Montgomery Update: “Recommended Fiscal Year 2025 Operating Budget Reflects County’s Priorities Without Raising Taxes”

County Executive Marc Elrich has released his weekly message to the community. This week’s update is titled “Recommended Fiscal Year 2025 Operating Budget Reflects County’s Priorities Without Raising Taxes” and can be seen in full below, followed by a video of the message.


“Dear Friends,

I presented my recommended County Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) Operating Budget to the County Council this week. In lieu of my weekly video, I wanted to share with you the video of our press conference from Thursday. I encourage you to watch and please share with your friends and neighbors.

Understanding our budget decisions and choices is important. Every County resident, business and stakeholder is impacted by the County’s budget in some way. That is why your thoughts, ideas and suggestions were so valued during our budget forums last fall, and we encourage your continued participation as the County Council reviews our recommendations.

This recommended $7.1 billion budget invests in our residents and communities, addresses the challenges we face and maintains fiscal discipline in a time of continued economic uncertainty.

The recommended budget is highlighted by record funding for education, affordable housing and economic development. My recommended budget does not propose any tax rate increases and includes a reserve balance of 11.6 percent, $106.1 million above the 10 percent reserve target.

Other highlights of the recommended FY25 Operating Budget include:

  • Funds 98.2 percent of the request of Montgomery County Public Schools at $3.3 billion
  • $132 million above State’s Maintenance of Effort requirements
  • Fully funds Montgomery College’s request
  • Record funding of $365 million for climate change and environmental initiatives
  • Record $169 million in funding for affordable housing, including $65 million in new funds
  • Significant investment of $27 million for economic development, a 17 percent increase
  • Provides 3 percent inflationary adjustments to all County nonprofit partners

A summary of the budget is available here.

Working within our current resources, my plan balances the needs of the community, economic forecasts and the growing cost of doing business. Looking to the future, we will need to have frank conversations about the structural imbalance that exists between the growing demands for County services and the revenue streams we currently have available.

Our County’s current resources, while increasing, cannot fully support the growing needs of the community and demand for services. Consequently, I am not able to recommend funding for all requests for service enhancements I have received from stakeholders, community groups and County departments.

To continue to thrive, we must be able to provide businesses with access to talented employees and good infrastructure; provide residents with access to quality education and employment opportunities, affordable housing, safe neighborhoods, and a transportation infrastructure system that works well; ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors remain housed and have access to services so they can live healthy and thriving lives; attract talent to County government to deliver the services residents demand most; and address climate change, which is a threat to our very existence. This budget addresses each of these challenges.

To access the entire recommended FY25 budget, click here. To watch the FY25 recommended budget presentation, click here.

$900,000 in Security Grants Awarded to 136 Nonprofit Organizations

The County Council and I this week announced $900,000 in grants were awarded to 136 nonprofit organizations who are risk of, or who have, experienced hate crimes.

The funding, through our Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, will be used to pay for measures such as security personnel, security planning, training or exercise measures or new security cameras.

This is the second consecutive budget in which we have made security grant funding a priority, with $800,000 awarded in FY23 and a total of $1.2 million in the current fiscal year. In the budget package I introduced for FY25, I am recommending another $1.2 million for security grants.

In January, there were 29 incidents reported including six over the course of two days targeting the Black and Jewish communities. In February, police looked into 42 reported incidents.

We can also tell the need for this kind of help is rising by looking at requests for police support from our faith community. With the onset of the war between Israel and Hamas, concerns over vandalism and potential violence rose considerably both in Montgomery County and across the globe.

We are doing all we can to respond to hateful acts and vandalism We also need to work to make sure that regardless of what happens abroad, we do not let it divide us here at home.We cannot allow hate to poison the diverse home we all share. We all deserve a safe and inclusive community.

The County provides classes, assessments and training specifically designed for nonprofit organizations at risk of hate crimes. Our Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEMHS) regularly offers training for local religious facilities. The next Securing Houses of Worship training will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3, in Bethesda. Registration is required and can be completed here. For more information on upcoming Securing Houses of Worship trainings, contact OEMHS via email.

The Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) also holds trainings for community groups available for “Civilian Response to Active Shooters (CRASE),” as well as assistance with security assessments and plans. For information on CRASE trainings or facility assessment assistance, contact the MCPD Community Engagement Division via email.

Governor Moore/Lt. Governor Miller Administration Visits County

I was proud to welcome Maryland Governor Wes Moore, Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller and their cabinet to Montgomery County last week. They held their Cabinet meeting at our beautiful Strathmore facility. After that, we had four different bus tours for Cabinet members to show them various highlights around our County, discussing public safety, economic development, housing and the environment. Here is a link that will show you photos from that visit.

