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Posted at 10:18 AM ET, 12/ 2/2010

Montgomery faces $350 million shortfall, leaving officials scouring for cuts

By Michael Laris

Montgomery County is facing a two-year budget shortfall of $350 million, an unexpectedly wide gap just six months after its last tumultuous round of reductions.

Officials are being told to scour departments immediately for new cuts. Numerous programs will shrink or be eliminated, and hundreds of layoffs are possible next year, officials said. County Executive Isiah Leggett, for example, is calling for $19 million in cuts to the public school system, part of a broader mid-year "savings plan" that would also hit public safety and other county programs.

In an email to county staff Thursday, Leggett said he has instructed officials overseeing Fire and Rescue, Police, Health and Human Services, and transit to identify cuts totaling 5 percent of current spending in preparation for next year's budget.

Other county government departments - from housing and libraries to recreation and the environment - were instructed to find cuts of 15 percent. The final numbers might shift, with say one department taking a 12 percent hit and other taking 17 percent, officials said. The targets are "starting points," Leggett said.

"I wish I could say to you that our difficulties are easing, but this is not the case," Leggett wrote.

Income tax revenues are down tens of millions of dollars from already diminished projections, he said, and other major forces are at play.

"The State of Maryland is facing a $1.6 billion deficit. The realignment in Congress may dampen our regional economy. And President Obama's just-announced two-year freeze on federal salaries will also adversely affect County tax revenues," Leggett said.

In May, officials reduced overall county spending for the first time in more than 40 years. In June, they endorsed a six-year austerity plan designed to increase reserves and put aside more for retiree health benefits. That plan contemplated a slight increase in spending next year by county agencies.

But the assumptions in that plan - which some viewed as somewhat miserly just months ago - have proven overly optimistic.

The budget shortfall for the current fiscal year is now estimated at $100 million, Leggett said. In the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, the projected gap is $250 million, Leggett said.

By Michael Laris  | December 2, 2010; 10:18 AM ET
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So does this mean that Leggett, his staff, and the county council and their staff, will be taking 15-17 percent pay hikes? And does this mean that the 1,100 BOE paper pushers who make $100,000 or more will also take pay cuts and layoffs? I think it's only fair that management show some semblence of solidarity or sympathy to the workers. BTW I don't work for the county and I'm not in any union.

Posted by: VikingRider | December 2, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Correction, I mean Leggett et all should be takings 15-17 percent pay CUTs.

Posted by: VikingRider | December 2, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

And the sky is falling. Nice job putting the snippet about the schools in the article of no real information. People will start freaking out this weekend and will follow this article for the next 3 months even though it will say NOTHING. Nothing about which departments, which services, which areas, etc. will be affected by the cuts. Awee bit of investigative reporting please?

Posted by: stopthemadness | December 2, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Does this mean Leggett won't be installing anymore 65,000 private bathrooms?

Posted by: futbolclif | December 2, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Why not cut some social programs?

Posted by: pjohn1 | December 2, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

MOCO can either levy a per capita tax on illegals or double down on existing homedebtors. Guess.

Posted by: slim21 | December 2, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Your sanctuary policies have caused the illegal population to spike and your tax rates have made the millionaires leave.

Deadly combination. You pay more in taxes while receiving less in services/benefits and don't get the much needed additional tax revenue from the 'big boys'.

For such an educated county it is surprising how you are much like blind sheep.

Posted by: jeffreid2 | December 2, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

In Aspen Hill there is an auto theft ring going around stripping cars. Four in my neighborhood in the last week. The police who took my neighbors report shook their heads. I guess we will all just have to get used to the shaking of heads as noone wants to address that a good half of MoCo is now a ghetto. I grew up in Silver Spring and DC and have paid taxes to both since I was 15, My parents and grandparents paid taxes in DC and MoCo til they died. Is there anyone else in MoCo who feels like they've been basically told to get out now-you don't matter.

