Montgomery Council to hear from public on proposed budget -- Gazette.Net


This story was corrected at 12:45 p.m. on April 8, 2013. An explanation follows the story.

Montgomery County will hold five public hearings starting Tuesday on its fiscal 2014 budget.

The public hearings will be held April 9, 10 and 11 at 7 p.m. and on April 10 and 11 at 1:30 p.m. in the council’s hearing room at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville.

Because the number of speakers will be limited, the county is asking those who want to give testimony to call 240-777-7803 and sign up to testify. The deadline to sign up for 1:30 p.m. hearings is 5 p.m. the day before the hearing. The sign-up deadline for 7:30 p.m. hearings is 10 a.m. the day of the hearing.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has proposed a $4.8 billion budget that increases county government spending 3.9 percent while holding education funding to state mandated levels.

His budget continues his pledge to gradually restore deep cuts to public safety and libraries, and pays for those restorations through increased income tax revenue, increased property taxes and continuing current energy tax rates. It also provides raises for county employees for the first time in three years.

Leggett has proposed to increase property taxes to the charter limit or an increase of about $80 per year on the average monthly tax bill. At his proposed rate, property taxes should generate $1.5 billion for the county in fiscal 2014.

Income tax revenue is expected to generate $1.2 billion and the energy tax is expected to bring $222.3 million into the budget, according to county revenue assumptions.

In May 2010, at the executive’s recommendation, the county council raised the energy-tax rate by 85 percent, or an estimated $13 per month for the average residential customer. Those increases were to sunset June 30, 2012, but the council continued in fiscal 2013 all but 10 percent of the hike.

Leggett’s proposal would keep energy tax rates at 90 percent of the 2010 increase.

Through a combination of cost of living adjustments and step increases, Leggett has proposed union contracts that would give police eligible for both a raise of about 7.35 percent next year, firefighters eligible for both a raise of 9.75 percent and general employees eligible for both a raise of 6.75. Only employees eligible for a step increase would receive one. Eligible police and fire and rescue employees would also receive retroactive step increases.

The County Council will hold work sessions in April and May to finalize the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

An earlier version of this story had an incorrect percentage for the proposed increase for police.