Rice’s Budget Remarks
Montgomery County Council reached unanimous tentative agreement on the County’s Fiscal Year 2014 operating budget on May 16. Council Vice President Craig Rice made the following statement:
“I would first like to thank our Council President for her work in this budget cycle. I’d also like to thank the County Executive for sending over a fair and reasonable budget as well. And while each of us here on the dais might have directed some of our decisions and energy in different directions, we are nine individual Councilmembers, the majority of which agree, that the overall budget reflects the values we cherish here in Montgomery County, ensuring we support the engines that bring us revenue, but also taking care of those who are in unfortunate positions where they need our help.
And while our economy is recovering, it is important to me that we maintain fiscal responsibility, protecting our coveted AAA bond rating. It is important that we prepare for the looming effects of the sequester cuts in the coming years. To that end, there is more that we all would have liked to do when it comes to a myriad of good projects, but being financially responsible and conservative, means we cannot at this time.
I would also like to thank the Montgomery County State Delegation that this year helped to shepherd hundreds millions of dollars to support our myriad of transportation needs, from the Corridor City Transitway to the Purple Line to our numerous road projects. We remain committed to working as a team to ensure Montgomery County gets all it deserves in education, transportation, public safety and Health and Human Services funding in the coming years.
So you’ve heard from our President about the great number of success stories in our budget this year. From HHS to Public Safety to Education to Transportation to our Community Grants . . . we have done some great work. And as the Council’s lead for libraries, I’m happy to say that on top of the County Executive’s restoration of approximately 10 percent in budget funding, we as a Council included additional money for funding one of the new fronts of our libraries: e-books. This additional money will allow us to increase our e-books collection which, due to predatory publisher practices, makes it financially challenging for our libraries to keep up with constituent demand.
As a member of the Education Committee, I also want to highlight our innovative Montgomery College that continues to come up with ways it can address the remediation challenges it is experiencing with its incoming students. The Council has funded the start of a brand new ACES (Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success) program, which is a collaborative initiative that seeks to create a seamless pathway from high school to college completion.
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.”