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County considers adding to its budget

countysealThe Montgomery County Council is considering adding $21.6 million to the budget, as the Council will finalize its reconciliation budget by Monday.

The $21.6 million in additional funds is what the Council Committee determined was necessary to add to the County Executive’s budget after weeks of meetings – a tradition for the County’s legislative body as it makes additions and cuts to its proposed budget.

Montgomery County Council Executive Director Marlene Michaelson recommended that the Council make some cuts to the proposed $21.6 million-list of additions to the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, cautioning the Council about the need for fiscal prudence after a decline in projected tax revenue.

“Obviously we’ll be encouraging the Council to try not to add more as you go through your review in the next five days and in fact whether there are some reductions that you may want to identify so that we have a slightly smaller reconciliation list,” Michaelson said.

Next week the Council will pass its reconciliation budget – a list of additional spending items the Council believes needs to be added to the budget – before it makes its final decision on the budget in late May.

In addition, the Council Committee recommended fewer cuts to the County Executive’s original budget – $1.6 million for this year – than the traditional recommendation, which is usually around $8 million, according to Council legislative analyst Jacob Sesker.

“So, at the moment, we are even below our lowest mark,” said Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large), about the committee’s lack of proposed cuts to the budget.

Sesker gave a brief overview of the cuts usually recommended by the committee during budget season, noting that there were few cuts the Council committees recommended this year in contrast to previous years.

“The $1.6-million figure this year is significantly lower than where it is almost every year as well as lower than it was in the most-recent low year, which was FY 15,” Sesker said.

Some of the items on the reconciliation list the Council is considering are $1,000,000 for pay increases for Montgomery College employees, $250,000 for fixing aging parks, and $6.7 in additional funding for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services, mostly to restore fire stations in Hyattsville, Germantown, and Hillandale.

The additions to the budget come after the County’s current budget suffered a $120 million shortfall due to misprojections in the County’s income tax revenue. County finance officials blamed the false projection on a change – a reduction in federal taxes – which led the County’s high-income earners to wait to file their income tax returns.

The shortfall caused the Council to cut $53.4 million from the current budget, including $25 million in cuts from Montgomery County Public Schools’ budget.

@neal_earley

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