With much of America in a state of worry over the nation’s economic status and potential cuts in the federal budget, organizing local government operating budgets has become a complicated and sensitive task. While citizens rarely want to pay higher taxes, there is a need for an increase in local government supported services. Taking notice of this complex issue, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett proposed a new operating budget for the county’s 2018 fiscal year on March 14 that includes a slight decrease in taxes while providing an increase in public schools’ funding.
The 2018 fiscal budget determines the county’s spending from July 1 of this year until June 30 of next year. Leggett’s proposed budget adds up to $5.44 billion, which is around 2.7 percent higher than 2017’s fiscal operating budget of $5.3 billion. In spite of this budget increase, Leggett’s proposed budget includes a decrease in the county’s property tax by 2.54 cents. However, in spite of this decrease in the property tax, Leggett’s budget proposal suggests that in the end the amount that county residents are paying in property tax will increase, as foresees property values to increase.
This proposed tax change is consistent with the county’s charter limit, which states that the county “cannot take in an amount of real property tax revenue for a given year that exceeds the rate of inflation plus the value of new construction unless nine Council Members vote” to overrule it. Leggett’s budget does not include tax increases beyond the charter limit. This is primarily because after the county instituted an increase in taxes last year, residents are unlikely to support another tax raise.
Leggett also had to exercise extreme care while creating his budget to ensure that sufficient funds are provided for the county’s spending and government operations costs. This issue has been made even more important than usual given President Donald Trump’s expected decrease in the new proposed federal budget, which has the potential to lower the income of the 49,000 federally employed residents in the county and thus the amount of taxes the county collects.
Providing sufficient government funding at the local level was made even more difficult by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the recent Wynne case, which limited the amount of income tax the county can require of individuals who also pay other states’ income taxes, causing the county to lose around $30 million per year. “We are maintaining a very focused budget that responds to our fundamental needs in the county: education, public safety and help for the most vulnerable,” Leggett said according to Bethesda Magazine.
Thanks to his meticulous arranging of his proposed 2018 fiscal operating budget, Leggett has allowed for Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) budget request of $2.52 million to be nearly met. Increasing by $54 million, Leggett has proposed that MCPS receives $2.5 billion. This extra funding is intended to provide public school officials with better means to address and fix common issues such as overcrowding and the achievement gap. “I’m personally pleased that [Leggett] essentially fully funded the school system’s request,” County Council President Roger Berliner said, according to Bethesda Magazine.
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