MCPS Unhappy With $113 M Shortfall; Budget Includes Projects in Clarksburg and Other UpCounty Areas
County Executive Ike Leggett released his recommended $4.4 billion FY17 Capital Budget and six-year FY17-22 Capital Improvements Program, or CIP. The budget includes nearly $1.9 billion for education, including $1.57 billion for the Montgomery County Public Schools, which is the highest funding level ever provided, as well as $305 million for Montgomery College.
The budget provides critical support for DownCounty initiatives as White Flint, Smart Growth, Wheaton Redevelopment and the White Oak Science Gateway, and Purple Line related projects. The CIP includes $192 million in funding for Purple Line-related projects – including a maximum $40 million County contribution to the State for the Purple Line, and $181 million for road maintenance. As well, as planning funds for future bus rapid transit projects along Maryland 355.
“This FY17 Capital Budget and six-year Capital Improvements Program represents a balanced approach – investing in schools, jobs, transportation and housing while also being prudent with future borrowing,” said Leggett. “Given the continuing fiscal challenges we face with our operating budget and the need to hold down debt service, I was not able to say ‘yes’ to every worthy project. I have concentrated on those areas that get the biggest ‘bang’ for the taxpayers’ buck.”
Montgomery County Public Schools
Leggett’s budget provides $1.57 billion to Montgomery County Public Schools, which is the highest funding level ever, according to county officials.
“Our schools continue to attract residents and employers to the County,” said Leggett. “The schools fulfill many critical functions – educating our future employees, leaders, and innovators and helping to integrate the many immigrants that enrich our County. MCPS is also a critical partner in helping low-income families move up the economic ladder. It is imperative that we invest in meeting our schools’ capacity, modernization, and infrastructure needs supporting these goals. For this reason, funding for MCPS projects remains my highest priority.”
However, MCPS officials were not overjoyed at the level of funding proposed by Leggett.
Board of Education President Michael Durso and Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers released a joint statement concerning Leggett’s Capital Budget recommendation: “Montgomery County Public Schools has been experiencing record enrollment growth for several years which has put a significant strain on our school buildings as we work to ensure that every student receives the best possible education. That’s why it is disappointing that County Executive Isiah Leggett’s recommended capital budget leaves us more than $113 million short of what we need in the next two years in our capital budget.”
“We certainly recognize that funds are not limitless,” the statement said, “but it is essential that we continue investing in school construction to meet the needs of our surging enrollment. This recommended level of funding potentially means significant delays in numerous projects.
“In the coming weeks, we will seek to work with the County Council and our state leaders in Annapolis to secure more funding in an effort to keep much-needed projects on track.”
Over the six-year period, funding for school construction increases $42.5 million from the amended FY15-20 CIP and $50.3 million above the full FY15-20 CIP. The MCPS CIP has grown by 71.8 percent over the last twelve years. The recommended capital budget also includes a number of other projects that will benefit MCPS programs. These include: $33.5 million in funding for relocating the MCPS Bus Depot and bus parking, $69 million in funding for a joint MCPS/M-NCPPC facility maintenance building, and joint MCPS/Health and Human Services initiatives to support at-risk children and their families (Linkages to Learning, School Based Health Centers, High School Wellness Centers, and Child Care in Schools).
In the Germantown/Clarksburg area, the FY17 CIP includes funding for a new elementary school for the Clarksburg cluster, deemed Clarksburg Village site #2.
In his memorandum to County Council President Nancy Floreen accompanying the Recommended FY17 Capital Budget and CIP Leggett wrote, “The County has no capacity to borrow additional funds beyond those I have recommended without jeopardizing other important operating budget priorities – including Maintenance of Effort requirements for MCPS. As such, State Aid will continue to be critical to addressing MCPS’ capital budget needs.”
Leggett’s recommendation also includes $305.2 million for capital improvements to Montgomery College, which includes construction of a student services center on the Germantown campus. From the FY11-16 to the FY15-20 amended capital budgets, the County increased capital funding for the College by $62.5 million, or 21.4 percent -- a rate of increase larger than that of any other agency.
“Montgomery College will be able to complete construction of their top priority project - the Rockville Student Services Center, invest in a number of core infrastructure projects, including technology projects, and begin planning and/or constructing the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Math and Science Center and the Germantown Student Services Center,” said Leggett.
