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ROCKVILLE — Two weeks after Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich released his savings plan, detailing $46.5 million in cuts to the county’s budget, the Montgomery County Council got its first crack at it this week.
While Elrich asked all County agencies for a 1.5 percent cut, and a $25 million cut from Montgomery County Public Schools, the council through its various committees, has agreed with most but not all of what Elrich has proposed.
The proposed cuts, come to the county’s current operating budget as revenue projections are below what the county has anticipated for the current fiscal year.
While Elrich proposed $46.5 million in cuts in his savings plan, it will be up to the members of the County Council on what actually gets cut from the County’s current fiscal budget. During the last week, the County Council’s committee agreed to most, but not all Elrich’s planned cuts.
“We are under no obligation to meet the County Executive’s proposed mark,” said Council member Tom Hucker (D-5).
Elrich said his savings plan is not cuts, but rather places where the county government can save money without hurting essential services.
“This is normal; we just got this information early enough that we can make plans,” Elrich said.
While the county’s $5.6 billion operating budget will mostly go untouched, the cuts will serve as a way for the county to make needed saving in it projected $105 million for fiscal year 2020.
In addition to $25 million in cuts to MCPS, Elrich is proposing $16.8 million in cuts to county agencies, a $2.8 million cut to Montgomery College, a $1.8 million cut to Maryland-National Park Capital Park and Planning Commission and a $100,204 cut to the Housing Opportunities Commission.
On Jan.22 , the County Council Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee agreed to all but $204,000 of the County Executive’s proposed cuts deciding to save emergency tree pruning in the Department of Transportations’ budget.
The committee left the rest of the proposal, but decided to forgo cuts to emergency tree pruning, thinking that it would be too difficult for county officials to manage road safety without those funds.
“We need to take a hard look at expenses now, to prepare for next year’s budget, and to make sure that we are on track to reach our fiscal plan targets, which help the County maintain its triple-A bond rating,” said Council President Nancy Navarro (D-2) in a statement. “My main concerns continue to be that we maintain our essential services such as public safety, education and programs that aid our most vulnerable residents, while making strategic investments in economic development.”
For cut to police and fire, Public Safety Committee Chair Sidney Katz (D-3) said the committee decided to “reluctantly” support the County Executive’s $5.6 million in cuts to various public safety programs. Elrich specially recommended $3,673,921 cut to police, $1,698,873 to fire and rescue and a $229,460 to correction and rehabilitations.
Keeping with much of the other’s, community Health and Human Services kept all of the county executive’s proposed cuts to the agency.
The budget cuts come a year after the council passed $53 million in cuts to account for a $120 million revenue shortfall. Last year, County officials blamed a federal tax cut passed by Congress that reduced income tax revenues for the county’s highest earners who filed early to take advantaged of the cut.
Elrich, who was just sworn in as county executive in early December said he got the news of the latest shortfall just days after taking office.
“We pretty much hit the ground running,” Elrich said. “My second day I was told that I have a $50 million gap to fill, so we promptly went about trying to make sure we can find savings.”