County Council Reaches Preliminary Agreement on FY22 Operating Budget
The Montgomery County council agreed to a preliminary budget for the next fiscal year. Below are the highlights from the County’s press release:
-$25 million increase to the Working Families Income Supplement
-The Council funded a budget of nearly $283 million for the Montgomery County Police Department. This is less than a one percent increase from last year’s budget. The police budget eliminates 27 sworn positions including five School Resource Officer positions designated for MCPS middle schools, six traffic complaint officers, five patrol investigations officers and the Centralized Auto Theft Unit, among others. The police budget also includes two new Internal Affairs Division positions to help expedite internal investigations. The Police budget includes $570,390 to enhance the Electronic Control Weapons Program, which will replace outdated Tasers for police officers.
-More than half of the County’s tax supported budget, $2.78 billion, funds Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS).
-The Council funded the Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice (ORESJ) at $1,001,712, which is an increase of 72.3 percent from the FY21 approved budget. This increase is primarily due to an increase in staffing. The budget funds six full-time positions for the ORESJ in FY22, which will provide four new staffers.
-The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to keep the County’s effective property tax rate flat and continue to provide a property tax credit of $692 for homeowners.
Per Montgomery County:
ROCKVILLE, Md., May 20, 2021—The Montgomery County Council today reached a preliminary agreement on the County’s $6 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Operating Budget, the FY22 Capital Budget and the $4.317 billion Amended FY21-26 Capital Improvements Program (CIP). The Council’s focus throughout their budget deliberations this year was on the County’s recovery and providing relief and direct assistance to residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We needed this budget to build a Montgomery County that is stronger, healthier, more prosperous, more equitable and more sustainable than the one we have today, and that’s exactly what we did,” Council President Tom Hucker said. “The $6 billion operating budget doesn’t just give us a roadmap through the next few months of the pandemic. It sets us up for long-term recovery and revitalization that awaits beyond the pandemic.”
Council President Tom Hucker, Vice President Gabe Albornoz and Councilmembers Andrew Friedson, Evan Glass, Will Jawando, Sidney Katz, Nancy Navarro, Craig Rice and Hans Riemer unanimously supported the preliminary agreement on the operating budget and capital budget. Council President Tom Hucker’s full budget comments can be viewed here.
The FY22 Operating Budget includes assistance for businesses, residents and students. Some highlights include: providing a $25 million increase to the Working Families Income Supplement for a total of $45 million to provide direct support to the County’s hardest working and neediest residents; allocating nearly $13.5 million to support residents through the County’s nonprofit partners; increasing support for senior and youth recreational programming; extending the Ride On fare holiday through September and the Seniors Ride Free Program for all hours of operation. The budget also provides $24 million for rental assistance, more than $700,000 to support tenants who are facing eviction and need help understanding their rights as well as a nearly $500,000 increase to rapid re-housing.
The budget includes essential funding for public health and human services that were critical lifelines during the pandemic such as $3.6 million for the eight Service Consolidation Hubs that have been providing food, diapers and other critical goods and connecting those in needs with other County services. More than $230,000 was added to the budget for the Care for Kids program and over $228,000 to the Montgomery Cares program which provides healthcare to the uninsured. The budget also includes an increase of $1.6 million for the Office of Community Partnerships to expand outreach activities and establish a permanent translations unit.
The budget continues Montgomery County’s strong and steadfast commitment to education. The County ranks near the top of all Maryland jurisdictions for total per pupil funding for Montgomery County Public Schools, and in FY22 $2.78 billion, or more than half of the County’s tax-supported budget, is allocated to the school system. The budget also fully funds Montgomery College at $312.6 million and provides resources to maintain the tuition rates with no increases.
The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to keep the County’s effective property tax rate flat and continue to provide a property tax credit of $692 for homeowners.
The budget also funds the FY22 County’s reserve at 9.6 percent of adjusted governmental revenues and provides $92.1 million in additional resources for Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB). Funding for these fiscal obligation helps the County retain its triple-A bond rating.
A final Council vote on the FY22 Operating Budget and amendments to the FY21-26 CIP is scheduled for Thursday, May 27. The budgets will go into effect on July 1.
CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act Funding
Montgomery County, like other local jurisdictions, received significant federal and state support to respond to the pandemic, which the Council approved to provide direct assistance to its residents. Most notably, the Council allocated $183.3 million from the CARES Act through FY21 to support businesses and residents. The County will receive another $204.1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
The funding that flows from ARPA provides flexibility for the County to meet community needs including support for families, small businesses, essential workers and residents who have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. Nonprofit and community partners are essential to this work.
A significant portion of ARPA funds are needed to offset County revenue losses due to the pandemic and has enabled critical government services for residents to continue uninterrupted.
As part of the FY22 budget process, the Council developed a list (referred to as “Category 1”) for potential ARPA funding as well as a separate list (referred to as “Category 2”) of items that the Council may consider funding if additional resources become available during the year. The Council will be formalizing a process for reviewing these lists immediately following the budget vote on May 27 and will review ARPA funding this summer.
Inclusion on either of these lists does not mean that these programs, services or items will be funded in FY22 or in future years. Moreover, consideration for future funding through ARPA or another source is not limited to the programs, services or items on either list. Also funding amounts on these lists may change.
The County also anticipates receiving ARPA funding for targeted areas including Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College and Transit Services separate from the existing ARPA allocation and these items will also be reviewed by the Council this summer.
Below are some of the key funding areas in the budget.
Montgomery County Public Schools
More than half of the County’s tax supported budget, $2.78 billion, funds Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). This amount funds MCPS at $40.4 million above the Maintenance of Effort level, which is mandated by the State of Maryland. This represents an increase of $24.2 million and includes a local contribution of more than $1.75 billion. The County continues to rank near the top of all Maryland jurisdictions for total per pupil funding.
The Council approved more than $822.2 million in federal and state aid for MCPS, which is approximately $23.9 million more than last year due to increases in The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future funding, Hold Harmless Grants and a Supplemental Instruction/Tutoring grant.
MCPS is also expected to receive a total of $422 million in COVID-19 relief funding. The Education and Culture Committee will hold a future meeting with a detailed briefing on the utilization of this relief funding.
The Council fully funded a total of $312.6 million for Montgomery College, which is a decrease of $5.7 million or 1.8 percent from last year’s budget. This includes a local contribution of more than $145.6 million.
The County’s contribution increased by $500,000 over the required Maintenance of Effort Level from FY21 to support two County-led initiatives–Montgomery Can Code and the Innovation Hub Initiative. Each project is expected to receive $250,000. Both efforts work toward advancing innovation and early access to STEM disciplines. The College budget includes no increase in tuition rates or fees paid by students for FY22.
The Council also approved more than $52.2 million in federal and state aid for Montgomery College and it’s expected to receive approximately $45 million in COVID-19 relief funding.
The Council funded a budget of nearly $283 million for the Montgomery County Police Department. This is less than a one percent increase from last year’s budget. The police budget eliminates 27 sworn positions including five School Resource Officer positions designated for MCPS middle schools, six traffic complaint officers, five patrol investigations officers and the Centralized Auto Theft Unit, among others. The police budget also includes two new Internal Affairs Division positions to help expedite internal investigations. The Police budget includes $570,390 to enhance the Electronic Control Weapons Program, which will replace outdated Tasers for police officers.
In the Sheriff’s Office, the total budget is $26.4 million, which is an increase of $857,607 from last year’s budget. The Council restored $17,789 to maximize the availability of less lethal force options.
The budget for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) is $72.9 million. This is an increase of $1.8 million over the FY21 Approved Budget. The budget continues year two of a three-year initiative to retrofit cell vents, bunks and doors to reduce opportunities for self-harm. The budget also institutes a Medication Assisted Treatment Program for opioid disorders for inmates within DOCR in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Fire and Rescue Services’ operating budget is $232.7 million. This is an increase of $7.7 million or 3.4 percent from last year. The budget includes $155,000 to support Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) supply costs, its Stryker Power Cot and Load Systems contract and apparatus maintenance and repairs similar to how MCFRS supports other Local Fire and Rescue Departments. The Council also added $191,509 for a new paramedic chase car to enhance EMS delivery.