Posted by: stopthemadness | December 2, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

There are two laws: One for taxpaying citizens and a better group of laws for illegal immigrants and union members.

Posted by: avpcomp2 | December 2, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Here's a reality check. My wife and I have owned the same MoCo home in Bethesda since 1998. Our property taxes in 1999 were $3,189.39, increasing by 2010 to $5,907.81, or by 5.76%/year on average (compounded annually). At the same time, the CPI from Oct. 1999 to Oct. 2010 (also over 11 years, using the latest month available), increased by 2.43%/year on average, less than half the rate of increase in my property tax bill.

I submit (a) that I am quite typical and (b) the current budget crisis is the product of county spending that has been out-of-control since 2000, because of irresponsible local political leadership expanding services and especially, agreeing to bloated benefits for county employees at the behest of public-employee unions. It is simply not plausible that the increase in the county's expenditures is attributable to inflation in the price of government services that has more than doubled the broader CPI.

(Incidentally, you can run the same analysis on your property taxes since a history of your tax bills is available online, here: )

Posted by: rboltuck | December 2, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Montgomery County should eliminate the workplace centers set up so illegal aliens would not gather in public areas.

Posted by: PostPardon | December 2, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Cut funding to CASA, maybe? It seems a little odd to pump taxpayer dollars into helping illegal immigrants find under-the-table jobs (cash, no taxes deducted).

Posted by: Irato | December 2, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Cut funding to CASA, maybe? It seems a little odd to pump taxpayer dollars into helping illegal immigrants find under-the-table jobs (cash, no taxes deducted).

Posted by: Irato | December 2, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Stop spending money to support Illegal Aliens!

Posted by: Poor_man | December 2, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Stop spending money on any programs supporting Illegal Aliens.

Such programs should be shouldered by the Federal Government who encourages Illegal Migrations.

Posted by: Poor_man | December 2, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Good comments up to this point but you all miss the fundamental issue, Montgomery residents continue year after year, to elect THE SAME politicians (democrats). As the saying goes, "if you continue to do the same thing, you will keep getting the same result". Perhaps one year, Montgomery residents will actually vote in some differences. Doubtful with the high minority and union presence which vote like sheep, but hopeful.

Posted by: woodbinemom | December 2, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

The police are wasting millions of dollars conducting marijuana and sex stings. If they have the time to do this, they must be lacking in business, and law enforcment funds can therefore be spent on other needs.
Cut police funding by 20%.

Posted by: barney5 | December 2, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Folks, as long as voters in MoCo keep on electing the same bunch of liberals who never saw a social cause that they couldn't thrown taxpayer money at, Moco will continue on its path to financial ruin.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | December 2, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

rbotluck: I don't know exactly where you live, but the county tax bill on my house in Kensington has gone from $1,890.54 in 1999 to $2,902.12 in 2010. At 4.00% per year, that's a little less than your bill has increased. Did you remember to exclude the State tax, on which there was a rate increase, and to net your county tax against county tax credits?

You may have also noted the county tax rate was reduced from 1.020 per $100 in 1999 to 0.915 per $100 in 2010, about a 1% reduction each year. (The 1999 tax bill shows a rate of 2.551, but that was before the 2000 change in assessments from 40% to 100%.)

At the same time, my property value has increased an average of 16.37% per year.

But don't fret. Current county employees, not county taxpayers, will pay for the budget problems. The majority of county spending is on employee costs, so the budget problem will be solved by reducing the number of county employees and reducing the pay and benefits of those that remain.

Posted by: Lies_and_Statistics | December 2, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Goodness,no. There are no budget problems in Montgomery County.

Why just today in Baltimore at MSDE, Nancy Grasmick and the IAC committee approved the sale of 19.5 acres of Montgomery county land for $1.9 million. Grasmick and the committee said it was a wonderful deal.

Left out of the discussion was that the State of Maryland has a $1.1 million investment in the building on the property because it was a former public school.

