May 24, 2024

Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich


Dear Friends,

This week, I announced Assistant Chief Marc Yamada as my nominee to be the next Montgomery County Police Department Chief of Police. The news was met with positive reactions for this potentially history-making appointment.

If confirmed by the County Council, Assistant Chief Yamada would serve as the first Japanese-American to lead MCPD.

Marc understands that the foundation of a successful department resides in maintaining and expanding the trust of the people within and outside of MCPD.  

He knows that effective policing requires building strong relationships with community members, listening to their concerns and working together to find solutions.  

His leadership style is collaborative and inclusive, which is why I felt comfortable stopping our search for a new police chief without expanding it to a national search. 

With a changing national climate toward policing, our senior department leaders have endured a lot over the last five years, and seeing their responses to our challenges gave me confidence that I could find someone within the department to take over. 

Marc will not have to learn about Montgomery County because he has lived here his whole life. Here is a video of Marc, as Fourth District Commander, presenting donations on behalf of police to a cancer care kit organization called “Kits to Heart.” There is also a link to this week’s announcement on the County’s YouTube page. If you would like to learn more about his history within MCPD, follow this link.

The nomination goes to the County Council for confirmation. It will interview him on June 11. I am optimistic that the process will move expeditiously and that there will be a smooth transition as Chief Marcus Jones's tenure comes to an end on June 30.

Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Approved by County Council 

The County Council this week approved the Fiscal Year 2025 Operating Budget and Fiscal Year 2025-30 Capital Improvements Program.

I want to thank the Montgomery County Council for their work and for approving 99.5 percent of my recommended budget.

Our budget process was informed by residents and community groups, many of whom participated in our 10 public discussions over the last year on the budget.

The $7.1 billion operating budget includes additional funding for a variety of important initiatives including expanding our successful drone program in the police department, sustaining and expanding our mobile crisis teams, workforce training at the correctional facility supporting the Great Seneca Transit network and support for tenants.

  • Record funding for education
    • $3.3 billion for MCPS, $157 million above last year.
    • Second highest increase in funding for MCPS
    • Funds 99.2 percent of MCPS Board of Education’s budget request
    • Fully funds the negotiated compensation agreements for teachers and other MCPS employees to retain and recruit outstanding educators and other essential school staff
    • Fully funds Montgomery College’s request
    • $45.7 million in funding for school health services in the Department of Health and Human Services
    • $Almost $20million for the Early Care and Education Initiative (ECEI)
  • Enhances Public Safety:
    • Expands MCPD’s successful “Drone as First Responder” program to Germantown/Gaithersburg and Bethesda and extends hours of established programs in Silver Spring and Wheaton
    • Invests in expanding police recruiting and retention efforts
    • Funds two additional Mobile Crisis Teams – for a total of seven teams
    • Funds year-round operation of the Pre-Release Center, which is a national model
  • Invests in Transportation:
    • Funds for the launch of the Great Seneca Transit Network that will provide frequent transit service and improve mobility and access to jobs in Rockville, Gaithersburg and Shady Grove areas.
    • Provides funding for repairs and accessibility improvements for bus stops and bus shelters
    • Adds funds for residential road resurfacing.
    • Additional funding to help us achieve our Vision Zero goal, including an increase to the Safe Routes to School program
    • Provides funding to implement Veirs Mill Road Bus Rapid Transit with service to launch in FY27.
    • Provides funding to implement MD 355 Bus Rapid Transit Central phase, with service to launch in FY29.
  • Provides record funding to combat climate change including:
    • $364 million in total to fight climate change through transit, increased renewable energy, improved building efficiency, and nature-based solutions
    • $19.1 million for the Montgomery County Green Bank – an increase of almost $500,000 over FY24 budget
    • Adds $8 million in new spending to further the County’s efforts to fight climate change
    • Adds funds to support climate change solutions in the transportation sector, clean energy efforts, and zero waste efforts
    • Adds $40 million in new capital funding to enhance energy conservation in County-owned facilities and to support implementation of the new Building Energy Performance Standards
  • Allocates record funding to produce, preserve, and protect affordable housing supply:
    • $169.4 million to expand the preservation and production of affordable housing to our most economically burdened residents
    • $56.2 million in the Housing Initiative Fund
    • $22.9 million for the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) to continue providing rental assistance and supportive services to help the County’s most vulnerable residents
    • $113.2 million in CIP budget
    • $65 million in new capital funding for the Affordable Housing Acquisition and Preservation project
  • Supports growing Montgomery County’s Economy:
    • $26.2 million to support growing the County’s economy, an increase of 13.1 percent from the FY24 Approved Operating Budget
    • Funding for “BioHub Maryland at Montgomery County” to train our workforce at a state-of-the-art multifunctional facility equipped with cutting-edge industrial bioprocessing equipment
    • New capital investments to refresh our existing incubators into innovation centers
    • $2.3 million to WorkSource Montgomery – a 12.9 percent increase over the prior fiscal year that includes support for the Summer RISE youth program and programming at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility to support successful reentry opportunities
  • Improves government services by investing in employees and programs while maintaining over 10 percent in reserves:
    • Preserves vital services for County residents without any tax increases
    • Includes reserve balance of 10.8 percent or $707.1 million in FY25.
    • Recognizes work of nonprofit partners with a 3 percent inflationary adjustment to these organizations who receive funds from the County
    • Funds to modernize and foster transparency and equity in our classification and compensation structures
    • Eliminates 60 positions and repurposes 40 positions, the vast majority of which have been vacant for longer than one year
  • Ensures equity, resources, and services for all:
    • All decisions in the FY25 recommended budget were reviewed and analyzed by the Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice
    • Over $17 million to address food insecurity – including $3 million in HHS and $14.2 million in the Office of Food Systems Resilience
    • Funds expansion of Excel Beyond the Bell to two new sites: Eastern and Benjamin Banneker Middle Schools
    • $2.9 million to increase homeless shelter capacity and provide overflow sheltering in the winter months
I want to thank everyone who participated in this budget process. I received numerous letters and emails and held meetings with community members regarding service needs. The feedback from these conversations has been invaluable and informed my funding recommendations for FY25. I also want to acknowledge the incredible work of our community partners.

