The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved an additional $14.8 million to the budget on its reconciliation list as the Council is set to give final approval to the budget Thursday.
The $14.8 million is a part of the Council reconciliation list, spending that was not originally included in the County Executive’s proposed budget and that the Council’s various committees voted to add through their weeks of meetings.
“There’s fewer cuts available; I think that’s the tough reality,” said Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large). “There’s just not as much room to save funding because it’s already a very, very tight budget.”
The $14.8 million the Council voted to approve is less than the $21.6 million the Council committees originally proposed. While the Council shaved about $7 million off its original proposed list of additions to the budget, County Executive Ike Leggett said he is concerned the Council went above his recommendations.
“I am concerned, however, that the Council has increased ongoing expenditures by $14 million over and above my recommended budget,” Leggett said in a statement.
The reconciliation list includes about $6.7 million for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, mostly to restore fire stations in Hyattsville, Germantown, and Hillandale. The reconciliation list also includes an additional $1.6 million for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, an additional $3.7 million to the general fund, and $911,000 to Montgomery County Public Schools, mostly to expand half-day classes to full day at eight elementary schools.
The additions to the budget come after the County’s current budget suffered a $120 million shortfall due to misprojections in the County’s income tax revenue. County finance officials blamed the false projection on a change – a reduction in federal taxes – which led the County’s high-income earners to wait to file their income tax returns. The shortfall caused the Council to cut $53.4 million from the current budget, including $25 million in cuts from Montgomery County Public Schools’ budget.
This fiscal year the Council also recommended fewer cuts to the County Executive’s original budget – $1.6 million for this year – than the traditional recommendation, which is usually around $8 million, according to Council legislative analyst Jacob Sesker.
“So, at the moment, we are even below our lowest mark,” said Council President Riemer about the committees’ lack of proposed cuts to the budget.
Sesker gave a brief overview of the cuts usually recommended by the committees during budget season, noting that the Council committees recommended few cuts this year, in contrast to previous years. “The $1.6-million figure this year is significantly lower than where it is almost every year as well as lower than it was in the most-recent low year, which was FY 15,” he said.