Weekly Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich

Per Montgomery County:

Dear Friends,

One of the most important responsibilities I have as County Executive is the fiscal responsibility of the County’s budget and stewardship on behalf of County taxpayers. The budget process is a year-round endeavor that takes months of planning, analyzing, holding internal meetings and community townhalls eventually culminating in tough decisions on where to balance, fund and invest our finite resources. It is an arduous process and many Montgomery County residents, community organizations, and advocates have different priorities and requests for our budget. But no matter the year or the economic climate we find ourselves in, our goal is always to provide all the support and resources we can to move this County forward; but we must also balance our budget while not overburdening our tax base.

Earlier this week, I sent my recommended budget to the County Council. This is the best budget we have brought forward since I became County Executive and is one that truly reflects our values and priorities. It’s nice to be able to imagine the things we want for the County, to listen to our communities and know that we can invest in their needs. Because of the investments we have made in our community, the County’s fiscal picture has drastically improved, my recommended FY23 budget makes record investments in our community to ensure that our community’s prosperity continues and that everyone, regardless of race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, or color, can better access it.

This budget is in stark contrast to the first days and first budget of my Administration. Soon after taking office in December 2018, I was presented with a $90-million deficit due to underperformance of revenues and higher spending than was budgeted in County Government. The following two years had budgets that were predominantly driven by our response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. So it is with great joy that I am able to recommend a budget that has a number of projects and improvements to keep our County thriving.

There is a lot of exciting news throughout this budget. I encourage you to visit montgomerycountymd.gov/omb for all the details. This week, I wanted to address four specific areas of funding: our historic levels of education funding, public safety investments, efforts to combat climate change, and record funding toward providing more affordable housing.

Investing in Our Students

This budget provides record funding for Montgomery County Public Schools. The County’s contribution is also at a record level. This investment far exceeds the State’s Maintenance of Effort requirement by over $117 million, and spending will increase by $718 per student.

My recommended budget provides enough resources for 100 percent of student needs. It fully funds salaries, benefits, and all the programs that MCPS and the Board of Education had in their budget. This pandemic has been extremely difficult for our students and school staff, and I am pleased to be able to fund their needs.

I am also happy that our FY23 budget fully funds the request of the Montgomery College Board of Trustees. Montgomery College is an important part of our County’s economic development infrastructure. As part of the College’s budget, I am recommending $3.3 million in funding to establish the College’s East County Education Center. For too long, residents in the eastern portion of the County had not had easy access to local higher education opportunities. By locating an education center in this region, we will help East County residents access these opportunities and have a better chance to succeed.

Investing in Our Safety

Throughout our State and nation, we have seen an increase in crime, and Montgomery County has not been immune to this troubling trend. Two budget cycles ago, I proposed raising the salaries of our police officers, which were among the lowest in the region, so we could more quickly fill vacant positions and compete for the best qualified officers to serve our residents.

At that time, the County Council did not pass that recommended funding, opting instead for a “same services” budget. I am pleased to bring this proposal back, and I hope that the Council will agree that these salary increases are needed and deserved.

In addition to strengthening the competitiveness of police compensation in relation to neighboring jurisdictions, I am adding a police officer and a civilian administrative support position to the recruitment team to boost our efforts to attract top talent to the police force.

For the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, I am increasing the capacity of the Mobile Integrated Health program by adding two paramedics to assist on home visits and better address the needs of frequent 911 callers. This budget also adds a permanent EMS System Capacity Officer to coordinate patient transport to hospitals and balance emergency department loads. This enhancement is expected to assist in reducing hospital drop times and increase EMS transport availability.

Investing in Combatting Climate Change

I am proud that my FY23 recommended budget continues our efforts to address the urgency of climate change. In this budget I am providing $18.6 million in new funds for the Montgomery County Green Bank as well as a new $1 million program to provide incentives for residential, multifamily, and commercial buildings to replace fossil fuel equipment and appliances with electric ones.

