County Executive Ike Leggett Credit: Bethesda Beat file photo

This story has been updated after the first budget forum was rescheduled on Jan. 8.

Updated – 9:15 a.m., Jan. 8 – Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett will begin rolling out early plans for his proposed 2019 fiscal operating budget in January.

The first of five public forums was scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8, at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, but was later rescheduled for Tuesday Feb. 6.

Leggett will hear residents’ comments as he begins hashing out the $5 billion-plus county operating budget at the forums.

Leggett will be planning the next budget, which will cover county spending from July 1 to June 30, 2019, during a time when financial forecasts predict county revenue will decline.

Leggett is already formulating a savings plan to slash $120 million from the current budget and has called for 2 percent cuts at county departments this year. County finance officials have said declining income tax revenue is the primary reason for the shortfall.

Tim Firestine, the county’s chief administrative officer, also has asked most departments to identify 3 percent cuts for the fiscal 2019 budget.

The County Council last raised property taxes significantly—8.7 percent—in 2016. After that, voters overwhelmingly approved term limits. Since then, council members have publicly opposed any plans to raise taxes again or create new sources of revenue.

Three term-limited council members—Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal—are running for county executive in 2018. Any property tax increase over the rate of inflation requires a unanimous vote by all nine council members.

Leggett’s budget proposal could be affected by the new federal tax cuts. County finance officials in December said they did not yet know how the tax code changes would affect county revenue. The council is scheduled to receive an update in mid-January on the tax cuts’ local impact.

The budget forums hosted by Leggett provide an opportunity for residents to pitch the county executive on local programs and services they’d like to see receive county funds.

Before the Bethesda forum, Leggett is scheduled to hold the following public meetings to take additional budget input. All will start at 7 p.m.

  • Jan. 24 at the Mid-County Community Center (2004 Queensguard Road, Silver Spring)
  • Jan. 29 at the BlackRock Center for the Arts (12901 Town Commons Drive, Germantown)
  • Jan. 30 at the Silver Spring Civic Building (1 Veterans Place, Silver Spring)
  • Jan. 31 at the Eastern Montgomery Regional Services Center (3300 Briggs Chaney Road, Silver Spring).