ROCKVILLE—The County Council reached a tentative agreement on the fiscal year 2020 operating budget.
The council settled on the budget for the coming fiscal year by a straw vote on May 16.
Councilmemebers were able to fund county departments and programs more thoroughly than the original budget proposal while still maintaining reserve levels of 10 percent adjusted governmental revenue of $128.3 million.
Maintaining these reserves allows the extra county funding in the event of an unforeseen issue such as a market downturn or particularly damaging bad weather.
“For me, this is a proud moment because this budget brings together my priorities and my work on education, economic development and workforce development with a focus on equity, fiscal prudence, and sustainability,” said County Council President Nancy Navarro.
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and Montgomery College (MC) both received extra funding from the council.
According to the county, with an increase of $84.1 million from the original budget proposal, MCPS will be funded beyond the maintenance of effort level required by the State of Maryland.
The budget allocates a total of $2.68 billion for MCPS which, according to the county, more than fully funds the requested amount by the MCPS Board of Education.
“At roughly half our budget, the continued investment in our schools is sound,” Councilmember Craig Rice said. “The reality is that not funding MCPS would be much costlier. Full funding will allow MCPS to enrich reading and writing interventions further, add counselors to elementary schools and enhance afterschool activities in schools with greater socio-economic need.”
During budget discussions over the last few months, Rice was vocal on issues of school funding and advocated for better funding of MCPS and Montgomery College.
The local community college also received additional funding.
The council added $3.1 million to its recommended budget, which brings the college’s funding to $314.7 million in total.
The institution’s budget also includes an agreement to increase tuition by 3.1 percent by increasing hourly rates per semester.
Recreation was another area that received more funding from the council.
The council increased funding for the county’s Recreation Department by $6.5 million, bringing the total amount allocated to $45.3 million.
According to the council, large portions of the funding will go toward the maintenance of recreation facilities along with services and programs for community members.
For instance, $239,550 will go towards expanding hours for youth programming in community centers around the county.
“I am excited that we have added funding to help at-risk youth through a number of programs related to our libraries, recreation and our schools,” said Councilmember Will Jawando. “We added Friday and Saturday evening hours and programming at recreation centers in high-need areas of the county. This provides our youth a place to be safe and have fun during those critical hours on Friday and Saturday nights.”
According to the council, MCPS employees will be provided access to the recreation facilities as part of a wellness initiative.
The environment is another area that will receive more funding from the council. They approved $400,000 to fund a Climate Change Non-Departmental Account (NDA).
The NDA, according to the council, will provide funding for greenhouse gas reduction strategies. It will also fund the development and implementation of plans that will help the county meet its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2027 and by 100 percent in 2035.
The Montgomery County chapter of The Climate Mobilization was pleased with the funding bump.
According to Jim Driscoll, who serves as coordinator of the local chapter, members of the group attended the May 16 meeting prepared to protest if the money was not allocated. But they didn’t need to after the council decided to allocate more funds.
“As a leader (in a) growing international network (of municipalities that have declared a climate emergency), every step MOCO takes has potentially an international impact,” wrote Driscoll. “The coalition will continue to press for the other items on its scorecard even as the planning unfolds.”
The coalition wants to see buildings, vehicles and energy supplies fossil fuel-free and a beginning of lifestyle changes.
“We are all experiencing the adverse effects of global warming, and to make the situation even worse, we know that environmental justice issues disproportionately impact vulnerable and poor communities,” said Councilmember Evan Glass. “Funding for this climate change initiative will help us ensure that we are doing our part in Montgomery County so that this world is left brighter and better for all those that will come after us.”
The council will make its official vote on May 23, and the budget will take effect with the new fiscal year on July 1.