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Montgomery County’s Leggett takes first stab at a $120 million budget shortfall

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). (Jeffrey MacMillan)

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett on Tuesday sent the County Council a proposed savings plan to address a budget shortfall of $120 million.

The plan recommends nearly $28 million in cuts from county government and $25 million from Montgomery County Public Schools. The county's annual operating budget is about $5.5 billion.

The plan "keeps as many programs and services as possible without doing any kind of permanent harm," said Leggett (D). "That was the initial strategy."

The county's Department of Finance estimates that revenue for the current fiscal year is on track to be $95 million lower than expected, driven primarily by a decrease in expected income-tax revenue. The county is also shouldering the burden of a $25 million budget shortfall from last fiscal year.

Leggett's plan identifies savings for roughly $60 million from this year's operating budget. From the county budget, that includes more than $4 million from the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly $3 million in cuts from transit services and $2.6 million from the Fire and Rescue Service, among other departments.

The proposal would also draw $5 million from Montgomery College and $2.6 million from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The council expects to approve a savings plan by the end of January. Next year's budget will be adopted in May.

Council member Nancy Navarro (D-Mid-County), who chairs the council's Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, said she was particularly concerned about the proposal's cuts to the Health and Human Services budget. Leggett's memo listed 44 areas with varying cuts, the largest of which concerned lapsed personnel positions and information-technology contracts.

"We're talking about a population that does not have the means, and obviously they're the most vulnerable," Navarro said.

Council President Hans Riemer (D-At Large) noted that he has worked on three savings plans since taking office in 2010.

"This is a periodic experience," he said. "This is part of government."