Montgomery County approves $5.8 billion operating budget

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Capital and operating budgets go into effect July 1st

ROCKVILLE, Md. (WDVM) — After several weeks, Montgomery County unanimously approved their $5.8 billion operating budget.

The council had to make cutbacks on the budget for fiscal year 2021 while also approving $4.4 billion for the Capital Improvements budget from 2021 to 2026. Capital Improvements funds will go toward Montgomery County Public School construction, infrastructure improvements and community projects. The operating budget will provide services for county government and residents. The county also has a COVID-19 budget to help residents and businesses who were impacted.

Montgomery County Council President, Sidney Katz said, “In Montgomery County, we’re proud of the services and amenities we provide each year. We try to improve and expand on what we can do, but not this year; not this budget.”

The capital and operating budgets will go into effect on July 1.

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Here is a breakdown below:

Montgomery County Public Schools

 More than half of the County’s budget, $2.76 billion, funds Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Since the Council’s focus was on continuity of services, this amount funds MCPS at the Maintenance of Effort level which is mandated by the State of Maryland. This represents an increase of $74.9 million or a 2.8 percent increase from the FY20 approved budget and includes a local contribution of more than $1.75 billion.

The County continues to rank near the top of all Maryland jurisdictions for total per pupil funding. With ever increasing student enrollment, the Montgomery County Board of Education estimates that 167,041 students will attend MCPS in FY21 which is an increase of 1,774 students from FY20. MCPS Board of Education President Shebra Evans and Superintendent Jack Smith acknowledged the tremendous fiscal uncertainty resulting from the Covid-19 global health pandemic and committed to using the funding to maintain the operational and instructional infrastructure of the school system and to continue the focus on excellence and equity throughout these unprecedented times.

Montgomery College

 The Council approved $318.3 million in funding for Montgomery College which is an increase of $3.6 million or one percent from last year’s budget. This includes a local contribution of more than $145.8 million. County funding for the College is at the required Maintenance of Effort level. The College budget includes no increase in tuition rates or fees paid by students for FY21. The College’s budget maximizes existing resources to protect affordable tuition and offer additional scholarships. Prior to the health crisis, the College projected a fall 2020 enrollment for credit bearing courses of 21,007 students which is a decrease of 253 students or one percent. Enrollment in non-credit bearing courses was projected at 47,448 students which is an increase of 820 of 1.8 percent. The potential impact of financial difficulties for students, continued closure of College facilities and access to remote learning all could have a significant impact on enrollment.

Public Safety

 The Council funded a budget of $281.95 million for the Montgomery County Police Department. This is a 4.5 percent decrease from last year’s budget. The budget reflects the separation of the Animal Services Division from the Police Department. The shift in costs from the budget to the new Office of Animal Services is approximately $7.9 million. The Police budget includes $495,072 for mobile video systems upgrades in the last 100 patrol vehicles that do not yet have mobile video installed. Also a social worker position was added to the Emergency Communications Center to provide stress management resources. In addition, the department will receive seven new crossing guards for new schools.

In the Sheriff’s Office, the total budget is $25.6 million which is an increase of $223,930 from last year’s budget. The funding allows for the replacement of mobile video units and ballistic vests and adds additional body-worn cameras. Further funding may be needed for emergency activities related to the Covid-19 response.

The budget for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is $71.1 million. This is an increase of $506,667. The budget includes funding for cell vent, bunk and door enhancements that were identified in the National Institute of Corrections’ findings on how to reduce the risk of inmate self-harm or suicide.

Fire and Rescue Service’s operating budget is $225.4 million. This is an increase of $2.1 million or one percent from last year’s budget. The budget includes a Communications Contingency Plan that reflects the cost of adding cell phones to fire apparatus to provide an additional mode of communication in the event of public safety radio system disruptions. The new Radio System Infrastructure Project is on schedule to be completed by late December 2020.

The Council also approved $700,000 in the Emergency Management and Homeland Security budget for security grants for faith-based and ethnic organizations.

Economic Development

 The Council funded more than $5 million in FY21 to support the work of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC). This organization implements the County’s economic development strategic plan that includes marketing, business attraction and retention, entrepreneurship and promoting the County’s economic base.

The Council also agreed to allocate $1.3 million in funding for WorkSource Montgomery which implements the County’s workforce development policies to promote job growth and attract talent.

The Council allocated approximately $3 million for the County’s incubator programs. This includes funding for the Wheaton Small Business Technical Assistance Program.

In addition, the budget includes $1.6 million to fund Visit Montgomery which promotes and markets the County as a destination and provides information to County visitors.

Transportation

 The Council funded the Department of Transportation’s budget at more than $235.6 million. This includes funding for items like road maintenance, leaf collection, Ride On and the parking lot districts.  The continuity of services budget includes funding for the Kids Ride Free program and a new limited stop FLASH service that is scheduled to launch this summer between the Burtonsville Park-and-Ride Lot and the Silver Spring Transit Center. The line will include 18 new station platforms with a fleet of sixteen, 60-foot articulated buses.

Children, Youth and Families

 Continuing the Council’s commitment to helping children, families and individuals thrive, the budget includes level funding of $5.99 million to support the Montgomery County Early Care and Education Initiative, which was spearheaded by Councilmember Nancy Navarro and is supported by the County Executive and Council, to expand quality early care and education opportunities for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.  Councilmembers noted how important the availability of child care is to the County’s economic recovery and expressed their intent to review the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the child care industry and provide additional funding that ensures that families can access quality early care and education services when they go back to work.

