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Press Releases - County Council

Councilmember Rice’s statement on the County’s operating and capital budget agreement

For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 16, 2019

ROCKVILLE, Md., May 16, 2019—Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice made the following remarks today after the Council reached agreement on the County’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Operating Budget, the FY20 Capital Budget and amendments to the FY19-24 Capital Improvements Program. The budgets will be formally adopted by the Council on May 23.

The complete text of Councilmember Rice’s remarks:

I want to thank Council President Navarro for her leadership in guiding us through yet another challenging budget year. The County Executive initially did not fund many core basic needs that were funded in years past, and there were tough decisions to be made regarding maximizing resources to meet the many needs of our residents. And I feel our budget reflects a well-balanced approach to funding the many services and amenities that contribute to our quality of life.

This was the first year of a newly constituted Education and Culture Committee. It gave the Committee an opportunity to focus and highlight the arts and culture in our community including things like libraries and arts venues. We as a Committee pushed for expanded hours for libraries thanks to the leadership of our Lead for Libraries, Councilmember Jawando, and more money than the County Executive recommended for grants to arts nonprofits. These additional funds will provide operating support for organizations and growth in emerging and historically underserved sectors of our arts community.

Thanks go to my colleagues Councilmember Jawando and Council President Navarro for their stalwart support on the committee. We worked through a myriad of issues regarding our school system and Montgomery College and putting forth a budget that prioritizes education funding for our County, taking us from an education last to a pro-education budget.

As Chair of the Education and Culture Committee, I am pleased that today we have before us a budget that truly reflects our County’s commitment to Education as this County Council fully funds both Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and Montgomery College’s budget requests. By prioritizing resources, we send a strong message that Montgomery County continues to value these institutions and the crucial part education plays in everything we do. From economic development, crime prevention, and ending homelessness to aiding our most vulnerable, they all couple with education. MCPS and Montgomery College are on the cutting edge of programs and initiatives that help lift students and residents up and forward toward financial security and career success.

Montgomery College submitted a thoughtful and modest budget, which included early college and summer bridge programs in partnership with MCPS and enhanced scholarship opportunities that help expand access and protect affordability, giving students various means and ways of achieving their higher education goals. Montgomery College is the largest community college in the state and the second largest post-secondary institution after University of Maryland. The college, through the insightful leadership of Dr. DeRionne Pollard and her faculty and staff, continues to create student gateways to success, in addressing the achievement gap, particularly among Black and Latino males, and providing career tech opportunities such as IT, biotech, construction and homeland security.

The Council has also prioritized Montgomery County Public Schools, fully funding the Board of Education’s request of $2.66 billion, $16.9 million above Maintenance of Effort. At roughly half our budget, the continued investment in our schools is sound. The reality is that not funding MCPS would be much costlier. Full funding will allow MCPS to further enrich reading and writing interventions, add counselors to elementary schools and enhance after school activities in schools with greater socio-economic need. This year I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Superintendent Jack Smith and School Board President Shebra Evans, and their vision and mission to enhance our school system to ensure success for all students, is one I whole-heartedly support. They agree our students are just as diverse as their needs. Therefore, our school system must be adept at continuing to implement programs and services that ensure our kids academic and social-emotional needs are met.

The County embarked on a bold mission of funding the expansion of early childhood education giving our beginning learners the best opportunity possible to start kindergarten prepared to succeed. My work on the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (aka Kirwan Commission) at the State level is directly aligned with this initiative, and I look forward to the continued expansion.

Safety and security have undergone a comprehensive review within MCPS. This budget, as well as last year’s, includes continued funding for several initiatives being implemented in all our schools. A critical component, when it comes to safety and security in our schools, is our School Resource Officers (SROs). SROs have a unique understanding of school security and how building relationships with students is crucial to mitigating and preventing incidents within our schools. I am very pleased that we were able to add two SROs for our middle schools in the coming school year that will allow us to have a middle school SRO in each of the five police districts.

After meeting with our AAHP, LHI and AAHI programs this year, I was convinced that we needed to give them additional funding to enhance their work. Thanks to support from Chair Albornoz and Councilmember Glass of our Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee, increased funding will result in more community outreach and health and mental health screenings to combat health disparities seen in our communities of color.

Other budget accomplishments include: restoring funding cuts made by the County Executive to the County’s developmentally disabled community provider supplement; the expansion of hours for Every Mind’s text to chat line providing support for people in mental health crisis; restoration of cuts to our Mobile Ag Lab that educates our children about the importance of farming and agricultural sustainability; increased funding for pedestrian safety audits in response to numerous pedestrian-vehicle accidents; restoration of cuts to our senior program in Clarksburg; increased medical and dental services under the Care for Kids program; and restoration of cuts to Ride On routes as well as expansion of our Kids Ride Free program that our residents rely heavily upon to get to work, especially in the Upcounty.

I am proud that this year’s budget reflects our County’s priorities. I want to thank all of our County stakeholders for your ongoing partnership with the Council in making this budget possible. A budget should be a moral document of who you are and who you want to be. I want to thank each and every one of my colleagues because I feel that this Council has once again accomplished that goal.

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Release ID: 19-177
Media Contact: Steven Goldstein 240-777-7955