County Executive Proposes Budget; Goes to County Council for Review
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today announced his recommended $4.3 billion operating budget that closes a $779 million gap for fiscal year (FY) 2011 that begins July 1. Leggett’s budget focuses on protecting essential services and his priorities of education, public safety and the safety net for the most vulnerable, but includes significant reductions in services and staffing levels.
Leggett’s hard choices resulted from the continued severity of the economic recession; doubling in the local rate of unemployment; declining residential and commercial development; ongoing, sharp declines in tax revenues and state aid; and emergencies such as the H1N1 flu outbreak and snow removal from this winter’s historic blizzards.
Leggett’s previous cost reduction efforts preserved direct services as much as possible, but even these services will now be affected with this year’s looming deficit. This budget proposes cutting costs by eliminating 452 government positions, providing no pay increases of any kind for County government workers, furloughing non-public safety County employees for 10-days, realizing cost savings from all County departments, and reducing current revenue funded expenditures in the capital budget. All told, between position abolishments, leaving positions vacant, and reductions in overtime, Leggett’s budget would reduce the County government budget by 750 work-years. Under the recommended budget, the property tax rate remains unchanged, but recommends an Energy Tax and an Ambulance Fee.
Among County government departments, the largest reductions from FY10 levels are in the Regional Service Centers and the Office of Human Resources (both 33 percent reductions), the Commission for Women (27 percent), the County Executive’s Office (26 percent), Housing and Community Affairs (24 percent), Transportation (23 percent), and Libraries (22 percent). Among the lowest reductions were Fire and Rescue (2.6 percent less than in FY10), Police (4 percent), Correction and Rehabilitation (4.5 percent), Department of Transportation/Transit Services (6.8 percent), and Health and Human Services (10.6 percent). Noyes Library would be closed, library materials reduced, and overall library hours cut by 8.7 percent.
County recreational facilities, except for pools, would be closed one day each week. Senior mini-trips and outdoor adventure programs would be eliminated. After-school Sports Academies and Recreation Extra programs would be reduced. Eighteen Ride On routes (three weekday, 10 Saturday and five Sunday) would be eliminated and another 16 restructured, saving $2.7 million, and the Call-N-Ride program would be reduced to one coupon book a month. The County Volunteer Center would be reduced and restructured.
The budget includes reductions in the Montgomery Cares program that provides health care to the uninsured, as well as reductions in home care, school health aide hours and payment to disability development providers. Funding for the County’s tuition assistance program would be eliminated. Non-emergency tree maintenance would be curtailed and, except for buses, the County would purchase almost no new vehicles or computers during the coming years. Maintenance in County facilities will be reduced. Pedestrian safety education monies would be drastically curtailed.
On education, Leggett’s budget meets 96 percent of the Board of Education’s request. The County will again this year apply for a waiver from the State “maintenance of effort” requirement that will lower the County’s contribution by $58.2 million and still qualify for increased state K-12 education aid. MCPS funding will decrease by 79.5 million - a 3.9 percent decrease from FY 10. However, if the "debt service reimbursement" amount is excluded MCPS funding for educational programs in FY 11 will be the same as FY 10. Overall, MCPS' budget will decrease by ($169.7 Million offset by $37.2 Million from Governor) $137.7 Million under the County Executive's plan.
MCPS recognizes the significant budget deficit the County is facing and is prepared to make substantial cuts to help close the gap. We have already achieved savings of more than $30 million in the FY 2010 budget to help fund next year’s budget.
The county will not meet its maintenance of effort requirement so it will be necessary to support a MOE waiver lest MCPS face the possibility of losing up to $53 million in new state aid.
MCPS must guard against any cuts deeper than $137.7 million in the budget otherwise it could have devastating consequences on our reform efforts. These cuts equal nearly $1,000 per student compared to the current budget. Because the County Executive’s Operating Budget Proposal does not meet the maintenance of effort requirement, it will be necessary to seek a waiver of the requirement for the FY 2011 budget. If MOE is not waived, MCPS could be faced with the devastating loss of up to $53 million in increased state aid. MCPS will need to work with the County to ensure that the State Board grants a waiver for FY 2011. This comes as the County is in the final stages of winning approval by the legislature to waive the $23.4 million fine for not meeting its funding requirements in FY 2010. We hope this will be approved by the legislature soon.
If the cuts amount to $137.7 Million, the following will be cut to preserve the classroom as much as possible: Elimination of all OPEB contributions(retiree health trust fund) - $42.9 million; Elimination of salary increments (steps) - $25.9 million; Increase of class size by 1 student at all grade levels - $16 million; Central services reductions - $6.0 million; Other savings and reductions - $10.3 million. After that further cuts will have to be made.
The County Council will now review the Budget and will make changes/review/approve it after having hearings in April. Then it will come to the Board of Education to see what cuts will have to be made. We need to make sure that no further cuts are made to the budget in order to preserve our own education. I'll provide more opportunities for you guys to get involved as the time comes.