Councilmembers and Political Groups Concerned With Proposed $66M County Budget Cut

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich proposed $66 million in budget cuts for the upcoming fiscal year, including an $8.5 million reduction to police department funding that would eliminate more than twenty positions countywide.

Last month, county departments were asked to cut their approved budgets by 6% for the upcoming year as the county could lose nearly $600 million in tax revenue due to the pandemic. Elrich’s proposal comes as states face mounting economic uncertainty thanks to COVID-19.

“As we move forward, we must recognize there are still several unknown variables that will impact County government finances, including the lasting impact of COVID-19 on the County’s economy and our tax revenues, the need to maintain funds in reserve to address another potential wave of COVID-19 and whether there will be additional relief from the Federal government,” said County Executive Marc Elrich.

Elrich’s revisions include a $38.7 million cut to the county’s $5.8 billion operating budget for the 2021 fiscal year, and a $27.5 million cut to the $4.4 billion Capital Improvements Program (CIP) between the 2021 and 2026 fiscal years.

The proposal also suggests an $8.5 million cut to the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD), a $4.2 million reduction to mass transit, a $2.9 million cut to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), a $2.3 million cut to Fire and Rescue Services, a $2.1 million reduction to Technology Services, and a roughly $2 million cut to both Transportation and Public Libraries.

Additional cuts could occur throughout the year to various departments, given the “unpredictable impacts” of the pandemic, Elrich said.

But some councilmembers and political groups expressed concerns toward Elrich’s proposed budget changes.

“We need to let County Executive Marc Elrich and the County Council know that defunding the police while building a $54 million dollar bike tunnel; spending $12 million dollars for outreach; $64 million dollars on alcohol beverage services and hiring 189 new positions at a cost of $21.1 million dollars is unacceptable,” said the Montgomery County Republican Party in a post released to their Facebook page.

Proposed police department budget cuts would eliminate five school resource officer positions at Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) middle schools, a traffic complaint officer position in all six districts, and a patrol investigations unit officer in five districts, among several other positions.

In a statement released this week, Councilmember Nancy Navarro shared concerns toward proposed cuts to the DHHS and its potential affect on vulnerable communities.

“The proposed cuts in Health and Human Services are coming at a time when we have just been provided alarming data about health disparities within the Latino population, with consistent soaring COVID-19 positivity rates even as those of other populations are declining or remaining flat,” Navarro said. “This is deeply concerning to me.”

A public hearing and action is scheduled for July 28.

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