We are also investing over $1 million to support the implementation of the Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) program to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in public and private multifamily and commercial buildings and $1.3 million in enhancements to the Water Quality Protection Fund budget. I am also excited about our new Save-As-You-Throw pilot program in Recycling and Resource Management to encourage residents to recycle more and generate less waste.

Investing in Affordable Housing

In Montgomery County, we have tens of thousands of families spending 50 to 60 percent of their income on their housing – this is not acceptable nor sustainable. Creating and expanding affordable housing opportunities is one of our County’s toughest and most complicated challenges. I am proud to recommend the highest level of funding in County history—nearly $140 million to expand the preservation and production of housing that will be affordable to the most economically burdened residents.

We are also increasing dedicated funding to provide financing loans for the acquisition and preservation of affordable housing units, renovation of distressed housing, and creation of mixed-income housing, as well as housing units for special needs residents and seniors. This budget also continues funding to support the “Building Neighborhoods to Call Home” and “Housing First” programs and provides committed rental assistance to help the County’s most vulnerable residents.

Additionally, I am allocating $2 million from existing resources to explore, subject to the County’s collective bargaining laws, a pilot program for down payment assistance to full-time career employees of Montgomery County and Montgomery County Public Schools to help make first time homebuying more affordable in the County.

As you review this recommended budget, please feel free to give us any feedback by visiting montgomerycountymd.gov/exec, and I encourage you to pay attention and participate in the County Council’s budget hearing process in the upcoming weeks.

Finally Solving a Three-decade Old Problem

This week, we celebrated a big win with our municipalities. I was proud to be joined by Council Members Nancy Navarro, Sidney Katz, and Andrew Friedson along with Maryland Municipal League, Montgomery County Chapter president and Rockville Councilmember Monique Ashton, Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman, and Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart to sign Bill 2-22 into law.

This bill ensures that the municipalities are reimbursed fairly for public services that they provide that would otherwise be provided by the County. These services include transportation, maintenance, parks, police services and school crossing guards.

This new law helps prevent residents of municipalities from being taxed twice – by the County and again by their municipality for these services. This has been unfair to the residents and taxpayers of our municipalities. I have been concerned about this problem for more than 35 years, beginning when I was on the City Council of Takoma Park, I was concerned as a County Councilmember, and as County Executive I promised to fix this. I am thrilled to finally remedy this problem.

COVID-19 Cases Continue to Decrease in Montgomery County, But 44 Percent of Eligible Residents Still Need Their Booster

As for our COVID-19 rates this week, our test positivity and case rates continue to decrease. And our hospitalization rate is down to only 3.2 percent of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients with only 3 admissions per 100,000 in the past seven days. And just last week, we had no COVID-19 patients in our ICUs for a period of 48 hours. This is all very good news for our community.

However, I remain concerned that the effectiveness of vaccines is waning, and that more people are not getting booster shots. In Montgomery County, about 56 percent of eligible residents have received their booster or additional dose. We are now only delivering about 3,000 boosters per week. This is only 10 percent of the peak of our booster efforts that occurred at the end of last year.

Demographically, booster rates are lower for younger and middle-aged adults and Latino and Black residents. Our booster rates for whites and Asians aged 12 to 64 are nearly double the rates for Latinos and African Americans. We are continuing our marketing and outreach efforts to promote boosters throughout our communities and specifically to our Latino and African American communities.

To put it starkly, we are at the point that no one outside of rare exceptions should die from COVID-19. While vaccines won’t protect against every infection, the evidence shows that vaccinated people, if they do get sick, get far less ill and rarely die. We have all the vaccines we need to keep people out of hospitals and protect against severe cases of COVID-19.

If you, or a loved one, needs a booster, please take your shot. They are available everywhere; they are free; and they just might save your life.

Great News! More Lab Space and New Jobs Coming to County

Good news on the economic front in our County keeps coming. Last week, Stonebridge Development announced that they were constructing another 800,000 square feet of lab space in our county, including 250,000 square feet in Gaithersburg, and over 550,000 square feet in North Bethesda/White Flint. This development is further evidence of our County’s strength in life sciences.

