ROCKVILLE – The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to pass the fiscal 2015 operating budget Thursday.
The $4.99 billion budget includes money for an increase in school resource officers, an increase for Montgomery County Police and most of Montgomery College’s requested budget.
The approved budget will keep property tax revenue at its fiscal 2014 rate with an inflation-tied increase. The property tax decreased 5 cents from $1.01 per $100 of assessed value to 99.6 cents per $100 of assessed value. The council voted to retain the property tax credit at $692.
The controversial energy tax will also be reduced by 7 percent. Councilmembers Phil Andrews (D-3) and Roger Berliner (D-1) proposed reducing the tax by another 10 percent while Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-at large) called for a 5 percent decrease.
“I regret that we were unable to fund some important things on our reconciliation list and instead chose to reduce the energy tax by 7 percent instead of 5 percent,” Elrich said. “That 2 percent difference amounts to a whopping $3 per homeowner a year reduction, and I felt the money would have been better spent fixing roads, sidewalks, broken traffic signals and signs along with some other improvements to social services.”
County employees will receive a cost of living adjustment (COLA) and step increases. The county also approved higher than normal step increases for public safety employees to make up for missed raises. County police under the union Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 received a 7.35 percent step increase. County fire fighters who are members of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1664 received a 9.75 percent increase, and employee members of UFCW Local 1994/Montgomery County Government Employees Organization received a 6.75 percent step increase.
Montgomery County Public Libraries received $37.2 million, or full funding for the new Silver Spring Library plus an additional $550,000 for increased hours at 11 libraries.
Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission received a 5.9 percent budget increase, bringing its total fiscal 2015 budget to $140.3 million. The council gave M-NCCPC $1.2 million more than the amount originally recommended.
When the budget was announced in March, Montgomery College President Dr. DeRionne Pollard expressed concern about the school only receiving 60 percent of their funding request. In the final budget, Montgomery College received $244.1 million in tax-supported money, which is a 7.2 increase from fiscal 2014 and 99.9 percent of Montgomery College’s tax-supported request.
“Our elected officials demonstrate their commitment to high quality, locally-provided postsecondary education,” Dr. Pollard said. “With this renewed investment, the college is better positioned to serve today’s student and to help move Montgomery forward.”
On May 22 the council will formally adopt the fiscal 2015 operating budget and the fiscal years 2015-20 six-year Capital Improvements Program. The budget will go into effect July 1.