County Government cannot reach everyone who needs assistance. Through our partnerships with nonprofit organizations and faith communities, we are able to connect more deeply with our residents and deliver much-needed services.

As County Executive and as a former at-large Councilmember, I am very mindful of the difficult nature of budget decisions. We will always have more worthy programs and practices than we can fund.

Last year, the Council directed the school system to use $33 million in one-time Federal dollars for ongoing needs instead of increasing the tax designated for education. This decision has made it even more challenging to balance the budget without raising taxes.

During this budget season, the school system faced an unexpected increase in health care costs. My staff and I recommended a solution that would not have cut services, raised taxes, or touched the reserves.

The solution was to reduce the amount of funds going into the Combined Retiree Health Benefits Trust (CRHBT) and instead use them to pay current health care costs of current retirees. (This trust fund is often referred to as the "OPEB" fund. OPEB stands for Other Post Employment Benefits.). Each year, the budget includes contributions to the trust fund, which is designated for paying future medical bills for future retirees.

Currently, the CRHBT is extremely well-funded with $800 million, and its balance is growing due to our prudent investment practices. This is not the fund that pays current retiree health care costs. The CRHBT funds may sit for 15-20 years, accruing value.

I would rather use the funds to meet current serious needs in our schools rather than setting aside those dollars in a fund that is sufficiently funded. Meeting our school needs now is an investment in the future. Furthermore, this action does not affect the County’s ability to pay the future health care costs of future retirees.

Additionally, transferring a portion of the CRHBT contribution to pay current retiree costs has been an ongoing practice supported by this and previous Councils. In fact, on May 10, the Council approved transferring the amount of funding by $10 million for FY24 CRHBT contributions to pay current retirees’ health care costs. Similarly, a transfer of the FY25 contribution could also be approved.

I did not include this transfer in my recommended budget because I did not learn of the schools’ shortfall in time do so. However, my staff and I immediately began conversations with Councilmembers and staff to suggest redirecting those funds, which were available in the budget that I sent over.

I am hoping that as the next budget cycle begins, Council leadership will collaborate with my administration on tax structure reform to increase revenues, boost our economy, and create jobs.

Montgomery County has the lowest commercial tax rate in the region. If we modernize our tax system and adopt a differentiated property tax method similar to Northern Virginia’s approach, we can raise more revenue from the commercial sector while still maintaining a competitive rate. This approach would fund critical transportation projects and meet other needs without increasing the burden on our residents. It would also remove transportation projects from our capital budget, freeing up funds for school construction and renovation and other community needs.

Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to work with the state legislature to achieve progressivity in our income tax rate and better target our property tax rates. Unfortunately, the Council declined to collaborate on these goals. Moving forward, we must work together to create a fairer and more progressive tax system.

I believe a transparent process leads to better outcomes because we work with the public as we make difficult choices. I look forward to working with the Council and the public to improve our budget process, ensuring that critically important needs are funded in a timely manner. Together, we can make our tax system more equitable and improve public confidence in our decision-making.

The budget process is incredibly important to the residents and businesses of Montgomery County. It shapes how we provide essential services, support our schools, and build a thriving economy. I want to express my deep appreciation to the County employees and County Council staff who worked tirelessly on the FY25 budget. Their dedication and hard work ensure that we continue to serve our community effectively.

