Montgomery County executive Ike Leggett proposed a $60 million cut to this year’s operating budget in response to the county’s $120 million shortfall.
In his recommended savings plan sent to County Council President Hans Riemer, Leggett stresses the importance of closing the gap in fiscal 2018. He seeks to focus on long-term, rather than one-time solutions to the county’s financial difficulties.
He provides target reductions for county agency budgets, including a $25 million cut from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). This cut comes just after MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith proposed a 2.7 percent increase in the school system’s budget.
Leggett has directed county departments to cut their budgets by about two percent to address the unexpected shortfall. He also encouraged legislative and judicial branches to cut their budgets by the same amount.
Other major agency budget reductions include $4.3 million from the Department of Health and Human Services, $3.8 million from the police department and $2.6 million from the fire department. The savings plan also recommends a $13.5 million cut from the capital budget, which funds infrastructure improvements. This includes a $5.2 million cut from Montgomery College.
Leggett proposed smaller cuts to the Department of Transportation, Department of Liquor Control, court system, Board of Elections, corrections, libraries, and county executive staff.
Much of the $120 million gap comes from a significant decline in income tax revenue due to changes in taxpayer behavior. In November, the county received an income tax disbursement that was about $80 million lower than projected. Revenue shortfall from fiscal 2017 also contributed to the budget gap. The rest of the deficit is from lags in revenue from the fuel and energy and transfer and recordation taxes. These recent revenue shortfalls combined with increased spending over the past two budget cycles have created a difficult fiscal situation for the county.
The cuts bring Montgomery County’s total fiscal 2018 operating budget to about $5.4 billion. Additional cuts could be proposed in the future because the $60 million cut only satisfies half of the shortfall. If adequate cuts are not made, the shortfall must be addressed in the fiscal 2019 operating budget, which already faces a forecasted $86 million shortfall.
The County Council must approve of the savings plan for the proposed cuts to be implemented. Although the council has largely accepted Leggett’s proposals in the past, Leggett asked that the council identify alternative long-term savings if it does not approve of his recommended reductions.
The County Council will likely approve the savings plan by early February.
Article by Moco Student staff writer Anna Chen of Richard Montgomery High School