March 14, 1996
Good morning. Many of you might be wondering why I chose a library to unveil my fiscal year 1997 operating budget. It is because County services, like the operation of our public libraries, are among those that are most precious to our customers -- the taxpayers of Montgomery County.
Good schools, good public safety support, good libraries -- it's basic services like these that make this County such a great place to live and work. These facilities, these services, these hard-working public servants are the keys to the quality of life we enjoy in Montgomery County.
I have said since day one that while we can no longer afford to be all-things-to- all-people, we still must place a premium on doing the basics well. That's what public service is all about and I think that being here today reminds us of the importance of that mission.
This past January, I sent over to the County Council my recommended Capital Improvements Program for fiscal year 1997 through the year 2002. In that package, I introduced a program to step up plans for neighborhood improvements -- a program I referred to as "Renew Montgomery."
Today, my recommended operating budget continues that commitment to renewing Montgomery County.
If we're going to renew our neighborhoods, we must also retool, rethink and reorganize the daily services that will support those communities now . and in the future. This operating budget reflects those realities.
This budget reinforces my commitment to enhancing basic services without raising property taxes on our residents and businesses. And it strikes a healthy balance between putting a priority on funding our most critical needs... cutting costs... and not increasing the burden on our customers -- the taxpayers.
As with my first operating budget, this one was also difficult in that we had to close what was initially an $87 million gap between projected revenues and expenditures.
Despite this challenge, I believe we have managed to put forward today a budget which places the right emphasis on our funding priorities -- education, police and public libraries -- and maintains current levels of service for most other functions.
As with any budget, we had some very difficult cuts to make -- among them, the elimination of a net of more than 50 positions. The total tax-supported portion of the budget -- excluding grants and enterprise funds -- is up just 2 percent over the current year's approved budget.
Once again, the largest increase goes to the school system, which under my recommendation, would receive a 3.9 percent hike. At $852 million, the schools budget's overall share of the County budget would climb to more than 50 percent. And while this recommendation meets 99 percent of the Board of Education's request, we again must ask the school system to look for additional savings.
For Montgomery College, I have earmarked a 2.4 percent increase -- including full-year funding for the High Technology Center at Germantown, which is expected to open this fall.
While enrollment growth has been modest, we must help the college maintain its focus on providing higher education at an affordable price... and providing skilled workers to support our business community.
Our police budget -- at $102 million -- features the mid-year addition of 17 new police officers to support community policing redeployment efforts at three of our stations -- in Germantown, Wheaton-Glenmont, and Rockville.
In addition, I've budgeted for full-year funding of the redeployment plan we began this year at our Silver Spring and Bethesda stations. I've also included funding for 39 additional police cars.
Also this year, I am once again calling for funding of additional security measures for the Circuit Court.
For libraries and recreation, I'm proposing to continue my plan of rebuilding those services. Last year, we restored significant service hours to many of our public libraries, and this year, I am again recommending that we increase library hours at our small community libraries. As you may recall, libraries took some pretty big hits in past budgets and I want to restore those services as soon as fiscally possible. With the advent of computer and other information technology, public libraries serve as the gateway for many of our residents in obtaining these valuable resources.
Keeping with the Renew Montgomery project outlined in my Capital Budget, I 'm proposing major service expansions for storm drain maintenance, roadway patching, and shoulder maintenance for streets and rustic roads. These projects would be funded through State monies provided within increased Highway User Revenue. In addition, this funding will allow us to provide 15 additional snow plow routes, along with computer technology to improve our route design.
Within the newly reorganized Department of Environmental Protection, I'm requesting significant expansion of public outreach and education programs aimed at environmental matters -- namely, air and water, noise, energy, hazardous waste and composting.
We must also look to continue working on the protection of our streams. I've included funding in this budget to establish a county-wide stream protection strategy in coordination with the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission. This was something I identified as a priority in my State of the County speech.
This budget will also provide money to move responsibility for ensuring full environmental compliance of the incinerator from Solid Waste to the Department of Environmental Protection.
In the area of economic development, I'm recommending a major marketing and recruitment expansion to help keep us competitive in attracting new businesses and retaining the ones we have now.
Much of this expansion is contingent on Council approval of my previously- submitted reorganization of Economic Development with several other smaller agencies, as well as the increase in the Hotel/Motel tax.
Moving on to other highlights, I'm recommending enhancements in our domestic violence program and services for senior citizens within our Department of Health and Human Services.
Last year, we had two new and very successful community celebrations -- fireworks in Wheaton on the Fourth of July and our New Year's Eve celebration, First Night Montgomery County in Silver Spring.
Once again, I'm recommending to continue those events, and I am also asking for additional funding for fireworks in Germantown for an Independence Day celebration.
I believe that events such as those mentioned, help unite our communities and our families.
These are just a few of the major highlights. A more detailed list is included in your press packet.
Before I open it up for reporter's questions, I want to say thank you to Bob Kendal, the OMB director and his staff for all their hard work. We have met this year's challenge in submitting an operating budget that meets the needs of our citizens through responsible use of the resources we have available.
Let me add, however, that we are far from completing our task. We must continue to look for new ways of doing business; and new ways of providing quality services at an affordable cost.