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Statement on the County’s FY19 operating and capital budget agreement

Today we have reached agreement on the County’s FY19 Budget. I want to thank all my colleagues for your hard work and collaboration throughout this process. Working together, and with our remarkable staff, we have produced a budget that is restrained and responsible, does not raise taxes, and ensures the County will continue to provide the superb services that so many of our residents appreciate so much.

I credit the County Executive with making many great decisions in his budget, including fully funding Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Fully funding MCPS was my highest priority and I know was very important to my colleagues as well.

Thanks to our unusual fiscal circumstances, however, the County Executive’s budget presented some daunting challenges in other areas, particularly with Public Safety.

Recognizing that this is a time for fiscal discipline, we worked to stretch our resources to meet as much of the need as we could. Most of the list that I put together, in consultation with my colleagues, focused on restoring services that we all deem to be critical.

In particular, we were able to restore $6.7 million to Fire and Rescue Services that was cut by the County Executive – this one service area is nearly one half of what we approved on the reconciliation list for FY19.

People take for granted that when their house is on fire, or when their spouse has a heart attack, that someone will respond quickly. We prioritized that quick response time in this budget.

Beyond public safety, our budget is about kids. In addition to fully funding the school’s request, we made significant progress funding services that are critical for our children.

Reflecting a strong council interest in early childhood, we added almost $1 million to expand half-day preschool to full day, in addition to the $2.5 million expansion that MCPS proposed in its budget. This significant step forward follows on last year’s effort, which converted 200 full day Head Start slots to full day in MCPS and added 40 new slots at Centro Nia. We are now on the precipice of converting all half day pre-k slots to full day, setting the table to begin expanding our pre-k services outright.

We expanded our academic and parent-engagement focused after school program, Excel Beyond the Bell, to two new elementary schools, continuing to build a program that the Council and Executive have worked together to build expand rapidly over the last several years.

We restored funding for a community health nurse who works with vulnerable, abused children, restored funding for Care for Kids, our community health clinic program for low income children, funded a drop-in center for homeless youth, expanded the smart sacks program to provide meals for kids, and added capacity for Montgomery Cares to provide health care for the uninsured.

We added funds for three new school resource officers, at the middle school level – a new focus for that successful program.

Recognizing crucial quality of life issues, we restored some proposed cuts to Parks, including an urban parks initiative, as well as to fund our planning program for future master plans, so that we can continue our important mission to reinvent how we live and grow. We supported our nonprofits and we deepened our strategic economic development programs in biotech.

And for our magnificent college, the Council’s budget funds 99.6% of the College’s tax supported request, and includes an increase of $2.75 million or 2% in local funding over FY18. It is the Council’s intent that College use its FY19 appropriation to fully-fund compensation and benefit agreements for its employees, and take any reductions needed to align its budget with the approved funding level from planned FY19 program enhancements instead. The Council recognizes that final decisions on these issues fall under the authority of the Board of Trustees.

Turning to our capital budget, once again our choices were made within a context of fiscal discipline. We reduced our borrowing amount and scheduled a continually declining borrowing level, an important step that we hope the next council will adhere to.

Despite a smaller overall construction budget, we increased the share going to school construction, including responding to the voices of the parents and students at Lee Middle School, accelerates planning for Dufief Elementary School, and funds $25 million more for School construction than the Executive originally recommended.

We also added an exciting new project, a new facility for STEM learning and innovation for kids, partnered with the KID Museum and the City of Rockville, to be located right in the heart of the county, near the Twinbrook Metro.

We shifted transportation priorities towards bike and pedestrian infrastructure, added planning dollars for Bus Rapid Transit, and shifted our bus fleet purchases towards electric vehicles.

None of this would have been possible, of course, without our remarkable staff. I want to thank our new Council Staff Executive Director, Marlene Michaelson, who has ably led us through her first budget at the helm. Jacob Sesker, Linda McMillan and the rest of our hardworking staff provided excellent professional support, and I am grateful for their contributions as well. But this was truly a team effort, with important contributions not only from all of the professional staff but also the dedicated members of every council member’s office. Great work, team.

I also want to acknowledge that for four of my colleagues, this will be their final budget, as a Councilmember anyway. Their accomplishments speak for themselves, but their legacy will be marked this year in our new budget as it has in every budget during their time at this dais.

Finally, I would like to recognize Steve Farber. Our work this year benefited greatly from the incredible organization he built.

With appreciation, I will now turn to my colleagues, who will highlight many of the significant initiatives included in this budget.

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The Council Connection — committees review operating budget

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

Tuesday is Council session. While this is a very busy week, much of the heavy lifting comes at committee. Council staff is working overtime to review the executive’s budget and prepare recommendations for committee deliberation. At committee is where Councilmembers typically propose additions and reductions to the executive’s budget; all of these potential changes are then resolved through “reconciliation” in mid-May.

Tomorrow the Council will vote on a resolution to proclaim 2018 as the “Year of the Anacostia.” See this fascinating story about the history of river; the County has worked hard in recent years to reduce our pollution into the river. We will also vote on a resolution to develop an equity policy framework for County government.

Council will consider several important appointments to County government, including Commander Marcus Jones, nominated as Assistant Chief of the Police Department. The Council will also hold interviews on an appointment to the Board of Investment Trustees, which oversees the County employee retirement plans.

Finally, a number of public hearings on FY19 budget matters and two pieces of legislation dealing with transportation network companies fees and an economic development strategic plan will be held in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Council committees will have reached the halfway point in their review of the FY19 budget by the end of this week. This week they will consider funding requests for transportation, snow removal, schools, police, corrections, economic development, environmental protection, solid waste services, and technology services. See the full committee agenda. The Council remains on track to approve the final budget by the end of May.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

RECENT ACTIONS

How do I…

…figure out who your district Councilmember is.

