This morning, the County Council unanimously passed a new budget for the next fiscal year. As I cast my vote, I believe the Council has met its responsibility of balancing our residents’ priorities and keeping the government on a sustainable path.
Here is information that I think you might find useful.
The $4.4 billion total budget increased 2.2% from last year, but is still below the level of two years ago (FY 10). With workforce reductions now totaling nearly 10%, the county is becoming more efficient in order to protect priorities that really matter.
$31 Million Increase to MCPS
Tax-supported funding for our public schools will increase by $31 million, from $1.92 billion to $1.951 billion. As a result of this funding increase, class size will not increase even though enrollment is growing. As in past years, MCPS will receive more than half (56%) of all tax-supported spending for government agencies.
Council Service Restorations
The County Council made many program restorations to the Executive’s recommended budget. These were some of my priorities:
1. Libraries: The council restored $2.3 million in the public libraries’ budget. That includes $1 million for materials and a variety of staffing restorations to prevent significant cuts at the
2. Planning: The county needs a robust Planning Department in order to channel future growth towards transit, thereby enhancing our economy while protecting our quality of life and environment. The council restored $1.58 million to Planning’s budget, enabling them to fill 8 vacancies and proceed with analysis of a new county-wide rapid transit system. We also restored cuts to our parks.
4. Public transportation - Kids Ride Free: This program allows students to use Metrobus and RideOn for free on weekdays between 2 PM and 7 PM. Kids Ride Free was suspended last year, but the council has now restored it, which will greatly help young people who want to participate in extra-curricular activities, earn income, and provide care to family members.
5. Health care: Working with non-profit clinics,
Restructuring Employee Benefits
The county is proud to provide its employees with health and pension benefits that exceed those provided by many other employers. These benefits are a major reason for the county’s outstanding retention rate and its excellent service provision. But over the next five years, their cost has been projected to rise by 48% while the county’s revenues are projected to rise just 2% annually. In order to preserve these benefits, we had to begin to restructure them. This was a tough decision, but it was superior to recurring layoffs, service cuts and tax hikes.
There is no question that this was a difficult budget year. Reasonable people can disagree on some of the council’s budget actions. But I believe that our residents should feel confident that they have a responsive and effective county government. Unlike some governments, we can tackle our big challenges.
This council has met its responsibility by protecting residents’ priorities, controlling costs and carefully managing the county’s money. And we are doing that while protecting progressive priorities like education, public safety, the environment, the safety-net and a world-class quality of life.
Please continue communicating with me and if you find this helpful, consider sharing it with other residents.
P.S. I want to thank the hundreds of readers who responded to my last email about our budget challenge with their personal stories, insights and priorities. I took what you said to heart as I worked through the budget process. Thank you.