Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) today proposed a $4.8 billion operating budget that would add School Resource Officers to more schools, restore some funding to libraries and fund pay raises for many county employees for the first time in four years.
Leggett said the county saved $469 million since FY 08 with savings from reducing the county workforce and denying cost of living increases. Because of a recent ruling from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals against the county’s stance on binding arbitration, Leggett negotiated a total of $31.6 million in raises for county employees, a $15.3 million increase from last year, with county employee unions.
“My judgment is that if we had failed to reach agreement and the matter went to arbitration, the result would likely be arbitrator-mandated decisions on raises that could double or triple the rate of raises contained in the package I negotiated with our unions,” Leggett said.
Leggett proposed a 4.1 percent budget increase from last year, what he said was a sign that the county had survived the worst of the Great Recession and economic downturn.
“This is a day we are making a transition, but it is not the day that we all hope for yet,” Leggett said.
The budget includes a property tax increase less than the average rate of inflation, which would mean an additional $80 a year from an average homeowner in the county. The budget relies on increased state aid, lower than estimated debt service costs and higher-than-projected income tax revenue to close a $136 million budget gap.
The proposal adds 40 more police personnel, part of Leggett’s three-year plan to add 120 new officers and 23 police civilian employees. That includes doubling the amount of School Resource Officers, police personnel assigned to county high schools.
Leggett proposed funding MCPS at the minimum level required by the state’s Maintenance of Effort law, which has already drawn some reaction from MCPS superintendent Joshua Starr. Starr recommended funding schools at $10 million more than the minimum Maintenance of Effort level.
Libraries would see a 10 percent bump in funding to partially restore the 26 percent cuts the department saw between 2007 and 2012. Leggett’s proposal would add 34 positions, expand hours at libraries open on Sundays to five hours, and restore 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. hours for major libraries such as Bethesda.
MCDOT funding proposals include the first phase of the Capital Bikeshare program, which the county hopes to introduce in Friendship Heights, Chevy Chase and Bethesda later this year. The budget also includes funding for the ongoing implementation of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.