Montgomery Co. budget plan boosts police, school funding

WASHINGTON — Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s $5.4 billion spending plan for the 2018 fiscal year includes more funding for public schools and police.

Under the proposal, $2.5 billion would go towards Montgomery County Public Schools, $54 million more than the current fiscal year’s budget for schools. It’s also $26 million above the state-mandated maintenance of effort formula.

Under the plan, Leggett would add 13 new police officer positions to the county’s department, with five of those designed to focus on gang activity.

Leggett said that since 2007, 128 police officers have been added to the county’s Police Department. He credited the county’s drop in crime — 19 percent compared with a decade ago — at least in part to the added staffing.

While Leggett chips away at the county’s property tax rate, reducing it by 25 cents, many homeowners will still pay a higher tax bill.

For example, homeowners with properties assessed at $400,000 will likely pay $20 more per year because of increased home values.

Leggett’s plan also adds funding to libraries and parks, but the document forwarded to the council sounds a cautionary note.

Leggett wrote that uncertainty regarding federal and state spending plans led him to limit any significant expansion of current programming to those “that clearly achieve our shared priorities and best serve County[sic] residents.”

Leggett had planned to release his budget during a formal announcement in Rockville on Tuesday, but the event was canceled due to the snowstorm. The county executive instead forwarded his budget to the County Council and released a statement on his proposal, calling it a plan “to build a better future.”

“This budget continues my commitment to prudent fiscal policies critical to sound fiscal management,” Leggett said in the statement.

Leggett noted how the county’s finances have been shaped, in part, by a Supreme Court ruling that Maryland’s state income tax structure was unconstitutional. The county continues to experience projected revenue losses, which are estimated at $30 million dollars.

Those losses are projected to come in at $27 million dollars annually from fiscal year 2019 to fiscal year 2023.

Leggett’s budget outlines his proposed spending for the period starting July 1 through June 30, 2018.

Public hearings on the budget proposal start next month.

The Montgomery County Council is required to approve the budget before June 1.

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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