Montgomery County is a remarkable place, home to one of the most diverse populations in the world. We have an outstanding education system, great economic opportunities, and a community culture rooted in compassion, inclusion, and support for those most in need.

As we move forward, let’s continue to work together to make our county even stronger, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to succeed and thrive.

Economic Development Mission to South Korea and China

It’s good to be back stateside after spending the last two weeks in South Korea and China.

Similar to our previous trips to Taiwan, India and Vietnam, we received a warm reception and a lot of interest from businesses and academic institutions in establishing a relationship.

In South Korea, there was serious interest from bio and life science companies. We were recruiting business prospects at the BIO Korea conference and in separate meetings in Osong and Daejeon. 

We signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the CEO of Rapigen, a Korea diagnostics company with an office at the County’s Rockville Innovation Center.  

The MOU covers Rapigen’s pending expansion to lab and more office space in the Germantown Innovation Center. It also covers a commitment to manufacture the diagnostic tests it is working on getting through the FDA process while in Germantown. I also signed a partnership renewal agreement strengthening cultural and economic ties with our Sister City, Daejeon. The emphasis on expanding economic ties met both our and their objectives. 

Daejeon became a sister city in 2017 during a visit from then-County Executive Ike Leggett and a Montgomery County delegation. Our County followed up last year by sending Chief Administrative Officer Rich Madaleno and then-County Council President Evan Glass to the Global Innopolis Forum to advance economic prosperity and global partnership.

In China, we met with companies in the bio and manufacturing space.  There is an interest in setting up some manufacturing here and I emphasized the proximity of Baltimore, the port and the rail lines, as a real advantage that we have over other places in the country.  That was of interest to several of the companies we sell to.  We spend a lot of time promoting our strengths in the life sciences, but our transportation assets also have value.

We traveled to three cities in China—Xi’an, Shanghai and Shenzhen.  In the first two, we renewed partnership agreements with an emphasis on trade, as well as cultural and academic exchange. Xi’an is also one of our sister cities. In Shanghai, we signed a MOU with ShareonHealth, which focuses on supporting family- and community health-related innovation activities in Montgomery County and Shanghai.  

As we continue to follow up with the people and companies we met overseas, I look forward to updating you on the potential deals that are forthcoming from this trip.  

Awards Highlight Recycling Awareness Week

Every week it is important to recognize the importance of reducing waste, reusing and recycling in Montgomery County. On May 22, the County’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) presented awards to recognizing special efforts in recycling.

This week marked the 25th anniversary of Montgomery County’s Achievement Recognition ceremonies. This event brought together community members, businesses and government to honor those who have made exceptional contributions to waste reduction, reuse and recycling. 

This year's ceremony, led by DEP Director Jon Monger, showcased the community's achievements in moving toward a zero-waste future. 

We have compiled a list and information about each of this year’s winners on the DEP website. Each winner has a unique story highlighting the impact of recycling. These include businesses implementing comprehensive waste management systems and individuals leading grassroots recycling campaigns, such as young award recipients from Grace Episcopal Day School (Riley Merriott, Taylor Conley), Pass with Purpose (Sydney Mednik, Ashley Mednik) and Ball Back (Kent Zhang). All are pictured above at the awards ceremony. By sharing these achievements, Montgomery County hopes to inspire greater recycling achievement in the years to come. 

Recycling is more than just a process. It is a vital part of sustainability. It helps reduce the amount of waste sent to disposal facilities, conserves natural resources, saves energy and decreases greenhouse gas emissions. You may be interested in the Save as You Throw feasibility assessment and implementation plan that was completed for the County last summer. 

Montgomery County has been a leader in innovative recycling programs and continues to expand initiatives. Through the Montgomery County Shady Grove Transfer Station and Recycling Center, residents are able to dispose of the basics: mixed paper, bottles, cans and containers, scrap metal items and yard trim. Now they can also recycle mattresses, more types of electronics and durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs for refurbishing and reuse. We are proud to share the following results from these efforts from the last year alone:  
For information on recycling at home or work or on getting your business into our food scrap recycling program, visit the Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling page.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month

In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, Montgomery County Public Libraries will partner with the American Jewish Committee to host a special talk by Michael Sokolove at the Connie Morella Library in Bethesda at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 30.

The author of Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town and the Magic of Theater will talk about his career and how his Jewish background influences his writing and the subjects he chooses to tackle. Mr. Sokolove has worked with celebrities like LeBron James and Darryl Strawberry to bring another one of his books to life in a new television series. He has also written on a wide range of subjects for the New York Times.

Mr. Sokolove is one of many artists we hope you discover or celebrate. Jewish American Heritage Month highlights the history, culture, accomplishments and diversity of the American Jewish community. More than 100,000 Jewish Americans call Montgomery County home.

By celebrating heritage months, we learn about one another, we honor the richness of our diverse nation and we strengthen the fabric of American society.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive