2022 | Government

County Council considering spending more to cover increased costs for partner nonprofits

Additional funding would go to groups that help with food security, housing, mental health services

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County Council President Gabe Albornoz said Monday that the council is considering providing more funding in the budget for the next fiscal year to pay for increased costs charged by nonprofits and other organizations that partner with the county.

During a news briefing with reporters, Albornoz said County Council members are nearing the end of the annual budget process, and that committee work should conclude around the end of this week.

In March, County Executive Marc Elrich presented a $6.3 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2023. Council Members have been reviewing the proposal since then as a full body and in separate committees.

Albornoz said Monday that council members have placed more than $49 million in proposed spending on their reconciliation list for consideration before a final vote. Included is money that would be used to account for rising costs for contracts that the county has with various nonprofits and community-based organizations, he said. 

Chief Administrative Officer Rich Madaleno wrote in a text message that Elrich already has proposed a 6% increase in funding to those organizations, or $5.7 million. Albornoz said in an interview that council members are deciding whether to add $3.4 million to that, split into two equal allocations, as part of the budget process.

The nonprofits and organizations complete work for county government related to food security assistance, mental health service programming, housing and other social service areas, Albornoz said.

“These organizations are such important and key partners in the county being able to carry out the programs and services that our residents count on,” Albornoz said. 

The organizations — because of inflation, supply chain issues, and the struggle to recruit and retain personnel, among other challenges — have seen their costs rise to levels higher than initially anticipated and that was budgeted for, he added.

Council looking to replace $20 million after voting against drawing from retiree trust fund

County Council members are also trying to figure out where to find $20 million in proposed revenue that Elrich had included in his budget proposal after they unanimously voted to remove the funds last month.

The $20 million would have come from the county’s Other-Post Employment Benefits retiree trust fund. Elrich and his staff had proposed to use the money to pay current-year retiree health costs, but County Council staff were concerned about adopting that change and the impact it would have on the county’s fiscal policy.

Council members sided with their staff members, unanimously voting against withdrawing the $20 million from the trust fund. The action — along with other decisions on the budget — doesn’t become official until the council holds its final vote on the budget, expected around the end of May. 

Albonoz said Monday that council members were still figuring out how to replace the $20 million in the budget, but added it likely would come from several sources.

Better revenue projections due to assistance from federal and state lawmakers will help, he added. 

“It’s safe to say it will be spread out, because it’s hard to find $20 million in any one specific line item,” Albornoz said about how the council will backfill the money. “But we are looking to see what we can do.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com