Montgomery Council proposes $37 million in additions to FY 2015 budget

It’s the season of reconciliation for the Montgomery County Council. And that doesn’t mean personal or political fence-mending.

Council members have identified additions to County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposed $4.8 billion operating budget for FY 2015, a “reconciliation list” that totals just over $37 million — the amount of tax dollars it would take to finance all the add-ons.

That’s unlikely to happen. What will take place instead over the next couple of days is a round of debate and horse-trading that will result in a balanced budget by Thursday, when the council is scheduled to take an unofficial “straw vote” on the spending plan effective July 1. Final action is set for May 22.

Some of the proposed additions are subtraction. Nearly a third of the $37 million represents the projected cost of reducing the county’s 2010 expansion of its fuel energy tax by 10 percent ($11 million) backed by council member Phil Andrews (D-Rockville-Gaithersburg) and other members. Leggett wants to continue the expanded tax.

Other major proposed additions are $3.5 million to help staff Montgomery College’s new Bioscience Education Center in Germantown; $1.4 million to increase staff, materials and hours for county libraries; and $3.7 million for tree, sidewalk and road maintenance. There are also a series of smaller proposed adds, including $127,000 for improving “management” of the deer population and $129,000 for two new corrections officers to increase perimeter security at the county jail in Clarksburg.

A series of small grants also are on the list: the Muslim Medical Center Dental Clinic on New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring ($125,000), a Rockville health clinic operated by Community Ministries ($71,000) and Proyecto Salud, a clinic that serves low-income populations in Wheaton and Olney ($50,000)

Some of these will be accommodated by making trims in other programs, or with the little pockets of cash that always seem to appear around budget time. One senior county official likens the process to pulling up couch cushions and collecting the loose change that’s accumulated in obscure corners of the county bureaucracy.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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