Montgomery Co. Council votes to add $26.3M to schools in $7.1B budget plan

Without raising taxes, the Montgomery County Council voted to add $26.3 million dollars to the Maryland county executive’s proposed budget plan for FY2025.

While the 11-member council was able to reach a consensus in its “straw” vote — the action before next week’s final decision — some concerns about the $7.1 billion spending plan were also voiced.

“At this level of funding, we will likely see increased class sizes. We will see a delay in pre-K expansion, at a time when we desperately need it,” Council member Will Jawando, chair of the Education and Culture Committee, told his colleagues.

He said there could also be reductions in expanding mental health resources, “when at every school I go to, they’re crying out for more.”

Council member Dawn Luedtke noted that, “We are funding MCPS above what the county executive recommended.”

“We, as a body, need to be realistic about what we can and cannot afford to do,” Luedtke said.

She credited the school system, under the direction of Interim Superintendent Monique Felder, with facing fiscal pressures head on.

Council member Kristin Mink said that, in her view, the school system was forthcoming about its budget decisions. Despite adding millions for schools, the council isn’t fully funding the school system’s original budget request.

“This budget does not even fund the cost of maintaining the same level of services in light of inflation and enrollment changes,” Mink said.

Saying it was his 19th year being involved in the county’s budget process, Council member Gabe Albornoz told his colleagues he was disappointed with some cuts that were made.

“Although I am feeling conflicted, I do feel ultimately, in the end, that we will rise to this occasion,” Albornoz said.

Council President Andrew Friedson said the budget strikes a balance by working to fulfill the most critical needs in county agencies, including the school system, while avoiding tax increases.

Regarding the council’s posture on the school system budget, Friedson said the plan adds transparency and accountability to the process, “by including specific performance metrics and reporting requirements in the MCPS budget resolution for the first time ever.”

On Thursday afternoon, after the council’s session, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich released a statement that thanked the council for funding nearly all of his budget proposal, but added, “I am very concerned about the lack of public conversation and transparency” in arriving at the straw vote on Thursday.

When asked about Elrich’s comments regarding transparency, Friedson told WTOP, “As part of the budget process, there are always public work sessions and then there are private conversations that happen among colleagues in order to reach consensus.”

Friedson noted that the council received hundreds of emails and calls from constituents throughout the budget process, and that 255 residents took part in five public hearings regarding the budget.

The final vote by the 11-member council will take place at its meeting next Thursday, May 23.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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