After years of slashed highway user revenues and a pension shift, Maryland’s local governments could see a bit more state aid headed their way in fiscal 2015.
Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed $39.2 billion fiscal 2015 budget increases aid to local governments by $183 million, most of that heading to education.
For Montgomery County, the governor has proposed $885.3 million, an increase of $23.38 million over the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The bulk of that increase, or $20 million, will go to educating the county’s students.
“I see this budget as a very good starting point for Montgomery County,” County Council President Craig L. Rice said.
O’Malley’s final budget as governor proposes to grow spending about 5 percent or $2.2 billion from the current fiscal year, but it leaves behind a continued deficit just shy $190 million for the next governor.
O’Malley has proposed spending $6.1 billion on education.
Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown, who chairs the council’s education committee, said any more money Montgomery will get from the state for education mostly addresses growing enrollment. Montgomery County Public Schools enrollment grows by about 2,000 students each year, according to the county.
As the largest jurisdiction in the state, Rice said the county always hopes to get closer to what it believes Montgomery County needs to fund education.
But compared to past years that launched the county into aggressive campaigning against fiscal moves, such a shift of the teacher pension costs, the county’s biggest state funding battle this time will be school construction dollars.
School construction aid to Montgomery has lagged for a long time, Rice said.
In O’Malley’s proposed $4.1 billion capital budget, $275 million will go to school construction. But of that, Montgomery will receive $23 million for four projects: Beverly Farm Elementary School, Glenallan Elementary School, Herbert Hoover Middle School and Paint Branch High School.
County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) is pushing, along with the county executives of Prince George’s and Baltimore counties, for a program that would provide a steady, predictable stream of funds to school construction.
Such a program was not proposed by O’Malley in his budget.
Where the General Assembly can find money to support a school construction program for Montgomery, as well as funds to eliminate the structural deficit, remain to be seen as the legislature as it takes up the governor’s proposed budget, said Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Dist. 39) of Montgomery Village, member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
But O’Malley has proposed funds to several key transportation projects in the county including $158.9 million for the Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail line proposed to connect Bethesda to New Carrollton and $10 million for engineering the Corridor Cities Transitway, a 15-mile bus rapid transit line between Shady Grove and Clarksburg.
Also in the budget are $16.7 million for a new interchange at Georgia Avenue (Md. 97) and Randolph Road and $15.6 million for BRAC intersections around the Bethesda Naval Medical Center
O’Malley has also proposed increasing funding for tax incentives to businesses, including $2 million for the biotechnology investment credit, $1 million for the research and development credit and $1 million for the cyber-security credit.