County Council gives preliminary approval to next year’s $6.3 billion budget

Following numerous department-by-department meetings to discuss Montgomery County’s budget for the next fiscal year, county board members gave their preliminary support Thursday to the budget that was submitted by County Executive Marc Elrich.

The proposed budget does not include a tax increase.

The board will vote on the operating budget for fiscal year 2023 and the capital improvement program for fiscal year 2023-2028 on May 26.

Each item in the $6.3 billion budget “tells an important story,” Council Chairman Gabe Albornoz said. “Together, they are creating the foundation for what is most important to us: a community with excellent schools, housing for all our residents, strong economic development, green spaces for recreation and relaxation, safe neighborhoods , strong libraries, a community with a healthy public where seniors can age with grace and support, a healthy environment and a safety net that provides food, shelter and health for our vulnerable residents.

The county has more money to work with from federal and state economic stimulus programs due to the pandemic.

Albornoz said the budget places “strong emphasis” on helping vulnerable populations. It includes more than $421 million for the Department of Health and Human Services.

However, Shepherd’s Table Executive Director Manny Hidalgo has emailed supporters urging them to write to county council members asking for increased funding for the Silver Spring organization which feeds and helps the needy of many. other ways.

“We unfortunately failed to convince the Council to approve our request,” Hidalgo wrote in the email. He explained that Shepherd’s Table has seen a 59% increase in demand for meals and social services since 2020.

The proposed budget includes $1 million for a new Office of Food System Resilience and $4 million in one-time funding to support food insecurity. The budget also includes $12 million for minority health initiatives to continue to provide culturally appropriate services and resources.

More than $5.6 million will be allocated to Consolidated Service Centers across the county.

Nearly $3 billion is proposed for schools, and Montgomery College will be fully funded at $312 million, ensuring tuition will not be increased.

Mental health services are set to receive a $3.7 million increase, part of which will fund case management services at 10 high schools that currently do not have a wellness center. An additional $5.5 million is allocated to expand mental health issues through the Street Outreach Network and other community providers.

The proposed budget includes increases for first responders. A portion of this amount will be used for recruitment and retention. About $436,000 will go to the new Police Accountability Board and Administrative Charging Committee to investigate police misconduct and build trust between residents and law enforcement.

Climate change has played an important role in budget discussions. The budget of the Department of Environmental Protection is proposed to increase by 116%. Affordable housing programs are also getting a boost.

Council Vice-Chairman Evan Glass called the budget “an exercise in fiscal discipline”, adding: “It’s a budget that really benefits all of our residents.” He stressed that it includes “an all-time high in education funding”, noting, “This investment is a signal to students and parents that education is a child’s path to success, and it also sets us on a path to enacting the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future in the years to come.”

Glass said: “My priority throughout this budget process has been to ensure that the most vulnerable are safe, healthy and housed.” He specifically highlighted programs for the homeless or those at risk of homelessness, Vision Zero and the policy allowing Ride On buses to remain free for passengers. He also praised the funding of a DC diaper bank and the expansion of community policing.

“In summary, this budget does a lot of good. But there’s still a lot of work ahead of us to make Montgomery County a more just and equitable place. That conversation will continue, but for now, I believe this budget moves us in that direction, is fiscally sustainable, and prioritizes vulnerable communities. We should all be proud.

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