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Metro Brief: County budget tightens belt on spending, boosts economic development, schools and libraries

Montgomery County

On March 30, 2015

County Executive Ike Leggett released Monday his recommended FY16 Operating Budget of $5.1 billion for the year that begins on July 1, 2015.

The budget increases county government tax-supported spending by only 1.1 percent while cutting the county property tax rate by about one cent. The balanced budget closes an estimated $238 million gap.

“Over the last nine years, I have closed over $3 billion in budget gaps while putting the county’s fiscal house back in order and making the investments necessary to build a better future,” said County Executive Leggett, who was re-elected to a third term last November.

“This budget signals that our hard work of fiscal responsibility is not done. We see lower-than-expected income tax revenues, a still fragile national economic recovery and the prospect of less state funding. While my FY16 budget is, essentially, a ‘same-services’ budget, I have strategically looked for opportunities in it to improve job growth and expand our tax base.

“Although carefully constrained in some areas, this budget continues the county’s significant investments in our schools, the creation of good jobs, transportation, affordable housing, public safety, our Positive Youth Development Initiative, our seniors, and in help for the vulnerable in our midst.

“We are increasing our investment in biotech, expanding our focus on cybersecurity business and making sure that job-creating projects that are ready to go will receive needed permits within 30 days. This new initiative will get our buildings built, more jobs created, and will make the county’s tax base larger far sooner than before.”

Among the highlights:

  • A tax-supported county government budget of $1,405,714,273, a 1.1 percent increase over this year. A total county budget of $5,067,834,958 – a $72.1 million, or 1.4 percent, overall increase.
  • Funding for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) of $2.2 billion – the Maintenance of Effort level required by State law. That represents a $30.7 million increase over last year, or 1.4 percent and is nearly 98 percent of the Board of Education’s request. The County Executive’s budget also includes $27.2 million for future health care and retirement benefits for MCPS that makes that same amount available for funding for MCPS programs in FY16;
  • Reduces the property tax rate by 0.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation (from 99.6 cents to 98.7 cents). The average county residence, valued at $455,600, would pay $3,805 in FY16 – an increase of only $15 for the year;
  • Increases staffing at the Department of Permitting Services to guarantee 30-day turnaround for permitting on ready projects, a continuation of the County Executive’s business-friendly streamlining initiative;
  • Reduces Solid Waste fees by 4 percent across-the-board for families and businesses;
  • Increases funding for Developmental Disability programs by $1 million;
  • Provides $43.9 million for affordable housing creation and preservation:
  • Adds $7 million in funding for senior housing projects in Silver Spring and Glenmont;
  • Increases  funding for the Department of Public Libraries by 5 percent – mostly in increased materials;
  • Funds body cameras and new bulletproof vests for County Police;
  • Provides a $3 million increase in the County contribution for Montgomery College, a 2.6 percent increase that represents 98 percent of the College’s request.
  • Provides a $1.8 million increase for the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission, a  1.5 percent increase and 96 percent of the agency’s tax-supported request;
  • Increases funding for county cybersecurity business  efforts;
  • Provides a modest two percent wage increase for county employees, who sacrificed with layoffs, furloughs, a 10 percent reduction in numbers, and changes in health and retirement benefits during the Great Recession – saving county taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of millions of dollars of ongoing savings each year going forward;
  • Keeps the county on target to attain a 10 percent county reserve fund by 2020;
  • Maintains funding for the mandated level of funding to pay for future county retiree health benefits.
  • The full budget and highlights are available on the county’s website at

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