Montgomery County Council Agrees on $5.4 Billion Budget Plan
Proposal would expand county spending by 2.7 percent over prior year
Montgomery County Council members have smoothed out their differences over the county’s $5.4 billion operating budget for the coming fiscal year, and the formal vote is all that remains undone.
The plan agreed upon Thursday would increase spending by about 2.7 percent compared to the current fiscal year, according to a county press release. It would set aside $2.52 billion for the public school system, fully funding the school board’s budget request, and would provide a property tax credit for homeowners.
“I believe the budget we have just approved harmonizes our fiscal realities with our values while building on the basic services that our residents and taxpayers see and rely on every day,” council President Roger Berliner said in prepared remarks.
The formal budget adoption is scheduled for May 25, and the plan will take effect July 1.
The plan sets the property tax rate at $1.0013 per $100 of assessed value, a 2.51-cent reduction from the current level, but enough to increase an average homeowner’s annual bill by $20 because of rising real estate values, a press release stated. The minor reduction offers a reprieve for residents, who were hit this fiscal year with an 8.7 percent property tax hike. The budget also gives property owners a $692 tax credit for their primary residences.
The plan supports about 90 new teaching positions for Montgomery County Public Schools and includes a roughly 2 percent increase in health and human services funding for contracting with nonprofits. County Executive Ike Leggett’s recommended budget showed a 1 percent decrease in money for those contracts, but he later characterized the proposed reduction as a mistake and said his intention was to bolster funding.
After the council members announced their unanimous agreement on the budget, Leggett released a statement praising them.
“This approved budget reflects our common priorities and values for the County for the upcoming years,” he said. “It is prudent and provides a blueprint that should help us to weather some of the potential challenges posed by possible federal budget cutbacks as well as by slower revenue growth and needed ongoing expenditures.”
The council added $3.2 million in funding for Montgomery College, bringing the total to about $315 million. The plan relies on a 1.6-percent tuition increase that would work out to $2 per semester hour for in-county students and more for students who live outside the county or state.
Ten Head Start classrooms at MCPS schools would become full-day programs with an additional $2.2 million included in the budget proposal, and the plan also provides $342,000 to offer preschool to 40 children, according to a county press release.