Even these days, $3.3 billion buys a lot of programs and projects, and just how much becomes apparent in Montgomery County's fiscal 2005 operating budget -- a record-setting budget to match a six-year, $2.2 billion capital improvements program.
The full sweep of Montgomery government emerges from highlights of the budget, passed last week by the County Council. From schools, health and the arts to transportation and parks and recreation, the county provides what other jurisdictions might consider luxury items. In Montgomery, though, many residents, businesses and organizations see these items as part of standard government services.
The council voted 8 to 1 to raise energy and amusement taxes to help fund the budget. The move will offset a 1-cent property tax decrease for homeowners and raise nearly $41 million in the fiscal year starting July 1.
"I think there's a strong understanding of priorities in Montgomery County, in that you get what you pay for," said council President Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large).
Among the budget appropriations not previously reported:
* Continued class-size reduction initiatives in reading and math in the early primary grades.
* Funding for 250 more children in pre-kindergarten programs and increased funding, by $100,000, for tutoring at-risk students.
* Full approval of Montgomery College's $150 million operating budget request.
* $575,000 more for an expanded Call 'N Ride program for low-income elderly and disabled residents.
* $250,000 more for improved traffic signaling on county roads.
* "Freewheeling Days" that will provide free Ride-On bus service on 15 routes that travel Montgomery's most congested areas.
* Restoration of full funding for a gang prosecutor in the state's attorney's office.
* A part-time librarian position at the county correctional facility.
* An additional $100,000 for mental health services for children victimized by domestic violence.
* $350,000 to start an Asian American health program and to bolster health outreach programs to African American and Latino residents.
* Another $265,000 for in-home aide, chore and respite services for senior citizens.
* $2.2 million to purchase 115,000 more so-called "Rolling Toters" -- wheeled carts for mixed-use recycling by residents.
* $1.5 million restored for park maintenance and operations.
* Approval of funding to build the Germantown Indoor Swim Center, to complete in the coming year the Damascus Community Recreation Center and to expand future recreation centers in White Oak, Bethesda and North Potomac to add more space for senior programs there.
* Continued hours of operation at county nature centers.
* $140,000 for CASA of Maryland's employment and training center.
* $100,000 more for small business grants and loans in designated revitalization areas.
* $325,000 in operating support for the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre.
* $350,000 grant to the Baltimore Symphony.
* $52,000 for preservation and renovation of the Smithville School Museum in Colesville and $15,000 for rehabilitation of the Button Farm in Seneca State Park, two historic African American sites.
-- Susan Levine