Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Thoughts on the Tentative Budget Agreement

Today we reached a tentative unanimous agreement on the FY14 budget. Overall, this is a good budget that maintains fiscal responsibility while beginning to restore some of the cuts we had to make over the past four years of the economic downturn. Particularly gratifying is the increase in funding for some very important human services. We will cast our final, formal votes next Thursday.

This budget includes some long overdue pay increases for our employees who have been sacrificing for several years now. It is only because of their sacrifices that we are in a position today to try to get them back on track, and it is important to put the pay increases in context with everything else that has happened in the last four years.

Employees did not get any raises—no COLAs for four years and no step increases for three years. What’s worse, employee pay actually went down because of furloughs one year and increases in employee contributions to health and retirement benefits for the next two years.

Our employees really have been great throughout the recession, and I’m glad that we finally are able to provide some measure of increased compensation this year. It certainly is overdue and well deserved.

I’m also very pleased that we made economic development and job creation high priorities in this budget. We fully funded the Montgomery Business Development Corporation, which is providing us an invaluable business perspective on growing our local economy. We also added new positions in the Department of Economic Development so that the department can pursue new and innovative job development programs. While it is true we are still operating under constrained circumstances, I think these are responsible decisions to invest in our long-term growth. Only through job creation will our residents and our county as a whole be able to achieve the future we envision.

Also with an eye to helping families and businesses thrive, we decreased the proposed energy tax. While I wish we could eliminate the energy tax increase from FY11 entirely, I’m glad we at least were able to reduce it by 10 percent. Times remain tough for many of our residents and businesses, so any relief we can provide will help.

Last but not least, this budget restores funding for stump removal, which I know will make many residents happy. This program has been on hold for years, and we finally will be able to start addressing the backlog of stumps in county rights-of-way.

I want to thank our Council President, Nancy Navarro, for her leadership throughout the budget process. There were a lot of moving parts this year, and she did a great job managing it all.

For more details on the budget, click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Surprised that the County MCPD press release on the recent pedestrian death in Wheaton was not more forthcoming with the fact that the Beltsville-resident, Mary Jo Fish was a long-time fixture at this intersection. She like many other souls panhandle at our busy and dangerous intersections. She was on the median, but many are also in the roadway these days.