 

I accompanied the Governor on a tour of the police department’s new “Drone as First Responder” program. The pilot program started in Silver Spring and recently expended in Wheaton. Next, we will be expanding the program to Germantown/Gaithersburg and Bethesda.

 

We also visited with members of Urban Search and Rescue Maryland Task Force 1. This group is a highly specialized team sponsored by the County’s Fire and Rescue Service whose services are often needed across the nation in the most desperate situations. They are one of just 28 Federally-funded Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces in the continental U.S.

Another bus took Lt. Governor Miller and the secretaries of Commerce, Transportation and State to the newly opened University of Maryland Institute for Health Computing (IHC) offices in North Bethesda that will help make Montgomery County the “Silicon Valley of health care computing.

The visitors were able to meet with University of Maryland leaders and learned about the IHC and how it will advance computing tools like artificial intelligence, machine learning and network medicine to improve the health and well-being of residents. The IHC has access to clinical trial data and de-identified electronic health records from 2 million patients in the University of Maryland Medical System.

It will be a place where innovation and business come together and will be an important part of our vibrant life sciences industry.

 

The Lt. Governor and cabinet secretaries also got to learn about our future Bus Rapid Transit plans on MD 355. They heard from the presidents of Montgomery College and the Universities of Shady Grove about their workforce development and training programs. They concluded their trip with a visit to GSK–one of the County’s largest life science employers.

This was a great opportunity to highlight to the Lt. Governor and cabinet members how Montgomery County is the epicenter of the third-largest life science cluster in the nation–and the potential for growth that this industry has for the State in terms of good paying jobs and incredible opportunities for business growth.

The environment and housing secretaries visited our innovative Brookville Bus Depot and Microgrid and stopped by the County’s largest affordable housing project under construction at Bushey Drive and Randolph Road. And the aging, juvenile services and social service secretaries visited our Mobile Crisis Team at the County’s Crisis Center with our HHS team.

Unfortunately, we did not have the time nor capacity to show the Governor’s cabinet more of what we are doing here in the County, but we look forward to them returning soon.

Honoring Outstanding Work by a Ride On Bus Operator

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore this week called Ride On bus operator Antonio Lucas to thank him for his heroic actions on March 1 in which he helped someone in need.

Mr. Lucas assisted a woman who had been reported missing. A call for help had been relayed through Montgomery County’s Ride On transit dispatch. From that description, Mr. Lucas identified the missing woman along his route.

The bus operator spotted the missing woman, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, walking into the street and knocking on car doors. Mr. Lucas stopped his bus and helped the woman get onboard. Because it was his lunch break, he took her to a nearby restaurant and contacted authorities.

He purchased a meal for her and waited with her until police arrived. His actions moved the woman out of the cold until she could be reunited with family.

I want to thank Mr. Lucas for the compassion he showed helping one of our neighbors and her family through a trying time. I also appreciate Gov. Moore’s recognition of Mr. Lucas’ actions. I hope this story spreads because good deeds and positive role models deserve this kind of attention.

University Bus Lanes Dedication

Dedicated bus lanes are now open and part of the commute along University Boulevard in Wheaton. The bus lane serves several Ride On and WMATA Metrobus lines. The plan is to monitor the lanes as a pilot program for 12 months while evaluating its effectiveness.

This project should help improve the daily commute for many of our regular bus riders, cutting down travel time significantly. That should help attract new riders to public transportation.

Dedicated bus lanes are part of a larger MCDOT initiative the Bus Priority Project. This initiative aligns with the County’s overall commitment to equitable, safe and eco-friendly transportation. The implementation of dedicated bus lanes is an effective strategy in reducing reliance on single-occupancy vehicle trips and increasing public transit use–part of our County’s Climate Action Plan.

Enticing more people to use public transit can make a significant impact in lowering greenhouse gas emissions caused by transportation. The latest available data show that the transportation sector accounts for 42 percent of the County’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The red bus lanes cover more than two miles of roadway in each direction, from Amherst Avenue to Dennis Avenue. They will help buses minimize traffic obstructions, providing faster and more reliable bus service along that congested corridor.

The University bus lane corridor serves three Ride On and two Metrobus lines. The C2 and C4 Metrobus lines carry about 9,300 riders each weekday, the second-highest ridership route in the Washington, D.C., region.

Apart from buses, these lanes will also allow for bikes and emergency vehicles. Additionally, the bus lanes will provide a buffer from high-speed traffic for people walking along the sidewalk on University Boulevard. Students from Northwood High School will benefit from the safer walking conditions.