The Committee said they would settle up with Montgomery County later after they calculate the exact amount of their share of the sale proceeds.

The County Executive cut the deal to sell the land based on the assessment for the land only and excluded the State's investment in the public school building that will have to be paid back. Now Montgomery County taxpayers will have to settle with the State.

What will the tab be for Montgomery County on this land deal? Stay tuned.

Posted by: jzsartucci | December 2, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Here are the top 100 salaries in MCPS.

None of these employees are in classrooms.

Posted by: jzsartucci | December 2, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Why do they always attack schools and emergency services first? Why not ask the citizens of Montgomery County what they want to cut and what they don't want cut? I can GUARANTEE that school and emergency services would NOT be on the list. These are the things I do not mind my taxes being used for.

And PLEASE stop commenting that this has anything to do with liberal government. Republicans in Congress are in the process of holding tax cuts for the working class for hostage unless 700 billion in cuts to the wealthiest Americans are extended as well. They are actually willing to throw financially hurting, working class Americans under the bus for the sake of millionaires. Unless you are a millionaire, Republicans do NOT care about you! Pay attention!

Posted by: CAC2 | December 2, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

CAC2-you are exactly the kind of liberal that keeps voting these Montgomery idiots back in office to spend, spend, spend. BTW, those "millionaires" you speak of pay 80%+ of this nations taxes, whether they get a tax break or not, and also BTW, they still pay more taxes than the"average working class person", so stop the lemming "hostage" comments, and learn the FACTS. And those "millionaires" are most likely to be the small business owner that keeps the rest of the working class employed. I know-I am one-and if our taxes go up as predicted, you will see at least 10 people we have on staff lose their jobs the next day-because we will not be able to afford to keep them.

Posted by: woodbinemom | December 2, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

cut CASA, cut support for illegal immigrants in Montgomery County .

Posted by: pthang | December 2, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

there is no other way, start firing county government workers.....MoCo has way too many workers on the public payroll.....cut all departments....and end the ruinous pension plans that pay cops and firemen ridiculous pensions....cut all pension plans and make future employees fund their own retirements.

Posted by: proudgaycuban | December 2, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm a U.S. citizen, Dem., and resident of Moco. For what it is worth, here is my list of cut/don't cut.
ALL county employee salaries, including elected officials and BoE administrators.
Police, Fire, Libraries, Parks, Ride On,
Road Maintenance, salaries or positions. These are the folks operate the programs and services that the working people, the average people, use and need daily.
Any program or services to unemployed or illegal aliens.
Trash and recycling, we need this stuff taken care of, it's a health hazard.
County motor pool, including police take home cars.
Any managers who can do more with less. Or programs and services that take care of the largest number of people at the lowest cost.
The four or five regional govt. service centers. Sell them off.
But nothing will change in Moco unless a credible, legitimate, moderate, and fiscally conservative alternative emerges.

Posted by: VikingRider | December 2, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

LOL, just like her liberal sister california! free stuff to everyone with not enough paying.

Posted by: WhatBubble | December 2, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

"Why do they always attack schools and emergency services first?"

Because that sends taxpayers into a panic. The services that taxpayers want the most are cut FIRST - teachers and emergency workers.

Then the taxpayers agree to have their taxes raised.

If you haven't noticed the pattern yet, this may be the year to pay attention.

Posted by: jzsartucci | December 2, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Number of Montgomery County Public School employees who earn more than $100,000 per year: 2,465

Ask your child's classroom teacher if they are in this category. Odds are good that they are not.

Posted by: jzsartucci | December 2, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Stop putting in all these traffic calming devices and speed bumps. Stop putting up signs for companies collecting trash on the highways--this is only free advertising for them. Cut all support for illegal aliens. Cut the salaries of all employees making over $75,000 by 10% or 15%.