The Council added $700,000 in the Emergency Management and Homeland Security budget for nonprofit security grants for faith-based and ethnic organizations.
The Council approved more than $78.3 million for twelve unique business assistance programs throughout the pandemic. The Council also approved $3 million for the County’s Incubator Programs NDA and nearly $5 million for the County’s business incentive programs.
The Council supported Visit Montgomery’s $1.6 million budget. Visit Montgomery promotes the County’s hotel and tourism industry, which has been deeply impacted by the pandemic.
The Council approved a $1.2 million appropriation for the KID Museum to expand its operations in the County. The KID Museum is a learning space that provides hands-on learning that incorporates STEM, art and culture with skills like creativity and critical thinking. This funding will directly aid KID Museum, in partnership with MCPS, to address pandemic-related learning loss.
The Council continued its support of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation’s (MCEDC), the County’s lead economic development organization, efforts with a $5 million appropriation in FY22. MCEDC was integral in partnering with the County on certain business relief programs during the pandemic, and it is well-positioned to facilitate and market the County’s economic recovery in the coming year.
The Council supported WorkSource Montgomery, the County’s lead workforce development organization, with a $1.4 million appropriation in FY22, including $185,000 for stipends to MCPS students participating in the Summer R.I.S.E. Program. WorkSource is partnering with the County, the State, and our local businesses and nonprofits to connects residents with jobs during the economic recovery.
The Council also supported about $1 million for the Office of Agriculture, including an additional $25,000 support for the MARBIDCO cost share program. This program provides small grants for farmer projects in the County.
The Council funded the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) budget at more than $228.6 million. The budget extends the Ride On fare holiday through September 2021. Funding is also provided to bring Ride On back to its pre-COVID service level, but on a more gradual schedule.
DOT’s budget also extends the Seniors Ride Free Program to all hours of operation starting in July. Funding for the Safe Routes to School Program is also doubled to $200,000 in the FY22 CIP and $150,000 in the FY22 Operating Budget.
The budget also implements parking fee increases in Bethesda and Wheaton and enforcement hours in Silver Spring and Wheaton but delayed the effective date until January 2022.
Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice
The Council funded the Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice (ORESJ) at $1,001,712, which is an increase of 72.3 percent from the FY21 approved budget. This increase is primarily due to an increase in staffing. The budget funds six full-time positions for the ORESJ in FY22, which will provide four new staffers.
The additional staffing will support ORESJ in meeting the requirements of the County’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, which was authored by Councilmember Navarro and enacted by the full Council, by enhancing the capacity to train departmental staff and assist with examining policies, processes, procedures and budgetary decisions to address racial and social justice disparities for County residents.
Children, Youth and Families
The Council funded the budget for Children, Youth and Families at $94.8 million. The Council continues its commitment to helping children, families and individuals thrive. The budget includes nearly $11 million in funding, which is an increase of $5 million, to support the Montgomery County Early Care and Education Initiative (ECEI), which was spearheaded by Councilmember Nancy Navarro and is supported by the County Executive and Council, to expand quality early care and education opportunities for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The ECEI is focused on expanding the number of quality ECE seats in a mixed delivery system, ensuring the sustainability of family and center-based programs, increasing resources to providers and families, identifying existing unused or underutilized classrooms in high need areas, increasing utilization of local child care subsidies, and supporting recovery work during the COVID pandemic. As the initiative moves into year three, there is a focus on reducing costs for early educators, increasing quality programming and subsidizing the costs of childcare for families.
Health and Human Services
The Council funded more than $363 million for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The department has been at the center of the County’s COVID-19 response. While much of the cost of testing and vaccinations has been funded by federal grants and reimbursements, the Council funded several increases that continue changes which have taken place, such as the Service Consolidation Hubs and an additional $3 million to provide increased year-round emergency shelter capacity and provides the ability to socially distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses.
