‘Shocked’: Montgomery Co. scrambles to cut budget amid revenue shortfall

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett is calling for executive departments to make cuts of 2 percent in order to save money after projections show income tax revenues are $64 million less than projected for the last quarter of the year.

Not only that, but Leggett’s Department of Finance reports that the total revenue shortfall for fiscal 2018 is expected to top out at $95 million. When the executive’s office adds the $25 million shortfall at the close of fiscal year 2017, the operating budget is short by a projected $120 million for the year, Leggett told the county council.

While Leggett has directed his departments to cut their budgets by 2 percent, he said he has also “strongly encouraged” legislative and judicial branches to cut their budgets by the same amount.

Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner said the county council was “shocked” by the news of the revenue shortfalls.

“In a world in which there is almost full employment and a stock market that has been going up, up and up, the notion that our tax revenues are going down is really something that we don’t understand,” Berliner said at a Monday morning meeting with reporters.”

Berliner said the council will take a hard look at where the cuts should come from.

Recently, the council approved supplemental budgets for the state’s attorney’s office, the police department and the Department of Health and Human Services in order to fund programs to fight escalating gang violence.

Berliner said those funds should not be touched. “That has to remain a priority,” he said.

In the letter to the council, Leggett stated that the shortfall in revenues is “primarily driven” by a nearly 30 percent drop in income tax revenue due to taxpayers filing extensions on last year’s taxes. The letter stated the Maryland Comptroller’s Office has reported other jurisdictions in the state are experiencing similar reductions and a check with the comptroller’s office indicates that characterization is accurate.

Berliner said finding ways to cut the budget will dominate the work of the council from now until the end of January.

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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