For anyone who has ever taken a look at Montgomery County’s budget—or a tax bill—and wondered: “Where does all the money go?” or “What were they thinking?” Thursday is a chance to get your questions answered.
The Montgomery County Council will host a forum on the next county operating budget at 7:30 p.m. in the third floor council hearing room of the Stella B. Werner County Council Building, at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville.
Can’t make it to the forum? It will be carried live by County Cable Montgomery (Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and streamed on the county website at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov.
The 90-minute-long forum will include a presentation on the challenges county officials face and time for questions and comments.
“The past few years have been [as] economically challenging for the county as they have been for individuals, families, and businesses all across the country,” Council President Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac said in a council news release. “The upcoming year’s operating budget looks like it will be no less difficult.”
County departments are already working on the budget for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) will propose the budget in March. The council must adopt the budget by June 1.
Among the challenges facing the council are changes to the state’s maintenance of effort school funding law, which requires per-pupil spending to remain the same or increase from one fiscal year to the next. The General Assembly also voted, during a three-day special session in May, to shift some of the cost of teacher pensions to the counties.
The pension shift and funding law change mean slight variations in state aid for schools, in county tax revenues and in student enrollment could have significant, long-term impacts on the county budget, the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight concluded in an analysis presented to the council last month.
“It is essential for the council to understand how legislative changes at the state level will impact the county's operating budget in fiscal year 2014 and how these changes will impact the county's ability to fund government services over time,” Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring, who chairs the council's Education Committee, said in the release. "This budget forum is an opportunity for the council to share information with community organizations throughout the county and to discuss how state budget decisions impact services at the local level."