An efficient and reliable public transportation system is key to accommodating a growing population in an environmentally sustainable manner. We are dedicated to making climate conscious choices more attractive and, of course, efficient for our residents. Explore our transit service options here and read the County’s Climate Action Plan here.

If you would like to get a look at how dedicated bus lanes improve the bus ride or watch the full press event, you can find those videos on youtube.com/@MCDOTNow.

Fourth Anniversary Since First Case of COVID-19



This month marks four years since the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Montgomery County–which were the first cases of the virus in Maryland. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Within a few days, schools and workplaces across the nation were closed. Our best defense from the virus at the time was social distancing.

It was the beginning of the worst pandemic in the last 100 years.

Two years later, in 2022, things looked much different. That year, we held a candlelight vigil at Marion Fryer Plaza in Wheaton to honor the nearly 2,000 Montgomery County residents who had been killed by COVID-19 to that point. You can watch that ceremony here. We had endured too much stress, worry and concern. The death of loved ones haunted us. So did the fact that we were not able to say goodbye the way we wanted too.

There had been too much isolation. Too much heartbreak. And yet, still there were reasons to avoid gathering indoors in large groups. Remaining safe, healthy and alive were top priorities.

We also took the opportunity that night to thank the first line of defense in the battle against COVID-19. I want to reiterate my appreciation for the nurses, doctors and medical community that worked countless hours and put their own safety at risk to save as many lives as possible.

We did better than most every other community in the nation. When a vaccine was developed, more than 90 percent of Montgomery County residents got one. And at one point, the death rate from COVID in the County was only one-third the national death rate from this virus.

 

We are in a very different place today. As we mentioned last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has consolidated guidance across COVID-19, flu, and RSV. You can see from the chart above that it has been more than a year since we have gone above 100 cases per 100,000 residents.

Although, we can now say we are clearly out of the woods, that does not mean COVID-19 is gone. We must still encourage vaccinations and boosters.

I have heard the term “vaccination fatigue” as an explanation for lagging vaccination rates. There’s no excuse for not staying up to date on the latest shots. The numbers show they are making an impact.

Since 2021, unvaccinated people account for almost all of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19. A study published last year for the National Library of Medicine looked at preventable COVID-19-associated deaths due to non-vaccination in the United States. It estimated at least 232,000 deaths could have been prevented nationwide among unvaccinated adults during the previous 15 months had they received just the initial series of shots.

In Montgomery County, we came together in ways that many other Counties in the nation were not able to do. We listened to the science, and it helped us save lives. The improvements we have seen over the last few years were only made possible by staying vaccinated. I think that is a point that is often overlooked.

Let’s continue to honor the vow to keep people safe. The pandemic highlighted the need for help in our community. While the pandemic Federal assistance is going away, we understand that there is still great need for things like food assistance. The pandemic helped us better identify racial disparities in health care coverage and now we are putting our operating expenses into addressing these problems.

I encourage everyone to stay up to date on their vaccines, stay home when they are sick and remain as vigilant now as we were then. Limiting the spread of COVID-19 moving forward decreases the chances of future variants. That helps protect the most vulnerable people in our community.

Lives are still at stake.

St. Patrick’s Day Enforcement on the Roads

I want to encourage everyone to be safe this St. Patrick’s Day, which is Sunday, March 17.

The Montgomery County Police Department and the County’s Department of Transportation are encouraging those who drink and need transportation to use theSoberRide program to get up to $15 dollars off a Lyft ride home from noon Sunday through midnight Monday. The offer is only good for a ride home and not to be used to go from bar to bar.

There will be increased traffic enforcement over the weekend as well. Many police agencies in the County will participate in the initiative including MCPD, Maryland State Police, police of the Maryland Transportation Authority, the County’s Sheriff’s Department, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission police.

Making our roads safer is daily priority. That means many things from improving road designs, educating people on the dangers of drinking and driving and enforcing traffic laws. Our commitment to Vision Zero includes reducing traffic collisions that lead to serious injuries and deaths to zero by 2030.

Tragedies on our roads are preventable. The likelihood of a life-altering accident increases when someone gets behind the wheel or gets into a car with someone who has been drinking. Please share that message and encourage your audience to plan their weekend to ensure a safe ride home. Here is a link to the Vision Zero webpage detailing how to make it home safely after drinking.

Finally, this is a very important month for Muslims who call Montgomery home and many more all over the world. It is a time for deep reflection and self-sacrifice. I wish all those participating Ramadan Mubarak.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

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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