As MoCo Operating budget deadline looms, a look at the county budgetary process

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SILVER SPRING, Md.– The Montgomery County Council is currently debating the fiscal year (FY) 2019 Operating Budget for the county.

The budget includes a total expenditure of $5.6 billion, with around $2.6 billion of that going to public schools.

The second largest portion of the budget is the $586 million going to public safety, including police and fire departments, prisons and rehabilitation centers, sheriffs and others.

The proposed budget was drafted and submitted by County Executive Isaiah Leggett and his office on January 15.

Meeting the needs of public schools was a priority in this budget, according to a representative for the County Office of the Budget.

The County Office of the Budget is an executive office that plays a major role in drafting the budget that is sent to the County Council.

The Montgomery County Council began public hearings for the budget on Tuesday, April 10, in which members of the City Council took input from a number of individuals and organizations.

[I’m] enthusiastic about continuing our investment in the schools,” said County Council President Hans Reimer, affirming the sentiment of the County Office of the Budget.

Reimer did, however, express his concern for the lack of ability the county has to “enhance services in other areas.”

In October, the County Council set its Spending Availability Guidelines– recommendations for budget expenditures based on projected revenue.

The current budget exceeds these guidelines according to a representative of the County Office of the Budget, meaning that the Council needs a larger majority to pass it.

“Revenues haven’t come in as much as [the county] has projected,” said Council President Reimer.

However, the budget runs no risk of running a deficit– the Council is required to find revenue sources for all of the expenditures placed in the budget.

The Council must take final action on the budget by June 1 and Reimer is confident in the Council’s ability to meet the deadline.

Work started on the FY 2019 Budget during summer of 2017, according to the County’s budget administration, with the budget director leading the project and taking input from the heads of various departments.

In a budget press conference on March 15, Leggett introduced the funds allocated towards affordable housing and described many of the ways in which Montgomery County has been successful this year.

Leggett mentioned Montgomery County’s ranking as the healthiest county in Maryland, the coming purple line and rapid transit bus system and Montgomery County’s placement on the short list for the new Amazon headquarters.

Leggett also spoke of the way that citizen input has been allowed to impact the budget, saying that he has hosted more town halls than all previous County Executives combined.

“We have worked hard to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table,” Leggett said at the press conference.

June 1 will see the final version passed, so stay tuned for a full analysis of content and implications.

 

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