Inclusion | Opportunity | Innovation

Council Update — confronting fiscal challenges at final session of 2018

Dear Resident,

As the holiday season gets into full swing, the Council is holding its final session of 2018 on Tuesday. We have a packed agenda, including interviews for County Executive Elrich’s appointments to three top positions.

County fiscal condition requires action
The Council will receive a briefing from Council and Executive Branch staff on the state of the County’s finances. While this year’s revenues are on track with what we estimated in the Spring when we passed the budget, last year’s revenues were lower and expenditures were higher than we expected. This has created a nearly $44 million hole in the County’s reserves, dropping our reserve-to-revenue ratio to 8.4%. The County’s goal is 9.4% this year and 10% by 2020. Given the importance of healthy reserves to our overall fiscal picture, the Council expects to take up a savings plan recommended by the County Executive in January, 2019. Read the full staff report.

Introduction of three zoning changes
I am introducing three zoning text amendments (ZTAs) for Council consideration. The first changes the minimum allowed fence height for a home confronting the Purple Line. The second changes the height limit for a building in a shopping mall. The third allows breweries and farm alcohol producers in rural zones, not just agricultural zones. I look forward to engaging with the public, stakeholders, and my colleagues on the Council as these measures move through the legislative process.

Voting reform town hall
I am excited to be working with Ranked Choice Voting – Montgomery County to host a community policy event on Saturday, Dec 15 at 9am at the Silver Spring Civic Center. You can RSVP here for the free event. Ranked Choice Voting is where the voting process counts not only first choices but also second, third, etc. In an election where the top vote getter does not get a majority of first choice votes, then the second choices count, until a candidate has a majority. Legislation in the State House is necessary to enable the County to adopt this system, which may move forward this upcoming state legislative session if there is sufficient community support.

Happy Holidays,

Hans Riemer Signature
Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large

P.S., ICYMI, my remarks about the County’s future at the recent inauguration ceremony, my list of the Council’s 2018 accomplishments, and more about the Council’s progress on pre-k.

Budget Challenges Continue

Our latest six-year fiscal planshows a sobering reality for Montgomery County: our resources will continue to be constrained, and that will necessitate very careful management of our spending.
Since 2010, the county government has issued six-year fiscal plans.  The plans project revenues, mandatory expenditures (such as debt service, retiree health pre-funding and reserves) and the amounts left over for services. 
This practice allows us to see rough estimates over time for how much we will have to spend on schools, parks, police and fire protection and other county services.
Due to the economy’s slow recovery from the Great Recession, the county’s revenues are projected to rise by just 2.3-3.6% per year through 2018.  That is not very different from what inflation will probably be over that period.  At the same time, the state has mandated local spending increases for MCPS matching its growth in enrollment.  Next year, we are projected to increase our local contribution to MCPS by 1.5% as a result of state law.  If we do, according to today’s estimates, we will have to cut most of the rest of the government by 5.2%.
Over the long run, the answer to our budget problems is to increase our rate of economic growth to expand our tax base.  I’m committed to doing that.  But in the short run, we have to continue to manage our spending carefully and show restraint with our resources.  You can count on me to do exactly that.