I am pleased to share highlights from the county’s new budget for Fiscal Year 2016 (video), which will begin July 1st.
This year was a “same services” budget, with lower revenues due to a regional economic slowdown. The Council’s total budget of $5.07 billion increases spending by a modest 1.7% over last year’s budget.
There were, however, many bright spots. Some of the best news:
Education: The Council was able to supplement the Executive’s recommended education funding by adding $2 million for technology investments in MCPS and $7.9 million to reduce tuition increases at Montgomery College. Overall, MCPS received $31.9 million over last year’s budget, to support higher enrollment. Unfortunately, Governor Hogan has withheld $17 million in budgeted state education funding for MCPS, so MCPS still faces difficult choices this year.
Clean elections: The Council added $1 million as a down payment on the small donor matching system we established in law last year. Candidates for Council and Executive who refuse large contributions will be eligible for small donor matches for the first time in the 2018 election; we are projected to need $8 million in public matching funds for that election.
I am especially pleased and humbled that the final budget included funds for a number of my initiatives:
Child Care: The Council added funds to implement the recently passed Bill 13-15, including provisions I authoredcreate a new Child Care and Early Education Officer and to develop a Child Care Strategic Plan. We also added over $500,000 for additional child care subsidies for low income families.
Fighting poverty: The budget increases our Earned Income Tax Credit, as required by Bill 8-13, which I introduced to restore the EITC after it was cut during the Great Recession. Montgomery County is the only County in the nation to offer an EITC match, which has been widely recognized as one of the most effective anti-poverty tools.
Other initiatives I championed, within a responsible budget framework:
- An expanded tree planting campaign, TreeMontgomery
- A groundbreaking partnership with tech startup accelerator 1776
- Improved management of our high speed data networks
- Additional maintenance of natural playing fields in the County
- Additional maintenance for recreation and library facilities
- Increased support for urban districts in Silver Spring, Bethesda and Wheaton.
I hope these initiatives give you a clearer sense of my work to meet our ever changing community needs.
On the question of taxes, county taxes as a share of personal income are virtually unchanged from last year. In order to keep property tax collections under the charter limit, property tax rates will be slightly reduced. As a result, for the two-thirds of property owners who do not have a revision in their assessed value this year, property tax bills will decline slightly. The average tax burden in real terms will be lower this year than in 6 of the last 9 years, and it is considerably lower than it was in 2007, 2008 or 2009.
Finally, as you may have heard, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the county on an issue relating to our income tax collections. The issue, which affects those who earn income outside of Maryland, will reduce county revenue by more than $50 million next year. Significant budget challenges are ahead of us.
As always, I welcome hearing from you.