SILVER SPRING — The Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board gave up their usual meeting time to host a forum on the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) and Capital Budget.
The forum, held April 22, was the first of five meetings designed to allow officials hear community input on which major projects the county should undertake.
The Capital Budget and CIP fund large long-term projects that invest in facilities and county infrastructure. For example, the construction of public schools, street maintenance and improvement to the parks would all be funded with money from the capital budget.
Investments like these can often take years, and the cost is spread out over time, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
“This isn’t an information session to tell you what is and what isn’t happening,” said Reemberto Rodriguez, who serves as director of the Silver Spring Regional Center. “It’s really meant to be a listening session for us.”
The proposed Capital Budget for 2020 contains a total of $14 billion in cumulative project funding and 501 total projects around the county.
Similar to the proposed Operating Budget for 2020, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is set to receive the largest percentage of funding from the county at 24.3 percent, or about $6,767 million. That money is set to fund 112 projects that are clustered, if only slightly, around the down county.
County Executive Marc Elrich also noted the fact that the county is looking at an $8 million deficit in school construction projects. In this coming year’s CIP, the vast majority of the funding for schools is going toward construction.
The second and third areas to set to get the most funding for capital improvements are transportation at 23.9 percent, or $6,676 million, and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), at 20.5 percent of $5, 565 million respectively.
There has been some concern from officials about a possible market contraction in the coming years that could have an impact on county revenues.
“The Capital Budget as everyone knows, is very constrained,” said Elrich in his opening remarks at the forum. “People were concerned about the amount of debt we were taking on in the early part of the recession, and now we’re at the point of figuring out what we’re going to do next.”
Brady Goldsmith, who serves as the Lead Fiscal and Policy Analyst at OMB, gave an overview of the capital budget. He noted that the county is making an effort to slow down the accumulation of debt and maintain a reserve of 10 percent of the adjusted government revenues as a cushion in the event of market contraction.
He also noted that county revenues will be significantly impacted by the Wynne Supreme Court case. The 2015 court case, called Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland V. Wynne, found that Maryland’s personal tax scheme, which taxes a resident’s income made both in state and out of state, violates the Commerce Clause. This is because it does not provide residents with full credit against income taxes they pay to other states, according to the Supreme Court.
This means that the state of Maryland is required to offer refunds to residents that total $200 million. This disproportionately affects Montgomery County because its share of refunds total $115 million including interest, according to the Washington Post.
This totals about $24 million per year for Montgomery County to refund to its residents that were affected by the state’s organization of taxing.
“I’m still optimistic that that next year we’ll do better than we did last year,” said Elrich.
Community input on which areas of the county need capital improvements centered around finding space for accessible county facilities and traffic calming in the Silver Spring area.
Members of the Community Action Board advocated finding or building more space for the TESS Center.
Located in Silver Spring, the Takoma East Silver Spring Community Action Center, or TESS Center, provides information and referrals to community members on a wide range of topics like education, interpretation and translation among others. It also provides services like English classes and senior socials for the community.
“The TESS Center is an older building, it’s been there actually for 50 years,” said Leah Goldfine, who is a member of the Community Action Board. “So, we’re just looking around to see if it will be relocated or expanded.”
David Dise who serves as the director of General Services explained that real estate in Montgomery County and especially in the down county is very limited.
“The issue is that because real estate is so scarce, we’re doing our best to combine services in the spaces available,” Dise said.
The two representatives from the Community Action Board were clear that the TESS Center should remain in Silver Spring.
Finally, community members noted the traffic problem in Silver Spring, citing that lane signaling and dangerous intersections both need improvement.
“People approach these intersections and have no idea what to do,” said one Silver Spring resident.
There are four more CIP forums set to be held around Montgomery County this Spring.
“I can assure you it’s different all around the county,” said Elrich, “what residents might want in Clarksburg is different than what you might want here in Silver Spring.”