Thursday, May 26, 2016

Council Passes "Education First" Budget

This year we set out to make a major course correction. We committed ourselves to the core goals of closing the educational achievement gap; reducing class sizes across the board; making decisions that are both achievable in the short term and sustainable over time; and ensuring that residents see results for any additional investments we ask them to make.
Two of the four goals relate directly to the classroom, and that’s why we created a historic partnership with the Board of Education to pass an “education first” budget.

With this budget, students and parents can look forward to more teachers, paraeducators, counselors and other student support positions, in addition to expanded programs to support achievement goals and enhance college and career readiness. What’s more, we will be able to construct school revitalizations and additions sooner than expected. Our schools are bursting at the seams, and this relief is long overdue.

While this is an “education first” budget, it isn’t an “education only” budget. As much as many people care about our outstanding school system, we know that others have different priorities. This budget is very much about those people as well.

This budget provides a much-needed boost to police and fire and rescue services as we will be adding more police officers and firefighters and giving them the equipment they need to continue to make this one the safest counties in America. This budget is about libraries, recreation, parks, the safety net, Montgomery College, and transportation programs that help get people around this county better.

This budget means that no matter where you live in the county, if you call an ambulance, you can count on a life-saving response time. Our police force will now be equipped with body cameras. Potholes will be filled, snow will be plowed, grass in parks and on playing fields will be mowed and trees will get planted in the right-of-way. While our unemployment rate has fallen steadily over the past couple of years, our newly privatized program for economic development promises an even better job market in the future. We are going to help new businesses in their early stages and hope they will remain here once they become successful. We are going to aggressively seek to get established businesses to relocate here and we are going to fight to keep the great businesses of all sizes that already call Montgomery County home. Our avid readers and researchers will appreciate the interim Wheaton Library and extended hours at several branches. And students will have better access to after-school enrichment programs.

I want to be clear that this year’s decisions represent more than a one-year budget. They represent a plan for the future. For the first time in eight years, we opted to raise the property tax over the Charter limit. That wasn’t an easy decision, but I am optimistic that we’ve set up a structure that is responsive to our community’s needs and is sustainable over time.

See my full comments on the approved budget or read the press release for all the details.

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