“While I continue to be very supportive of Montgomery College and its vital mission, I am not able to support the College’s full $420.2 million request – an amount that is more than $57 million above the all-time high for College funding,” said Leggett in his memo to the Council President. Under the requested schedule, the costs are likely to be unaffordable to the State, from whom we expect matching funds. The College’s request also presents serious affordability challenges to the County. Currently, the State provides $60 million a year to fund community colleges statewide. Given these funding levels, it is unrealistic to think we would receive $57.4 million in State Aid in FY21 to construct the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Math & Science Center and Germantown Student Services Center simultaneously. As a result, I’ve included an affordability adjustment in the recommended CIP to reflect those concerns and to live within County funding constraints,” said Leggett’s memo to the County Council President.
When it comes to investment in economic development, the UpCounty Germantown/Clarksburg area was all but left out as projects in White Oak, White Flint, Wheaton garnered the most attention from Leggett.
The recommended FY17-22 Capital Improvements Program includes $173 million in funding for planning and design and construction of roadway improvements in the White Flint District. Another $169 million is programmed in supporting projects, such as Montrose Parkway East and White Flint Fire Station #23.
While, in Wheaton, the Wheaton Redevelopment Project was launched as a public-private partnership to provide a new office complex for the M-NCPPC headquarters and other County offices, related parking, a town square, and a privately-funded mixed use development to revitalize and re-energize Wheaton through transit-oriented development.
Transportation infrastructure is critical to facilitate economic development, a high quality of life, and commercial and personal mobility, said Leggett. The total recommended CIP includes $1.15 billion for this function. Within this total, the CIP reflects a balanced approach with $340.8 million for roads, $232.8 million for mass transit, and $249.3 million earmarked for pedestrian and bikeway facilities, and another $181 million for highway maintenance – as well as an additional $147.4 million for bridges, traffic improvements, and parking.
“Also included in my capital budget is a new Purple Line project to cover the County’s costs to secure land for right-of-way for the Purple Line as well as coordination and monitoring of the Purple Line and the three County-funded projects - the Capital Crescent Trail, Bethesda Metro Station South Entrance, and the Silver Spring Green Trail,” said Leggett.
This project also includes a maximum $40 million County contribution to the Purple Line project. While the FY17-22 capital budget includes $192.1 million for the four Purple Line- related projects, full costs, and the required funding schedule will not be known until the State’s negotiations with the selected Concessionaire are concluded this spring.
Germantown road projects include continued funding for design and land acquisition for Observation Drive Extended, a north-south road extension of existing Observation Drive, connecting north Germantown to Clarksburg.
Other UpCounty road projects include in Clarksburg; the Stringtown Road area will see improvements as the Clarksburg Transportation Connections, subdivision roads projects begin to come to fruition. “The projects represent partnerships with private developers to support development in the Clarksburg area. Work will be completed at various points during FY17-FY20,” according to Leggett.
As well as the widening of Goshen Road South to provide traffic congestion relief and safety improvements to the existing Goshen Road by widening existing lanes and adding center medians, sidewalks, and bike paths.
The recommended FY17-22 CIP also includes funding for the construction of a Shared Use Path along MD355 in Clarksburg, which will leverage State Aid and provide connectivity with the Frederick Road Bikepath, Clarksburg Town Center, Clarksburg High School and Little Bennett Regional Park.
Public Safety and Quality of Life
The FY17-22 recommended Capital Improvements Program also includes substantial funding for projects that provide a positive quality of life for residents.
Leggett said that a significant component of the recommended FY17-22 capital budget was earmarked to fire/rescue services. Major projects include the design and construction of new fire stations in Clarksburg and White Flint and design and construction funding for a new future fire stations project to provide adequate fire protection and emergency services in areas with high growth and Fire and Rescue Service needs.
The recommended CIP budget includes funding to complete planning and schematic design for a library in Clarksburg.
As well as funding for the design and construction of a new cricket field to be located on at South Germantown Recreational Park. In July 2015, the Planning Board approved the recommendation to locate a dedicated cricket field at the southwest corner of Schaeffer Road and Burdette Lane in the South Germantown Recreational Park. The Board also approved the cost estimate to design and construct the field.
Leggett’s recommendation also includes supporting infrastructure on undeveloped parkland at the South Germantown Recreational Park.
Leggett will host a budget forum in Germantown on Monday, Jan. 25 at the BlackRock Center for Arts, located at 12901 Town Commons Drive. The forum will begin at 7:00 pm. This forum will be the last of five budget forums to be held throughout the county in January. Residents are invited to attend and provide input about priorities for the Fiscal Year 2017 Operating Budget.