Gas debt worsens Montgomery County’s budget woes

More than 40 CNG recycling trucks on the road in Montgomery County, serving neighborhoods in Bethesda and Silver Spring/Kemp Mill. (Courtesy Mongomgery County/G.A. Corrick)

ROCKVILLE, Md. – Montgomery County is taking a hard look at its vehicle fleet in an next year’s budget after it received a whopping bill for gasoline. It comes as the county is fending off a possible credit rating downgrade due to budget struggles at the state level.

Topping off tanks in county vehicles costs taxpayers millions, and the spike in fuel prices recently did nothing to help.

The county’s motor pool fund has a roughly $3 million cost overrun for fiscal year 2012. As the county considers the budget for fiscal year 2013, the size of the fleet is under scrutiny.

A county council transportation committee will go over the books in a meeting Thursday. Some departments have already had cars taken off the road and car sharing has become the new normal for some agencies who put workers on the road as part of the job.

County Executive Ike Leggett complains that the county council’s plan to defer some payments will just make budget troubles worse. In a three-page memo released by his office Thursday, the county executive also scolds the council for cutting funds that he says will “hurt an effort to tackle a backlog of road and school maintenance.”

The council has to wrap up work on next year’s budget by late May. Its work has been complicated by the state legislature’s failure to settle on a tax package. A possible special session in mid-May could change the budget picture dramatically.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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