ROCKVILLE -- County Executive Ike Leggett has asked all departments to cut their current operating budgets by 2 percent to prepare for current and anticipated shortfalls.
The county is facing a $21.4 million shortfall based just on the county’s most recent round of income tax distributions from the state, according to a memo from Chief Administrative Officer Tim Firestine. This is coupled with the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision in Comptroller v. Wynne, which will require the county to pay back taxes and reduce future revenue to the tune of almost $100 million over the next two fiscal years, according to Firestine.
“It is clear from our past experience with savings plans, that the earlier these plans are implemented, the less painful they may be. I am asking all County Government departments to identify realistic and practicable reductions of 2% to their FY2016 approved budget,” Firestine wrote. “Additionally, the Executive has directed that the vast majority of new programs and positions approved in the FY2016 Operating Budget be included in the proposed savings plan.”
Firestine also said they are asking outside agencies, including Montgomery County Public Schools – about half of the county operating budget – to find savings. Firestine said he also plans to reduce some expenditures from the capital budget.
Leggett will present his recommendations to the council by July 7, according to Council Administrator Steve Farber. Council committees are scheduled to consider the recommendations starting July 13.
“The deadline is pretty tight for both sides of the street if we’re going to be able to act by July 28,” Farber said.
Council President George Leventhal (D-At large) said he was concerned the executive wanted to target new initiatives for the savings and that he did not want to automatically eliminate everything the council just worked on to add to the fiscal 2016 budget.
Office of Management and Budget Director Jennifer Hughes also said many of the tools the county usually can use to save money are not available because they were used in past years. She said the office is also looking at ways to use current revenues to bolster the budget, something they have not done as much in the past.
“(Leggett) had gone to every well, many of which are not available to us anymore, and that makes meeting the gap that is shown for FY17 that much more difficult,” Hughes said.
She also said the shortfall will not just be in the short term.
“This is not a problem we expect to be going away in (fiscal years) 16, 17 or frankly 18,” Hughes said.
Leggett has also said repeatedly he plans to raise property taxes in fiscal 2017, although he was able to keep them steady in fiscal 2016.
Farber said the most recent savings plan was in December 2010, when the council approved a $32 million reduction.