January 16, 2014

FY 15 Operating Budget Public Forums Kick Off in Germantown

County Executive Ike Leggett kicked off the series of  Fiscal Year 2015 Operating Budget Public Forums at BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown before an audience of approximately 50 residents. This was the first of five such forums scheduled in the coming weeks.

The public forums give residents the opportunity to provide input for the budget to the executive and budget analysts. Leggett called input from residents “crucial in helping me determine the County’s budget priorities.” Several dozen forums have been held since he initiated them on a regular basis when he was elected seven years ago.

County government spending increased more than 40 percent in the four years before Leggett took office. One of his first priorities was to put the County’s fiscal house back in order. He said the County is in “a much better position than we have been the past few years, and I see brighter days and a more sustainable budget ahead. Revenue projections are up, and our budget projections will include an 8.1 percent cash reserve, the highest in the County’s history.”

However, he cautioned that there are still challenges and “we have to be careful not to get into an unsustainable budget period.”

Questions/discussions covered the following topics:
  • Increased maintenance for the libraries’ grounds. “We’re trying to get back to a more robust maintenance schedule.” ;
  • Additional support and staff for the regional services centers and directors. The Executive agreed for the need and commented on "the good work of the centers and directors.”;
  • The feasibility of re-financing the County’s debt to help lower the total amount “We could wind up paying more. There’s no easy way around it. I’m not sure we can do much better.”;
  • Concern for the overcrowded conditions in public schools and would there be a request in the MCPS operating budget for spending above the Maintenance of Effort. “I am not ready to recommend spending above the MOE. That is a decision made each year based on circumstances.”
  • Restoring funding for programs to help parents keep older children with disabilities at home. “Part of the problem comes from the state and federal levels and the County can only do so much. But, we can do more.” Leggett added that parents can “fight with us at the state level to get more funds.”;
  • Vision of the County regarding aging, disabled individuals with aging caregivers. “Services [for situations like this] have been affected by state and federal cuts but I want to try to start restoring some of the cutbacks.”;
  • Concern that Germantown Reproductive Services was issued a license to do business with no inspection and that an inspection was performed only after the death of a patient. [It was determined that the inspection was to be performed by the state.]; and
  • The African Women’s Council requested help in finding their own place/office from which to conduct business. The Executive encouraged them to apply for grants available through his office and the County Council.

Leggett concluded the forum by summarizing his goals for the coming FY 2015 Operating Budget:
  1. Ensure sustainability;
  2. Maintain a same-service budget that contains stable revenues and addresses challenges; and
  3. Build on that with realistic increases. 

See schedule for remaining budget forums.

View the Forum presentation (pdf).