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Leggett Warns of Fiscal Challenges at Germantown Budget Forum

County Executive Ike Leggett came to Germantown on Monday night to hear from UpCounty resident’s regarding how to spend Montgomery County funds in the FY2018 Operating Budget.

From the outset, Leggett warned that Montgomery County, which raised property taxes by 8.7 percent last year, could face fiscal challenges as it begins to look forward to FY2018.

He told the audience of about 120 residents and community activists gathered at Black Rock Center for the Arts in Germantown that the County’s actual revenue from FY16 is coming in significantly below projected estimates. Leggett said that actual income tax revenues were $15.6 million below FY16 estimates and actual Transfer and Recordation Taxes were $13.0 million lower than estimated, while actual Energy Tax revenues were $9.8 million lower than estimates. Combined that makes for $38.4 million difference in revenue from what was expected based on the County’s FY16 estimates, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Leggett expressed concern for future budgets based on a number of things which are making the County’s income tax revenues uncertain. He told those gathered that FY18 income tax projection was $11.7 million below the County’s finance department’s March 2016 estimate.

Leggett listed projected losses of $16.7 million in FY17 and FY18 due to the unfavorable decision in The Wynne Case, in which a Howard County couple, Brian and Karen Wynne successfully challenged the State of Maryland over whether local governments to had the right to tax income from out-of-state jurisdictions which have already taxed the income. He said that projections indicate that the Wynne Case will result in $13.6 million drop in revenues in FY19.

Finally, Leggett suggested that the County may not receive as much assistance from the State of Maryland based on an estimated shortfall of between $600 million and $800 million at the state level.

“The challenges lower our options,” said Leggett. “It is a real challenge for us.”

The Budget Forum was the final stop of Leggett’s annual program of Budget Forums throughout the County. He wanted to hear from residents as their priorities and suggestions for a spending plan for the budget which will be proposed in March of this year.

This marks the fifth year that the County Executive has been holding these forums to allow residents and community activist groups to express their desire to see increased funding for one aspect of the budget or another.

In years past these meetings have been a forum for the community to express need for increases in funding for one area of County government or another. Last year, the Germantown Budget Forum was dominated by members of the Montgomery County Education Association, clad in purple MCEA tee shirts, urging Leggett to fully fund the $2.45 billion budget which the Board of Education.

Leggett fielded questions and requests from residents on topics such as improving the transportation systems — specifically expanding the Ride Bus Routes to the Clarksburg Outlets and reconsidering his stance on funding and constructing the M-83 roadway. There were also requests for increased funding for libraries, the arts, and Montgomery College, as well as, increasing social services for senior citizens. There was no dominant group petitioning for increased funding at this year’s meeting in Germantown.

Photos by Germantown Pulse.