Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Thoughts on the FY12 Budget

Today, we reached an agreement on a $4.4 billion total operating budget for FY12. We will formalize this decision next Thursday, and the budget will take effect July 1.

There is no question that many of the cost-saving measures in this budget are difficult, but they are absolutely necessary to ensure our long-term fiscal health. I want to emphasize that this is an act of responsible government.

It is unfortunate that some have characterized this budget as being anti-education. In fact, MCPS will receive an increase in its total budget this year. That’s a clear statement of this Council’s commitment to our world-class education system. Our commitment has not changed and never will. What has changed is the economy.

Like everyone in Montgomery County, we have had to make tough decisions in the face of dramatically reduced resources. And our decision, as always, was to make education our top priority. I have every confidence in the Board of Education’s ability to implement this budget in a way that does not affect classrooms. I know our children will continue to get the top-notch education our residents have come to expect.

What is really worth noting about this budget is that this Council took bold and responsible steps toward addressing our structural deficit and adhering to our six-year fiscal plan, which we implemented at my urging last year. It means that we will be leaner for the foreseeable future, and I am entirely optimistic about Montgomery County’s future thanks in part to the wisdom reflected in this very disciplined budget.

As chair of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, I applaud the Council for its forethought in restoring funds to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. When so many important programs are on the chopping block, planning doesn’t look very sexy. That is, until you look at what it means for us in the long term.

After years of dramatic cuts to planning, now we can ensure that important master plans, including White Flint II and the East County Science Center, can move forward. We must lay the groundwork now with proper planning for the intense economic development that is targeted for these areas. Only with economic development can we increase our tax base and pay for the programs we value in the future.

Like last year, this budget isn’t cause for celebration since it will have real and personal impacts on residents and employees, but I believe it is responsible because it considers our future as well as our present.

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