The Montgomery County Council Education Committee considered County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett’s (D) proposed cuts in funding for Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery College last week when the Council’s committees met to nail down the details of how best to absorb the projected $120 million budget shortfall brought about by the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
“We understand that this is a moment of unique times although unfortunately for us in the County it seems to be this uniqueness happen more often, which kind of redefines uniqueness,” said Council member Craig Rice (D-3), who chairs the Education Committee.
Earlier this month, Leggett laid out plans for cutting $60 million from the County’s budget, including $25 million to come out of the coffers of Montgomery County Public Schools. This week, committee sessions were aimed at breaking down Leggett’s savings plan to begin preparing the Council’s own plan to be released next week, which will be based on their own evaluation of various departments’ budget needs.
During a working session last week to consider the Leggett savings plan, the Council Education Committee recommended a $30 million cut to MCPS and Montgomery College, mirroring the County Executive’s proposal for cuts.
MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said Leggett’s proposed $25 million cut would put a lot more pressure on the system during next year’s appropriations process, but that $25 million is a number MCPS can absorb.
“We also understand any savings out of this year’s budget and then going forward for reappropriation for next year’s budget does push us closer to the margins,” Smith said. “And with over 91 percent of our funds available going toward personal costs and then between transportation, utilities, curriculum, materials, there isn’t a lot of margin there frankly.”
However, the savings plan must be approved by the full Council next week. Council member Roger Berliner (D-1) has pledged not to vote to cut education funding.
Leggett and other members of the Council have said the County cannot address the shortfall without cuts to MCPS and Montgomery College as education makes up more than half of the County’s $5.6 billion operating budget.
“For me, everything is on the table, and you try to work through the particular details,” Leggett previously said.
In addition to $30 million in cuts to education, Leggett proposed a $4.3 million cut to the Department of Health and Human Services, a $3.8 million cut to Montgomery County Police and a $2.6 million cut to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue.
County officials blame the $120 budget shortfall on recent federal tax cuts, which County finance officials were not initially able to factor into the County’s tax revenue projections. County officials explained that many of the County’s largest income taxpayers chose to wait to file capital gains taxes in anticipation of savings from the federal tax cuts, causing a drop in County tax revenue for the current fiscal year.