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Council to Continue Work on FY 2015 Budget

Committees of the Montgomery County Council on Wednesday, April 30, will begin to review Fiscal Year 2015 operating budget recommended adjustments that were sent to the Council on April 28 by County Executive Isiah Leggett. Among the adjustments that will be addressed on Wednesday are those concerning School Resource Officers (by the Public Safety Committee), core facility maintenance issues (by the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee) and an economic development issue (by the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee).

The Public Safety Committee, which is chaired by Phil Andrews and includes Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich, will meet at 9 a.m. in the Seventh Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The meeting will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon). The broadcast also will be streamed through the County Web site at: .

The committee worksessions are being held as part of the Council’s review of County Executive Leggett’s recommended FY15 operating budget. After Council committees review various aspects of the recommended budget, committee recommendations will go to the full Council for consideration. The Council is scheduled to reach a tentative agreement on the budget on May 15 and is scheduled to formally adopt the budget on May 22. The budget will go into effect on July 1.

The SRO program (originally called the Educational Facilities Officers program) was established in the 2003-04 school year with 32 new police officers positioned in selected middle and high schools. In FY10, there were 27 officers in the program (one at each of the 25 County public high schools and one each at Argyle and Martin Luther King middle schools). In FY11 and FY12, the program was cut back significantly due to County budget constraints. In FY11, the County Executive’s recommended operating budget eliminated 16 SROs and proposed that MCPS pay for the remaining 17. This proposal was eliminated during budget deliberations between the Council, MCPS and the Executive, in effect eliminating the entire program. The Council ultimately funded nine positions to maintain the program.

Still facing critical revenue reductions, the Executive’s recommended mid-year FY11 Savings Plan abolished the SRO program. The Public Safety Committee recommended retaining the positions, and the Council approved the continuation of the program. The Executive’s recommended FY12 operating budget also would have abolished the program. The Council ultimately funded six SROs for FY12.

Since then, the SRO program has been expanded each year. Beginning in FY13, the Police Department began assigning additional patrol officers to function as SROs. The assignment of additional patrol officers to the program expanded the total complement to 13 police officers who were performing SRO duties during the 2012-13 school year: six County SROs, one City of Rockville SRO, one City of Gaithersburg SRO and the five County patrol officers.

The Executive’s recommended FY14 operating budget included an additional six SRO positions. The Council approved six new positions for FY14, and required that participating agencies develop and execute a signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) that outlines a clear delineation of duties between school security and SROs, as well as training and communication requirements.

The Executive’s original recommended FY15 budget funds two additional SRO positions The Public Safety Committee on April 10 recommended that the Council consider adding eight additional SROs—a proposal the Executive agreed with in his budget adjustments.

The Public Safety Committee also will review the budget requests of the Park Police and the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) transition. The ECC is moving toward a Universal Call Taker model. Currently, civilian police staff at the ECC take 911 calls. If the call taker decides the emergency should be handled by the County’s Fire and Rescue Service, the call is then transferred to a Fire and Rescue dispatcher. The new system would eliminate that step.

The Public Safety Committee also will discuss Bill 18-14, which would prohibit the use of automated purchasing machines. The machines are self-service kiosks that dispense payments—typically in cash—when a user trades in a cell phone or other electronic device. There currently are no machines in the County. It is believed that the machines foster crimes, making it convenient for thieves to get payments for stolen goods without human interaction to receive payments for the goods.

At 1:30 p.m. in the Seventh Floor Hearing Room, the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, which is chaired by Nancy Floreen and includes Councilmembers Cherri Branson and Hans Riemer, will discuss a recommended budget adjustment concerning technology modernization for County Government. It also will review the budget requests of the Procurement Division of the Department of General Services and the Office of Management and Budget.

At 1:30 p.m. in the Third Floor Conference Room, the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, which is chaired by Nancy Floreen and includes Councilmembers Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, will look at the proposed work program for the County’s Planning Department. In FY15, the Planning Department is tentatively scheduled to re-examine the master plan for Montgomery Village, including proposed development of the 147-acre former golf course. The committee also will review the budget requests of the Department of Recreation and the Department of Permitting Services.

The committee also will discuss the recommended budget adjustment that would provide $100,000 for the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club for audio-visual equipment. The club had requested financial assistance to obtain additional equipment comparable to the equipment the County leased to the Bethesda Cultural Alliance prior to the Alliance going out of business. The Jazz Supper Club believed that the equipment was going to be in place when it purchased the facility, but it was not present.

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