Early education, affordable housing, economic development among top Montgomery Co. budget initiatives

In an online forum Monday night, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich provided the community with a look at the goals and initiatives of the Maryland county’s proposed $5.9 billion operating budget.

Elrich listed seven initiatives undertaken by the county that will continue to be followed in the 2021 budget.

What Marc Elrich has named as his initiatives. (Courtesy Montgomery County)

The county has outlined its budget highlights, and Elrich’s overview includes the creation of a 3.1 cent supplemental property tax rate to “partially offset an unexpected underperformance of the property tax for the last two years.”

The county executive said early child care and early education should be broadly available and affordable, so that children can start their educations early and so that adults can have care while going to work.

Elrich also cited the county’s chronic shortage of affordable housing as an important initiative.

“We’re doing what we can to come up with new ways of expanding the affordable housing supply,” Elrich said.

Elrich’s budget initiatives also include economic and community development, which he said cannot be achieved without improvements to transportation.

“We are not going to be successful doing economic development if we do not deal with transportation issues,” Elrich said, citing the need to develop rapid bus transit.

“If we’re going to be successful, we have to demonstrate to people and to investors, frankly, that the county’s serious about providing transportation, that we’re not content to let people sit endlessly in traffic,” he said.

Climate change is also among Elrich’s initiatives.

“If I weren’t in the middle of the COVID crisis, I’d be telling you that climate change is the most important thing that we have to do,” Elrich said. “And in a way, dealing with climate change still is the most important thing we have to deal with.”

While detailing the county’s ambitious goals for confronting climate change, Elrich cited an experiment at a county-owned office building where solar energy-producing glass is replacing old windows. The county executive also mentioned a project in which a building would be wrapped in clear, solar glass which generates electricity.

Elrich conceded that the county could do a better job in economic development and said there are goals to bring in high tech companies to the White Flint Metro stop area, including biotech companies and artificial intelligence computing companies.

Another of the county executives initiatives considers re-imagining public safety. Elrich offered assurances that there would be cuts in the police budget, moving some functions out of the police department and toward other county agencies.

“We’ve reached a point where pretty much every social problem has become a police problem, and that’s not the way it should be,” Elrich said.

Rounding out the county executive’s initiatives are racial equity and social justice.

“We need to make sure that we can build more equitable communities, that we can have better more equitable schools,” Elrich said.

Watch the operating budget forum:

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