As if that wasn’t enough, California based Miltenyi Biotec announced they were moving their U.S. headquarters to Montgomery County. Together with the move, they plan to add another 130 jobs to their already existing facility in Gaithersburg. Miltenyi Biotec is focused on advancing biomedical research and supporting cell and gene therapy, and they know Montgomery County is the best location to grow and locate their company.

Go Electric, Go Green, Save Money

The talk of the town continues to be high gas prices and the impact it is having on families’ bottom lines. As I mentioned last week, for those feeling the pinch of these prices, we want to let everyone know that our County’s first “Go Electric” event will take place this Saturday, March 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This event will showcase the future of electric power—from electric vehicles to power equipment and solar power—the event will take place at Montgomery College in Rockville. This is a free event and will provide opportunities for recycling of household batteries, rebates on electric leaf blowers, and free LED bulbs in exchange for old CFL or incandescent bulbs. I look forward to seeing you there.

Sandy Spring Village to Offer New Affordable Housing for Seniors

This week, Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs announced the financing of Sandy Spring Village to create affordable housing for seniors through an adaptive reuse of an office complex in Sandy Spring. Three buildings are being converted into 56 one- and two-bedroom apartment homes for people over the age 62.

The County loan package will support rents for people with incomes from 40 percent to 60 percent of the area median. Increasingly, we are focusing on creating deeply affordable housing because we have almost 50,000 households in Montgomery County with incomes up to about $50,000 per year who pay more than half their income for rent.

Montgomery County is applying every available policy tool and financial resource to help reduce housing cost burdens by increasing the number of affordable, rent-regulated housing units; providing rent supports; and preserving current affordable housing while protecting tenants from displacement. For more information, I highly recommend reading the DHCA Annual Report at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA/

Topping Off Montgomery College’s Catherine and Isiah Leggett Math and Science Building

Last week, I joined, new Montgomery College President Dr. Jermaine F. Williams for a “topping off” ceremony for the Catherine and Isiah Leggett Math and Science Building on the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus of Montgomery College. The Leggett Building is a classroom and lab building for the math and science disciplines. This green building is a $100 million investment that will provide 36 classrooms and labs upon completion, and there are no better namesakes for this building than Catherine and Ike Leggett.

For 12 years as County Executive, Ike prioritized our children and their education, and his commitment to improving Montgomery College was consistent year after year. Catherine Leggett is also renowned for her dedication and support for multiple important efforts, including supporting education at all levels. The County is a better place thanks to many of their efforts, and it was an honor to have a chance to thank them on behalf of the entire County.

Maryland Senate Subcommittee Recommends Key County Projects for Funding

This week, the Capital Budget Subcommittee of the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee recommended several vital projects for funding from our joint County Executive and County Council priorities list for the 2022 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session. These recommendations include $30 million to expand our Bus Rapid Transit system, $6 million for our new Restoration Center, $6 million for the Bethesda Metro South Entrance, $2.5 million for the Great Seneca Science Corridor transit vehicles, and $1.4 million to finish the new Ike and Catherine Leggett Math and Sciences Building at Montgomery College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus.

These projects are critical components of our economic development strategies and will support the County’s future growth, sustainability efforts, community equity, and educational opportunities. But most importantly, each of the projects will help to enhance the quality of life in Montgomery County for all our residents and businesses.

We appreciate the hard work of the Montgomery County Senate delegation, and in particular, we are grateful to Senate Budget and Tax Capital Subcommittee Chair Craig Zucker, Montgomery County Senate Delegation Chair Ben Kramer, and Senate Majority Leader Nancy King for working with our entire Senate Delegation to ensure our County’s needs were met. We also are thankful for the advocacy of County House Delegation for their work on the State capital budget, and we eagerly await further action on the capital budget in the House of Delegates.

After years of challenging budgets at both the State and local levels, we are very fortunate to have revenues available that will address long-term needs, as well as help rebound from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is good news that all of our County officials at the municipal, County, State, and Congressional levels of government are working together, unified in our commitment to equity, by funding transportation, education, and economic development investments for all Montgomery County residents, families, and businesses.

