There was little discussion but lots of money involved: the Montgomery County Council approved a $6.3 billion operating budget Thursday that includes $2.9 billion for the Maryland county’s schools.
Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz commented that the final, unanimous vote felt anticlimactic after months of budget deliberations. After the budget passed by show-of-hands, he said, “All that work in less than one and a half minutes!”
The work Albornoz referred to included budget decisions that put nearly half of the county’s operating budget into education, with increases in mental health services and school safety.
Public safety funding included $296 million for the county’s police department, with a raise of over 13% for most of the county’s sworn officers. Part of the budget will cover the cost of 24 new hires, all but three will be filled by civilians.
Fire and rescue services gets an operating budget of $251.8 million in the spending plan.
The Department of Health and Human Services budget has been set at $421 million, an increase of nearly 16% over the previous year. According to its statement on the budget, the council factored the expected reduction of federal COVID-19 funding dollars into the budget increase for the agency.
Funding for transportation projects includes the restoration of Ride On and Call-n-Ride service to pre-pandemic levels with fares at $1 for most Ride-On trips. There’s also $525,000 in the budget for the county’s Safe Routes to School program, which aims to “improve safety for students who walk and bike to school.”
The county’s Department of Recreation will see $12.6 million for youth development programs, and the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission is slated to get increased funding for trail renovations, athletic field maintenance, and tennis and basketball court renovations.
The county’s approved $5.3 billion capital budget — for brick-and-mortar projects — includes $1.7 billion for school construction with $26 million dedicated to high school wellness centers.
The county’s economic development corporation, MCEDC, receives $6.2 million in the budget with the goal of continuing efforts tied to economic recovery from the pandemic.