The Council recognized the extraordinary work of the County’s non-profit organizations and approved additional funding so that eligible contracts can be increased by three percent. The Council added more than $970,000 to the budget to fully meet the request for the supplemental funding to organizations that serve and care for residents with developmental disabilities and increased funding for the supplement to adult medical day care providers.
The Council also funded $1.14 million to open a wellness center at the newly constructed Seneca Valley High School, which will be ready to open at the beginning of the next school year. The pandemic has disproportionately affected lower-income and diverse communities and widened existing disparities in access to health care access and basic needs.
The Council also provided $750,000 to continue the delivery of therapeutic recreation services that the Council added in FY21 and $806,673 to continue the delivery of expanded mental health services for MCPS students that were also added in FY21.
The Council supported the new funding included in the Executive’s recommended budget to continue to increase the capacity of mobile crisis response and alternatives to a police response to a person having a behavioral health crisis. The six new position in the FY22 budget when combined with the six positions funded by the Council as a FY21 special appropriation will create six new Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOTs) to bring service directly to the community.
The budget also adds $250,000 to the County’s Dental Program to provide targeted school-based services and establishes a community “homeless court docket” to resolve certain misdemeanors outside the traditional court system.
Community Grants and Working Families Income Supplement
The Council funded the Community Grants NDA and Capital Grants as part of the capital budget within the Cost Sharing: MCG Project. The Community Grants non-departmental account includes nonprofit contracts totaling $711,000 to be moved to a County department’s base budget and renewals of $9.6 million nonprofit community grants contracts for FY22. In coordination with the Montgomery County State Delegation, the Council matched State funding for capital projects to nonprofit organizations that were awarded Maryland State bond bills prior to FY22.
Multi-year funding was restored from FY21 to support the Public Arts Trust to not only commission community-based public art installations but to also repair and maintain the County’s current public art collection. The Council also maintained funding for arts capital grants that were approved in FY21 to arts and humanities venues for capital projects that would allow safe reopening of venues within the coming year.
The Council allocated more than $89 million in capital and operating funds to support the production and preservation of affordable housing through the Housing Initiative Fund (HIF). This is a $20.5 million increase from the amount available and held in the designated reserve for FY22. The Housing Initiative Fund provides funds to finance the production, acquisition and preservation of affordable housing and rental assistance programs for low-income households and for households moving from homelessness to permanent housing. The Council increased the funding that provides assistance with home ownership from $2 million to $3 million, noting that this increase is accommodated by the additional $2.9 million from the designated reserve.
The Council approved the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund as a part of the original FY21-26 CIP. The fund would be primarily used for short-term and intermediate financing to purchase and preserve affordable housing. The source of funds is the Recordation Tax Premium for capital projects. There is no County debt associated with this proposal. The funds would be reserved for projects in partnership with the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).
The Council funded total expenditures of $46.47 million for the Department of Recreation. This is a slight decrease from last year’s approved budget. The budget adds $250,000 in funding for senior services to increase recreation programs, classes, events and clubs at six senior centers and senior trip services. The Council also added $520,000 to restore funding proposed for reduction to support three to four additional Summer Fun Centers and enhanced programming for all recreation summer camps.
The Council supported the $3.5 million operating budget for the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) General Fund. DEP will initiate a County-wide anti-litter campaign. Based on a pilot in White Oak, the goal of the outreach effort is to reduce material and debris entering the County’s sewers and waterways. Funding is also provided to add a new position to enhance enforcement of the laws and regulations the Department of Environmental Protection is tasked with enforcing, such as the bans on polystyrene, single-use plastic straws, and the bag tax.
The Council funded $134.1 million for the Recycling and Resource Management portion of the DEP budget. This is a $2.6 million or two percent increase from last year’s approved budget. Funding allows for an improved partnership with the Bethesda Urban District, the Silver Spring Urban District and the Silver Spring Regional Services Center to address the lack of recycling bins in the downtown areas in Silver Spring. DEP will also initiate the curbside pickup of electronics for recycling in the northern part of the County in FY22 through new recycling contracts.
The Council also funded $29.5 million for the Water Quality Protection Fund (WQPF). The WQPF covers County costs associated with water quality and the inspection, maintenance and rehabilitation of stormwater management facilities. Watershed grants and the Rainscapes Program were each increased by $100,000.
