The Montgomery County Council yesterday approved a $730 million operating budget for fiscal 1982 that restores many of the cuts proposed by County Executive Charles Gilchrist but will still result in a reduction in county services and the elimination of nearly 600 jobs.
Schools, road repair, libraries and health and social agencies would all be affected under the budget package the seven-member council passed with little opposition in a series of votes in the afternoon.
Gilchrist, who is empowered to veto individual line items within 10 days, had proposed a budget $3 million lower. Spending at that level, he said, would allow property tax rates to remain the same.
But Council President Ruth Spector maintained that the council's more costly program could be financed with no tax rate increase or only a "minimal" one.Now set at a base rate of $2.34 per $100 of assessed value, next year's rate will be determined in another council vote late next month.
Even if the tax rate does remain constant, however, about two-thirds of the county's homeowners will get higher tax bills anyway next year because of higher assessments. The remaining one-third that have not yet been reassessed under Maryland's triennial assessment system would get the same bill as this year if the tax rate remains the same.
Spector said that for the third consecutive year, the council's budget increased at a rate less than inflation. She expressed confidence that a "reasonable level of essential government services" could be maintained under it.
Council member Scott Fosler said that in recent years property tax bills had actually declined when adjusted for inflation. The council's budget would allow that trend to continue, he said.
About half the budget -- $334 million -- was devoted to county schools. Cutting about 1 percent from the school board's original request, the council approved a budget that, according to school spokesman Ken Muir, will result in the elimination of over 400 school jobs. In addition 175 jobs will be eliminated in other county departments.
Council Member Scott Fosler has argued that although staff and real spending may be curtailed, services available per student actually have risen because of a rapidly declining enrollment.
At the same time, the council's plan restored some 38 teaching positions that Gilchrist had wanted to eliminate. County employes, meanwhile, would get an 11.2 percent cost-of-living and merit raise under the council's package.
The transportation department would lose 37 full-time positions and roads would be repaired on a seven-year cycle instead of the current five years. The council also followed Gilchrist's lead in holding back replacement funds for the county's "Ride-On" bus system.
The health department staff would be reduced by seven positions. The Social Services Department would lose 10 positions, many of them because of the closure of the Takoma Park Day Care Center.
The police department, meanwhile, was one of the few county agencies to be authorized to increase manpower. The council's plan would add 14 officers to the force's current authorization of 775, reflecting apprehensions about crime rates in the affluent Maryland suburb.
Noting that the county library system has the country's second highest per capita circulation of books, the council added $440,000 dollars to the executive's proposed $9.6 million library budget.
This addition would make unnecessary some of the reductions in library hours that Gilchrist had proposed, the council said, and would hold staffing to current levels at most libraries.
Edward Rovner, one of Gilchrist's special assistants, said Gilchrist would withhold comment on the council's budget pending detailed study of it. Vetoes of individual line items must be submitted to the council within 10 days. They can be overridden by a vote of five of the council's seven members.