The County has five Councilmanic districts that each are represented by one Councilmember. Four at-large Councilmembers represent the entire County. Find out who your district Councilmember is by visiting the Council’s handy “Find My Councilmember” tool. Simply locate your home on the digital map or type in your address. And don’t forget that you are represented by five council members!

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The Council Connection — zoning changes to incentivize large employers + budget hearings

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

Introduced to the Council this week, at the request of the County Executive, will be a zoning change that addresses the potential for Montgomery County to host a major corporate headquarters (for example, Amazon HQ2). The proposal does not add density to existing master plans, but does provide for streamlining to reflect the unique needs of a project at that scale. Read more about it here.

This week the Council will hear in-person testimony from residents about priorities for the County’s FY19 operating budget at 5 public hearings. There are waiting lists for the hearings; nevertheless, if you haven’t yet signed up to and want to, use the Council’s website to choose a time slot. The Council will accommodate as many voices as possible.

At Tuesday’s Council session, Councilmembers will have an important discussion about access to pre-k and early education in the County, reviewing studies and hearing from experts. Research demonstrates that quality care in the early years pays of with better educational and social outcomes and more efficient use of school resources. Last year the Council funded a significant expansion of Head Start as well as more child care subsidies; this year the Council will consider new and different approaches.

Also at Tuesday’s Council Session, a zoning text amendment will be introduced that supports breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cideries locating in agricultural areas by creating a new “Farm Alcohol Production” use.

The Council will conduct a number of public hearings on environmental, pre-k and broadband legislation.

Council Committees start their work on the FY19 Operating with the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) reviewing Park and Planning’s budget request.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

RECENT ACTIONS

How do I…

…watch a Council committee session online.

Often, big issues are “worked out” at committee before coming to the full Council. If you want to see how that happens, you can watch committee sessions live or on demand. Simply navigate to the Council Meeting Portal. You can view live committee sessions, browse the archives, and search by keyword.

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Council voices support for the “Reform on Tap” Act

House Bill 518 supports the State’s breweries by lifting outdated restrictions on selling and purchasing craft beer

ROCKVILLE, Md., February 22, 2018—The Montgomery County Council sent a letter to the chair of the Economic Matters Committee, Delegate Dereck E. Davis, in unanimous support of Maryland House Bill (HB) 518, the Reform on Tap Act. HB 518 would lift restrictions on the selling and purchasing of beer at craft breweries throughout Maryland.

The House Economic Matters Committee has scheduled a hearing for HB 518 on February 23 at 1:00pm.

“Local breweries have a big impact on Montgomery County’s economy,” said Council President Hans Riemer. “Not only have they created good middle-income jobs, they have helped revitalize urban districts such as Silver Spring, bring life to industrial districts in Rockville, and create destination tourism in our farmland reserve communities such as Laytonsville and Brookeville. But there is much more to be done to make our State truly supportive to the industry. Our goal should be for Maryland beer to gain a much larger share of the market, both in Maryland and across the Country. The Reform on Tap proposals accomplish that objective.”

The complete text of the letter is below.


Dear Chair Davis,

I am writing as Council President to express the unanimous support of the Montgomery County Council for HB 518, “Reform on Tap.”

In recent years Montgomery County has been fortunate to benefit from the success of a number of new breweries, including Denizens, Seven Locks, Waredaca, Brookeville Beer Farm, and Saints Row. At least four more breweries will open their doors in 2018 (Silver Branch, Astro Lab, True Respite, and Brawling Bear). Nevertheless, we are presumably at the earliest stages of growth in our industry. Loudon County, by way of comparison, with just one third our population, has more than 30 breweries, cideries, and distilleries.

While our breweries may be small relative to the global corporate giants of the beer industry, they have a big impact on our local economic development. They have helped revitalize urban districts such as Silver Spring, bring life to industrial districts in Rockville, and create destination tourism in our farmland reserve communities such as Laytonsville and Brookeville. Breweries are a key part of our creative economy landscape. They naturally produce placemaking and night-time economy benefits that help us attract and retain talent by providing the quality of life that many employees and employers are looking for.

Our local breweries have also created their own good middle-income jobs in manufacturing, management, marketing, and sales. Statewide studies have shown that Maryland brewers alone will generate nearly a billion dollars in economic impact by 2019, contribute over eleven million dollars in state tax revenue, and capture between 7.6% – 11.5% of all beer sales. Those figures are sure to rise, and it should be our policy goal to see them rise.

That is why we have worked hard to support a brewery industry here, and look forward to its robust long-term growth. Working in partnership with our Maryland Delegation, the County has taken many steps to support breweries include:

  • Exempting breweries from water and sewer connection fees
  • Expanding a County economic development incentive program (a grant to defray the cost of new leases) to include breweries
  • Allowing breweries as a primary use in commercial and industrial zones
  • Allowing craft breweries to self-distribute
  • Reducing and/or eliminating food-to-alcohol ratios

These reforms, when taken as a whole, have made Montgomery County and the State much friendlier to local production. Many entrepreneurs in the sector call Montgomery County “the best place in the region” to open a business. But there is much more to be done to make our State truly supportive to the industry. Our goal should be for Maryland beer to gain a much larger share of the market, both in Maryland and across the Country. The Reform on Tap proposals would accomplish that objective.

Accordingly, the Montgomery County Council urges the General Assembly to adopt the business-friendly reforms in HB 518. Thank you for your careful consideration of our views.

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