When the Montgomery County Council presented what it hopes will be the last budget for FY 2004, all nine members took turns to talk about pain.
Montgomery County faced a budget year characterized by some as one of the most difficult since World War II. “Whatever is here, literally and figuratively, came at the price of some pain,” said Council President Michael Subin (D-At Large). “All nine of us have given up other significant programs.”
The budget’s final version came in at $3.081 billion. This marks a roughly 5 percent increase over last year’s $2.93 billion budget.
The council’s concern at this point is that they may have to revisit this year’s budget.
“It may not be over,” Subin said. The council fears that Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) will veto a $135 million tax package at the state level and, in balancing the state budget, will further cut aid to counties.
Looking ahead, the council is pessimistic.
“We don’t anticipate it’s getting better,” Subin said. “We’ve got to get used to doing more with less.”
Others agreed. “Prospects for the ’05 budget are less than promising,” said Marilyn Praisner (D-4).
Given the situation, some council member were upbeat about what they had accomplished. “We have eliminated a potential deficit. We balanced the budget, and we kept our AAA bond rating, which is no mean feat,” said Howard Denis (R-1).
Others noted their belief that the difficulties were spread around. “This budget is fiscally responsible, and it’s fair,” said Phil Andrews (D-3).
No Education Impact Tax
One tax which did not pass was a proposed “Education Impact Tax.” This would have placed a fee on any new development in the county based on the kind of dwelling to be built. The estimated $4.4 million generated in FY04 (and more in succeeding years) was to have been used for construction and modernization of county schools.
The measure failed by vote of 5-4. Council members Andrews(D-3), Perez(D-5), Praisner (D-5) and Subin (D-At Large) voted in favor of the tax.