We Mourn the Loss of An Environmental Champion and Exemplary Leader

It is with great sadness that I write of the passing of former County Councilmember Scott Fosler. Words cannot fully do justice to Scott, who was a dedicated public servant and unwavering environmental champion. He was present as a County Councilmember, at the creation of the Agricultural Reserve – one of the crown jewels of the County – and he spent the rest of his life dedicated to protecting it and advocating for clean water. He was a board member of/chaired so many important environmental organizations, including Friends of Ten Mile Creek, Little Seneca Reservoir, the Montgomery Countryside Alliance, the Audubon Naturalist Society; and the Montgomery County Ad Hoc Agricultural Policy Working Group. He was also a president of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and mayor of the Town of Chevy Chase as well as serving two terms on the Montgomery County Council.

Scott did some extremely important work for this County, and he did it with decency and dignity; and he made us all feel better about ourselves and our work. He was a force for good, and he will be deeply missed. Our condolences go to his wife, family, and friends.

As always, my appreciation for all you do.

Marc Elrich
County Executive

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17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Now in its 17th year, the Kensington Day of the Book Festival is a family-friendly street festival featuring 150+ renowned authors, poets, and literary organizations. Enjoy live music on five stages, special guest speakers, military veteran writers and comedians, poetry readings, cookbook demos, children's program, and much more.

Admission is free, and attendees will also be able to explore a marketplace of books and food offerings from local vendors.

Not your average book festival! This festival offers something for everyone!

17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Sunday, April 21, 2024, 11am-4pm (held rain or shine!)

Howard Avenue, Kensington, MD 20895

www.dayofthebook.com

Instagram: @kensingtonbookfestival

Contact: Elisenda Sola-Sole, Festival Director

[email protected]

301-949-9416 (text preferred)

FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival

Get ready to experience the vibrant colors, tantalizing flavors, and infectious rhythms of the Caribbean at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival! Hosted by RHU LLC, this exciting festival is set to take place on May 18, 2024, at the picturesque 16700 Barnesville Rd in Boyds, MD.

Step into a world where the Caribbean spirit comes alive! From 12:00 PM onwards, immerse yourself in a sensory journey that celebrates the unique culture, cuisine, and music of the Caribbean. Whether you're an African American, a Reggae or Soca music enthusiast, a wine lover, or part of the vibrant Caribbean diaspora, this festival promises to delight and captivate you in every way.

Let the enticing aromas of mouthwatering Caribbean dishes tantalize your taste buds. Feast on traditional delicacies prepared by expert chefs, showcasing the rich and diverse culinary heritage of the Caribbean. Indulge in flavorful jerk chicken, succulent seafood, and delectable plantain dishes that will transport you straight to the islands.

Accompanying the culinary extravaganza is a carefully curated selection of premium wines, ensuring the perfect pairing for your palate. Sip on fine wines from renowned vineyards, each sip a reflection of the Caribbean's vibrant spirit. Discover new flavors, expand your wine knowledge, and savor unforgettable moments with every glass.

As the sun sets, get ready to groove to the infectious rhythms of Caribbean music. Feel the pulsating beats of reggae, soca, dancehall, and calypso, moving your body to the lively melodies. Live performances by talented musicians and performers will keep the energy high, ensuring a night of unforgettable entertainment.

Don't miss this opportunity to embrace the Caribbean spirit and celebrate the arrival of spring in style! Tickets are available on AllEvents, so secure your spot today. Join us at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival, where cultures collide and unforgettable memories are made.

LIVE PERFORMANCES By: CULTURE Feat. Kenyatta Hill, EXCO LEVI, IMAGE BAND, RAS LIDJ REGG'GO with Special Guest SUGAR BEAR FROM E.U. & MORE! & MORE!

MUSIC By: DJ ABLAZE, DJ SMALLY & NAJ SUPREME

2 NIGHT Camping packages available: RV/CAMPER $200 | TENTS $150 Starting on Friday May 17 @ 5pm | 30 RV SPACES | 30+ TENT SPACES

KIDS 12 & UNDER FREE!!!

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