The energy levy was supposed to expire last year. The County Council voted to extend the tax, although it reduced the increase by 10 percent.
The budget, a 4.1 percent increase from the current fiscal year, continues a gradual restoration that Leggett began in 2012 as the economy began to recover from a recession that ravaged local governments across the Washington region. In Montgomery, the loss of tax revenue triggered more than $2 billion in budget shortfalls between fiscal years 2008 and 2012, forcing furloughs, elimination of 1,200 county jobs and cuts in everything from road repairs to recreational facilities.
This year’s budget gap, about $136 million, would be closed with a combination of sources, including higher-than-projected income tax revenue, increased state aid and lower-than-estimated debt service costs.
In a budget message delivered Friday to County Council President Nancy Navarro (D-Mid-County), Leggett said that painful decisions made in the lean years have positioned the county to recover.
“Our balanced approach to addressing these difficulties has helped bring us out of the worst of this economic crisis,” Leggett said.
Of the 128 positions created by the budget, 104 would be for police and fire personnel. The plan would add 40 new officers and would double from six to 12 the number of “school resource officers” for school security. Montgomery Fire and Rescue Service would see a 5.9 percent increase to 25 new positions.
The library system, which took some of the deepest cuts during the economic downturn, would get a boost. Branches in Poolesville and Long Branch would see hours added or restored. The new funding also would pay for two staff members at the newly renovated Gaithersburg and Olney branches, where hours also will be expanded. Systemwide, library hours would be increased by nearly 10 percent.
Leggett is recommending growth in programs for seniors and at-risk youth. He said he wants to expand Excel Beyond the Bell, an after-school academic program for middle schools, and proposes restoring Senior Mini Trips, a transportation program.
The budget goes to the council, where members have expressed surprise over the size of the pay packages that Leggett negotiated with the county’s police, fire and general employee unions, which call for increases of from 13.5 percent to 19.5 percent during the next two years. They will cost an estimated $31.6 million in fiscal 2014 and $73.7 million in fiscal year 2015.