Below you will find my remarks on the FY17 Budget.
I am pleased to support a county budget that puts education first and I believe the investment we are making in our schools today will pay dividends for years to come.
When I ran for county council i often spoke about how our County’s greatest challenges converge in the classroom — and in the classroom is where we can have the biggest impact on people’s lives.
I am motivated to public service by the core progressive value of creating opportunity for people regardless of who they are, where they live, or where they come from. And as a parent with a second grader and a rising kindergartner, I want for every child what I want for my own.
Having spoken with thousands of county residents over the course of three elections, I know that support for education is one of the characteristics that defines our political community here in Montgomery County – and there is broad recognition that our world class schools are the key to our success.
So really, I am grateful to have had the chance in this budget to help move us closer to this goal. I want to thank Council President Nancy Floreen, who early on established that this was going to be an education first budget and has ably led us to this result. A huge thanks as well to Craig Rice and the Education Committee for their work, as well our dedicated and extraordinary staff.
While I was pleased by the County Executive’s recommended funding level for MCPS, the fact is that his budget left a lot of work to be done — and the job fell to the County Council and the Board of Education to make the tough decisions about how the money would be spent.
And we worked together to make those tough decisions like never before.
Rather than a county budget that made no specific commitments about class size reduction or programs for the opportunity gap, we now have a budget that is certain to provide them.
Working with the Board to direct money to the classroom was a great test of leadership, because we needed them to be strong and they needed us to be strong. Thank you Mr. Durso and members of the Board.
Thank you to the union leaders who are working through this with us and the taxpayers who are being asked to make a greater investment in our schools.
And I want to thank my seven colleagues who stood strong and made this deal possible. Make no mistake, there was no other way to accomplish the symbiotic goals of raising revenues, reducing class size, increasing employee compensation by a sustainable 4.5%, and increasing county services, while getting the 9 votes required for the overall package.
We also took great strides in several other areas. We added significant funding to our brand new Public Financing fund for County elections, which will help get special interest money out of campaigns. We created two new County programs focused on promoting the growing Maker movement in the County and making STEM programming available to low income students. We are expanding Excel Beyond the Bell, the successful after-school program for Middle School students. We are adding resources for our public safety departments to keep up with growth and boosting other essential services like street maintenance, tree planting, and stump removal. And, as we do every year, we have added resources to ensure that there is a strong safety net for our most vulnerable residents, including fully funding our local match to the state EITC, which is a remarkable achievement. Finally, the significant increase in resources for Montgomery College will enable the college to provide more scholarships and targeted programs to help disadvantaged students succeed.
No doubt this was a tough budget and there are those who are disappointed. But governments have to make the tough decisions to keep the community moving forward, and that is what serving on the Montgomery County Council is all about.