Posted by: AntiPost | December 2, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

What do you expect, living in a one-party, sanctuary county in a one-party, sanctuary state. Our last hope was to elect Bob Erlich and perhaps restore a semblance of sanity. After 48 years as Rockville residents we are now looking at homes in both VA and PA and expect to move during 2011. High taxes, erosion of services, state policies toward our small business, and combination of 16% estate taxes and inheritance taxes has forced our decision.

Posted by: lefty711 | December 2, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Teachers haven't gotten a cost of living increase for two years now, and yet there is always money to provide interpreters for all meetings and events and to put all home/school communication into Spanish as well as English for parents who don't speak English. While this is very thoughtful, perhaps more effort could go into educating children and expecting that their parents will learn to communicate in the dominant language of this country.

Posted by: Dorian_W_Janney | December 3, 2010 7:16 AM | Report abuse

Sell the county liquor stores. We don't need to be in the liquor business or have the cost associated with maintaining the business. Sell them individualy to prevent a county monopoly.

Posted by: teajay_dc | December 3, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Maryland Democratic Party. Thank you Takoma Park loony libs. Thank you entiltelment-addicted teacher's union. Thank you overpaid, pampered, federal functionaries. Thank you left-wingers supporting tax-dodging illegal aliens. All of you have driven this county into the dumps.

I'm moving to Virginia.

Posted by: Javi1082 | December 3, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Maryland Democratic Party. Thank you Takoma Park looney libs. Thank you entitlement-addicted teacher's union. Thank you overpaid, pampered, federal functionaries. Thank you left-wingers supporting tax-dodging illegal aliens. Thank you welfare mothers. Thank you Potomac/Bethesda residents with your selfish demands for unecessary services which drain the coffers of the county. All of you have driven this county into the dumps.

I'm moving to Virginia.

Posted by: Javi1082 | December 3, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

This is what you get when you allow Unions to hold you hostage, build monuments to the government like horse parks and other venues that drain money from the coffers. Run a 200% overhead with the school system where private business might have 10%, nothing but a jobs program for the Teachers Unions to give them even higher pay. $60,000 private bathrooms and the list goes on and on. But don't worry Montgomery they are not going to address these issues. They are going to cut your police, fire and ambulance, after school sports all to punish you for daring to say spend within your budget and provide us the taxpayers with the services we need instead of catering to illegal aliens and county employees unions.

Posted by: Pilot1 | December 3, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Now Montgomery County is feeling the pinch from Democratic policies such as having open borders in a sanctuary county.

It didn't work in California and it won't work in Maryland.

Montgomery County is starting to experience what happens economically when you get less producers and more non-producers.

It's gonna get worse...much worse.

Posted by: dennisWV | December 3, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I think the conservatives here are full of BS.


ALL STATES are running into the same budget problems with dramatically falling revenues from decreased home sales and income taxes (again THANK GEORGE W. BUSH - REPUBLICAN for driving the economy over a cliff).

You conservatives should really stop sucking on the Faux New vapors. You're being played for fools...and you ably demonstrate that you are with your comments and "analysis" of the problem.

Posted by: B-rod | December 3, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

@Dorian_W_Janney: Teachers haven't gotten a cost of living increase for two years now


The cost of living hasn't gone up for two years. And the cost of housing has gone down, so teachers (and others) who are new to the county who are looking to buy homes are better off now than were two years ago.

Posted by: postisarag | December 3, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Send the above to Leggett: STOP SPENDING OUR TAX DOLLARS ON illegal immigrants and unions. Read what the people of Mont. Co
are telling you.

How about the step increases every county employe gets each year? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Get serious.

Posted by: wbmbshaw | December 3, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

MoCo became a Benefits magnet for illegals..and what now, they are running out of money?? Who da thunk? MOCO is repaving perfect roads and rebuilding new sidewalks that are already fine with an ALL SPANISH speaking labor force.. anyone notice that?
New rule: No illegal workers may be used to fulfill county and state contracts. Hello!!

Posted by: whoseyrmama | December 5, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

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