$72.1M could be cut from county budget for pandemic impacts

Council supports cutting $72.1M from budget for pandemic impacts

County expected to lose $192M in tax revenue in current fiscal year

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Montgomery County departments might face $72.1 million in cuts as the County Council copes with the fiscal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The figure is $6.1 million more than County Executive Marc Elrich’s recommended $66 million in reductions in his savings plan.

The higher amount that the council supports is partly because of cuts to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, or M-NCPPC. Those cuts were not included in Elrich’s recommended savings plan since the planning board had not yet approved them.

Departments were asked to find savings of at least 6%. Agencies were asked to consider possible cuts, but not given a specific savings goal.

The council disagreed on an amendment proposed by Council Member Will Jawando to freeze 12 of the 23 active school resource officer positions – police officers assigned to schools — and reassign them to other areas and duties of the police department.

The council was split on Jawando’s amendment, voting 5-4 against it.

Council President Sidney Katz and Council Members Gabe Albornoz, Andrew Friedson, Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice were opposed. Council Vice President Tom Hucker and Council Members Evan Glass and Hans Riemer sided with Jawando.

The County Council supported $72.1 million in cuts to the budget through a straw vote on Tuesday. It is expected to have a final vote on July 28. Of the proposed cuts, $43.8 million is from the operated budget and $28.3 million is from the capital budget.

The operating budget cuts include $31.9 million to county government, $7.5 million to M-NCPPC and $4.4 million to Montgomery College.

Montgomery County Public Schools is expected to give the county government its savings plan after it decides its plans for the upcoming school year. On Tuesday, MCPS announced that it will not have in-person classes through the first semester.

County officials have previously announced that they expect tax revenue estimates to decrease by $192 million in the current fiscal year, which began on July 1. Estimates could continue to sink based on property tax revenue impacts expected to be known by mid-October.

Potential federal or state funding, as well as changes in expenses, were not taken into account for the estimates.

If another savings plan is needed, the council will reconsider additional cuts in the fall.

The council did not support all of the cuts Elrich recommended to the county government. It accepted $31.9 million in cuts, but rejected another $2.4 million in reductions.

Those rejected cuts included:
• $1.2 million to reduce the fire and rescue recruit class from 57 to 37
• about $643,000 for tree maintenance
• about $204,400 for the Housing Opportunities Commission
• about $121,900 for the African American Health Program

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.

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