Montgomery County’s next operating budget will have more program money than in recent years, but don’t look for spending to return to pre-recession levels, said County Executive Isiah Leggett.
Leggett (D) told The Gazette on Thursday that there’s a “pent-up demand” for bringing back funding that was eliminated through drastic cuts during the recession. But the increases likely won’t be as much as some people would like to see, he said.
Leggett is scheduled to release the county’s fiscal year 2015 operating budget at noon on Monday.
The new budget will have a small spending increase from the $4.8 billion fiscal 2014 budget, he said.
He said he and his staff were still working on determining revenue for the budget.
In a series of forums around the county in January, Leggett cautioned residents that the county’s financial position was strong coming out of the recession, but he wouldn’t rush to return to pre-recession spending levels.
He repeated the message Thursday, saying that people tend to remember the challenges the county faced during the recession. As the financial picture improves, people assume that spending caps will be removed, he said.
Instead, the county will address issues by spending money more efficiently.
The budget will continue to fund essentials such as roads, schools and public safety, but also provide money for projects to help the county expand, he said.
Any budget is a balancing act, Leggett said. You can put so much money into the future that you don’t take care of the present, and vice versa.
Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring said one benefit of the recession was that the county got to examine the way it delivers services and programs and make them fit better to its policy goals.
It’s not necessarily about adding more money, but putting money into places where it can be most effective, she said.
She listed providing services for needy families and helping schools address poverty issues among students as two areas some budget money could be restored.
Navarro said she’s also interested in what Leggett will do regarding maintenance of effort for the county school system and funding contracts for county employees.
Maintenance of effort is a legal requirement that counties not cut school funding from one year to the next.
It’s also time for the county to get serious about workforce development through funding for county schools, Montgomery College and The Universities at Shady Grove, Navarro said.