Health and Human Services

 The Council funded $339 million for the Department of Health and Human Services. In the middle of the Covid-19 global pandemic, a continuity of services budget for the Department of Health and Human Services ensures that the service needs of the community continues to be met. The Council added $887,761 in funding to hire 10 additional school health nurses in FY21. The Council also funded a school health technician for the new Emory Grove Early Childhood Center. When schools are not in session, school health nurses and health technicians work on other programs and in other departments to address public health needs including those from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Also included in the budget is a $100,000 County match for the Summer Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This funding is the required match for a state grant. The Summer SNAP for Children program provides an additional $30 per child for each summer month and an additional $10 per children during the winter break.

In June, the Council intends to revisit funding for payments to eligible providers of services to the developmentally disabled and providers of adult medical day care.

Community Grants and Working Families Income Supplement

 The Council funded the Community Grants NDA and Capital Grants as part of the capital budget within the Cost Sharing: MCG Project and deferred the review of new community grants organizations and programs to reassess service needs in light of Covid-19. The Council approved the recommendation to move 67 community grants funded as part of the FY20 budget (totaling $3.8 million) into the base budgets of departments.  The Council also increased the County Executive’s recommendation of $9,795,238 for community grants to organizations that improve the quality of life for County residents by $614,736 to total $10,409,974. The Council approved $1,583,362 to fund nonprofit organizations for capital projects and deferred the review of the arts and humanities capital grants to the Education and Culture Committee.

The full list of FY21 grants to nonprofit organizations that provide health and human services can be viewed on pages 23-42 of the Council staff report here. A summary of the community grants contracts that were shifted to County department base budgets can be found here.

The County’s budget provides $20.1 million for the Working Families Income Supplement NDA that supplements Maryland’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and is intended to benefit low-income working families in the County. The federal government authorizes the federal EITC for working people with low- to moderate-incomes. The County supplements the state’s refund by 100 percent for County residents, in effect doubling the amount received.

Affordable Housing

 The Council allocated more than $61.8 million in capital and operating funds to support the production and preservation of affordable housing through the Housing Initiative Fund and reserved $6.8 million to determine how the County can leverage additional funding sources and investments to accelerate the production and preservation of affordable housing.  The Housing Initiative Fund includes the Building Neighborhoods to Call Home program which is a rental subsidy and assistance programs for low-income households that moves households from homelessness to permanent housing and provides assistance with home ownership.  The Council approved a cap of $19.07 million for Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreements for affordable housing.  In addition, Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreements for the Housing Opportunities Commission are valued at $9.8 million.

Recreation

 The Council funded total expenditures of $46.3 million for the Recreation Department. This is an increase of more than $1.4 million from last year’s approved budget. The budget restored funding for transportation to senior centers on Fridays and added service for the North Potomac senior program. The budget also includes relocation expenses for the move to Wheaton and more than $280,000 for Wheaton senior programming.

Environment

 The Council funded $131.4 million for the Recycling and Resource Management portion of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) budget. This is a $15.7 million or 13.6 percent increase from last year’s approved budget. This includes funding for DEP’s implementation of the Commercial Food Waste Program, at-home food composting bins and a pilot Single-Family Food Waste Program. Solid Waste Service charges were approved at levels slightly below those recommended by the County Executive. The Council also agreed to fund $3.4 million for DEP’s general fund.  This includes funding for increased tree planting paid for with Tree Canopy Fund revenue.

The continuity of services budget approved by the Council totals expenditures of $29.4 million for the Water Quality Protection Fund (WQPF). The WQPF covers County costs associated with water quality and the inspection, maintenance and rehabilitation of stormwater management facilities. The Council approved an FY21 Water Quality Protection Charge Equivalent Residential Unit rate of $107.60 which is $0.50 below the County Executive’s recommendation.

The Council also added $400,000 in funding for the Climate Change Planning Non-Departmental Account (NDA). This NDA was started in FY20 and provides funding for the prioritization of greenhouse gas reduction strategies and the development of an implementation plan to meet the County’s goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2027 and a 100 percent reduction by 2035.

Park and Planning

 The Council funded $164.5 million for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC). This is more than a 3.9 percent increase from last year’s approved budget. Included in this amount is more than $105 million to enhance and maintain the County’s park system that includes 422 parks and almost 37,000 acres of land. The Council also approved funding of $300,000 for athletic field renovations at school sites.

Libraries

 The Council funded $42.1 million for the Department of Public Libraries. The Council indicated its willingness to revisit the expansion of public service hours in early FY21 at the Long Branch, Twinbrook and White Oak Libraries as well as adding an early literacy outreach librarian for the Early Care and Education NDA. Montgomery County Public Libraries has a special emphasis on developing and supporting workforce and business development in the County. The County Executive realigned $305,283 for the Workforce and Business Development Program, and the Council fully supported the measure to continue this initiative.

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

 The Montgomery and Prince George’s County Councils held their bi-county meeting and reached a budget agreement for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC). The Council approved an FY21 operating budget of $849.7 million. The new budget includes the reduction of the proposed seven percent rate increase to six percent for WSSC water and sewer customers. All new bi-county spending plans are effective starting July 1, 2020.

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