The Council also added $650,000 in funding for the Climate Change Planning non-departmental account (NDA). This NDA was started in FY20 and provides funding for the prioritization of greenhouse gas reduction strategies and the development of an implementation plan to meet the County’s goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2027 and a 100 percent reduction by 2035. With the Climate Action Plan work nearly concluded, the focus now will be implementation of the high priority recommendations and follow-up review and study of specific issues.
Park and Planning
The Council funded $152.9 million for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), including debt service. This is nearly a six percent increase from last year’s approved budget. Included in this amount is a project manager position in the Parks Department to assist with facility assessments in Equity Opportunity Areas and funding for maintenance and infrastructure upgrades necessary to meet the County’s greenhouse gas emissions target. The Planning Department received funding to support the creation of an Innovative Housing Toolkit and a Redlining Mapping Tool, as well as funding for a Wheaton Downtown Revitalization Study. The Council also approved several amendments to the M-NCPPC FY21-26 CIP including: a $2.5 million appropriation for Mid-County Park Benefit Payments to cover developer contributions; a change in funding source for the Ballfields Initiatives project; appropriations necessary to accommodate state aid for capital projects throughout the County and a $10 million grant for the Power Line Trail project.
The Council funded $42.7 million for the Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) FY22 Operating Budget. MCPL continues to play a critical and central role in the economic recovery of the County. The FY22 budget to operate the 21 library branches in the County remains intact, with a focus on the safe reopening of in-person browsing and book borrowing.
Funding was restored by the Council for the 21st Century Library Enhancements Level of Effort to expand the rollout of the Open Plus Pilot project, which will allow access to public areas of the library after hours at additional library branches. The results of the Open Plus Pilot at Maggie Nightingale Library in Poolesville, which is scheduled to be implemented by the end of FY21, will guide the project rollout.
Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission
The Montgomery and Prince George’s County Councils held their bi-county meeting and reached a budget agreement for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC). The Council approved an FY22 operating budget of $852.1 million, which is a $2.4 million increase from the FY21 Approved Operating Budget. This includes a proposed 5.9 percent increase in the volumetric rate and no change in the system development charge, account maintenance fees or the infrastructure investment fee. All new bi-county spending plans are effective starting July 1, 2021.
The Council funded salary and benefit increases for employees represented by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the Municipal and County Government Employees’ Organization (MCGEO) and non-represented County government employees. The Council also funded increases in the Agreement with the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.
Amended FY21-26 Capital Improvements Program
The County’s FY21-26 CIP as amended is $4.317 billion. In a year with constrained resources, the Council adjusted revenues based on anticipated state aid and information from Montgomery County Public Schools. Keeping school projects on track is a top priority for the Council and County residents.
The Council took action to address school capacity issues. Some of the school projects include: funding for a new school to replace the old JoAnn Leleck Elementary School to address capacity and equity issues; providing additional funding for the reopening of the Woodward High School addition and facility improvements for Northwood High School; funding the renovation of Highland View Elementary; and accelerating funding for a major renovation at Stonegate Elementary School that will advance the completion date to Sept. 2023 instead of Jan. 2025. In addition, the Council accelerated the completion of William Tyler Page Elementary School and Woodlin Elementary School to Sept. 2023. The Council also supported requests from the Montgomery County Board of Education to increase funding for heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements, roof replacements and the Planned Life-cycle Asset Replacement Program.
Some of the transportation projects include: funding to keep the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel on the schedule agreed to by the Council last year; $4.5 million for the design of the Veirs Mill Road Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project and $6 million for the design of the first segment on Maryland Route 355; $12 million for the construction of the interim transit service project from the Great Seneca Science Corridor to the Shady Grove Metro Station; and accelerated funding for the North Bethesda Transitway. Funding was also provided to purchase 45 electric buses between FY22 and FY24.
The Council also supported the County Executive’s recommended CIP amendment of $20.4 million to upgrade and expand the County’s Material Recovery Facility (Recycling Center).