seals Greater Washington-Baltimore Region, Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, Muslim Community Center, Potomac Community Resources, St. Luke’s House and Threshold Services United, Takoma Park Presbyterian Church, and Sandy Spring Museum. County funds will leverage private and State funding for a variety of projects benefiting County residents, including an Intergenerational Center, housing for individuals with disabilities, a dental clinic, and a shared use community commercial kitchen.
• Approved $348,602 in grants to community primary care clinics associated with Montgomery Cares, the County’s primary care program for uninsured low-income adults, including:
– $100,702 for Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care to help fund a support worker, a health educator and emergency resources.
– $47,900 for the Mobile Medical Care diabetes care program.
– $20,000 for the Mercy Health Clinic health education program.
– $75,000 for the Mercy Health Clinic to help fund a clinical director position.
– $75,000 for the Primary Care Coalition for technical assistance to clinics in becoming Medicaid providers.
– $30,000 for the Mercy Health Clinic to support its pharmacy program.
• Added $158,239 to continue the County’s strong commitment to the AFI Theatre in Silver Spring.
• Added $103,788 to fund a program manager position to manage tax credit programs and assist the department in tracking and monitoring economic development incentives and entitlements.
• Added $114,260 to fund a capital projects manager to assist the department in negotiating complex public-public and public-private agreements, partnerships, and sponsorships.
• Voted along with Prince George’s County Council to increase water and sewer charges for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission by 7.25 percent. Increase would help provide sufficient resources for WSSC to continue a number of important infrastructure recapitalization efforts, including an aggressive large diameter water main inspection, repair and acoustic fiber optic monitoring program and an increase in annual water main replacement from 46 to 51 miles for FY 2014.
• Provided full funding for WSSC’s FY 2014 operating budget.
• Provided full funding for WSSC’s FY 2014-19 Capital Improvements Program.
• Approved solid waste charges with no increases for residential customers.
• Approved decrease in the annual Water Quality Protection Charge (from $92.60 to $88.40 per equivalent residential unit) consistent with recent Council actions on Bill 34-12 and Executive Regulation 17-12AM. The actions broaden the charge to cover all non-residential properties and to add more residential tiers to the charge to make the charge more progressive based on a property’s amount of impervious area. As a result, most residential property owners will pay less in FY14 than in FY13.
• Added $40,000 for a Homeowner Energy Score pilot program.
• Added $170,000 to increase custodial service hours at County facilities.
Housing and Community Affairs
• Added $79,486 to fill a vacant code inspector position.
• Added $100,000 for the Montgomery Housing Partnership Neighborhood Revitalization program in Glenmont and other neighborhoods.
• Added $8,000 for additional funds for operating expenses.
• Added $100,000 to fund a review of Silver Spring Transit Center issues.
• Approved $34.8 million for Montgomery County Public Libraries, an increase of $3.4 million (10.8 percent over the approved FY13 budget).
• Added $100,000 to increase the purchase of e-books.
Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
• Approved total budget of $105.1 million, an increase of $6.2 million (6.3 percent) over the FY13 approved budget—more than 100 percent of the agency’s request.
• Increased funding allows cost of living adjustments and merit pay increments.
• Added $43,000 to expand deer management sharpshooting site.
Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy
• Added $26,000 to restore funding to FY10 levels.
• Added $85,000 for additional adult literacy services, including $30,000 to reduce the waiting list for adult literacy services and $55,000 shifted from the Community Engagement Cluster budget.
Montgomery County Historical Society
• Added $95,000 to provide environmentally controlled space for the Montgomery County Archives.
• Added $45,000 for staffing and operating expenses to the support the Montgomery County Archives.
Municipal Tax Duplication
• Maintained level funding for all municipalities.
State’s Attorney’s Office
• Added $85,000 to fund an assistant state’s attorney position as a gang prosecutor.
• Added $26,000 for the Truancy Court program.
• Added $76,000 to increase the translation efforts.
• Approved $28.2 million for the Montgomery County Recreation Department, an increase of $2.2 million (8.4 percent from the FY13 level).
• Added $152,901 to increase staffing and provide services for additional participants in the Student Teen Employment Program.
• Added $107,751 for manager for youth and senior initiatives.
• Revised the Bethesda Parking Lot District rate structure as follows: to $2.00 per hour for on-street meters, $1.25 per hour in any parking lot space and, $0.80 per hour in any space in a parking garage.
• Reduced the daily maximum and lost ticket charge in Bethesda’s Garage 49 from $13.80 per day to $ 12.00 per day.
• Raised the parking rate in Montgomery Hills from $0.25 per hour to $0.50 per hour with a PCS Permit rate increase from $45.00 per month to $90.00 per month.
• Initiated a $2.00 one-time charge for a Youth SmarTrip card, allowing those who qualify to use SmarTrip for the purchase of their Youth Cruiser monthly pass.
• Changed the Residential Parking Permit fee from $40 biennially to $20 annually.
• Added $250,000 for bikeway/bike lane marking and bike trail maintenance.
• Added $133,850 for replacement of loop detectors.
• Added $200,000 for traffic signal optimization.
• Added $650,000 for stump removal and tree planting.
• Added $300,000 for tree pruning and removal.
• Approved $100,000 for the Public of Information Office budget to develop a public safety campaign focused on pedestrian safety in parking lots and at high schools.
• Added $128,370 for Clarksburg “Meet the MARC” bus route.
• Added $20,000 for marketing/light pole banners.
• Added $25,000 for printed and promotional materials.
• Added $50,000 for gateway signs.
• Added $126,452 to increase Clean Team to seven days a week.
Working Families Income Supplement
• Increased the County’s match of the State earned income tax credit to 85 percent by adding $199,600 for a 1 percent increase in the County match and $796,200 for a 2 percent increase in the County match.
FY 2013-18 Capital Improvements Program Adjustments
• Did not cut $20 million as recommended by the Executive for Montgomery County Public School projects.
• Added $3.82 million for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) replacement projects in school facilities.
• Added funding for planning new school projects.
• Accelerated $8 million for HVAC and roof and other building components.
• Kept on time funding plans for the Capital Crescent Trail and Bethesda South Entrance projects. The Executive had recommended delaying the projects.
• Accelerated more than $17 million for street resurfacing and sidewalk repairs.
• Added $4 million for bridge renovation including the Elmhirst Parkway bridge in Bethesda.
• Increased funding renovation of hard surface trails in parks.