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Press Releases - County Council

For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 18, 2023

ROCKVILLE, Md., May 18, 2023This is the tenth budget I have worked on since being an elected official. Last week I talked about how I have approached budgets in the past, by asking myself how do we best address the needs of today and prepare for tomorrow?

We are in a tough year in Montgomery County. When we received the budget in March from the County Executive, I had some major concerns. I was concerned that the proposed budget not only had flaws related to a steep tax rate that was too much for residents, but it also used one-time revenue such as American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and spikes in revenues that will not last. Because of these factors, the budget may create long-term structural problems with our county finances.

As the Chair of the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, I have publicly and repeatedly spoken about my concerns related to the use of one-time funds or reserves for continuing programs and operations that should either be tax-supported or funded through reliable funding streams. While we made some adjustments, the decisions we made related to the tax rate leave me very concerned, especially given that many of my colleagues have noted the likelihood of an impending recession.

We are in a tough position. I respect my colleagues for their interest in lowering this tax rate. I agree and have stated my support for coming below what the County Executive proposed – and in fact I probably am not too far away from where the majority of my colleagues are. However, we are pushing to lower the tax rate by dipping into reserves that otherwise would be used for emergency spending thereby creating fiscal challenges. The bottom line is this is not sustainable.

For these reasons, I am not voting for the tax rate; however, I will vote for the budget because we need to move forward and do the work of the government.

In this context there are two areas I have concerns about that I want to lift up:

1. Unhoused residents – We have not included enough funding for overflow sheltering and assistance to the unhoused. We need to do more to support our partners with their work, such as Interfaith Works. I am concerned our unhoused population is growing, and we are not adequately planning for this increase.

2. Mental health – I expressed concerns from my first read of this budget about ensuring funding for mental health services. These are services that cut across different departments and committees. We do have different programs and places where there is funding, but we simply have not acknowledged or adequately addressed the mental health crisis taking place across the county. We must come back to this issue and make more progress.

Even with concerns, I know there are also some wins  today. First, I am thankful to my colleagues for finding savings in budgets that are complicated.

Capital Infrastructure Projects (CIP)  Budget and the Recordation Tax 

We were able to pass a new recordation tax plan that establishes new categories to make the tax more progressive and leave the tax unchanged for any home sale below $600,000. These funds will help us relieve our operating budget by creating dedicated funding for rental assistance and also back fill funding for critical capital projects for our schools and for county transportation projects that would not be moving forward without this new source of funding. I want to give a shout out to my team and to Councilmember Natali Fani-González and Councilmember Sidney Katz for partnering with me to amend the bill originally authored by Councilmember Mink and Jawando who cosponsored the legislation to make this happen. For me, this is an example of how we addressed the short-term need to fund school projects and need transportation improvements without delay and create a structure to assist with planning for the future.

I am very proud to serve as chair of the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee and the work we have done this budget season. A few highlights include the community grants, Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB), public union contracts, and MCPS funding.

Community Grants

The Government Operations Committee had an excellent discussion about community grants and put forward additional bridge funding for nonprofits that will allow those currently funded some sense of certainty through December, as the county’s new Office of Grants Management comes online and creates new processes for county grants. These nonprofits often do critical work, managing to provide residents in vulnerable situations with assistance. I want our nonprofits to know that we appreciate all you do to augment county government and take care of our neighbors. 

OPEB funding

This is our non-pension benefits for retirees. We still have work to do, but we are meeting our commitment to put the needed resources into OPEB in this budget which – while other pieces of the budget this year give me concern – our actions on OPEB outline a plan for the future. 

Public Union Contracts

I am also happy that we were able to fund our public union contracts. The job market has become extremely competitive, but more than that, we are investing in the most valuable asset we have in Montgomery County - our workforce. While there are those who see our workforce as a line item on a budget, I see the people who are showing up every day as Montgomery County employees as a major part of our community. These folks are doing the important work of our government. I want to thank our county employees and let them know they are valued. 


I also want to address our efforts related to the Montgomery County Public School budget. This year we are funding our school system at an unprecedented level, and we have included funding that is enough to fully honor the MCEA, SEIU and the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals contracts. 

Again, the budget we are passing today is about the people who make our county great. And, I want to be clear today. When I cast my vote for the budget I am doing so asking MCPS to fully fund the contracts that have been negotiated – the whole contracts as negotiated.

Additional Highlights:

The Working Families Income Supplement was funded to assist those most in need in our communities and to fight poverty.

Increases were made for nonprofit security grants to assist in creating safe environments for people where they worship and gather.

Other funding for youth programs, adult day care, and for the disability community were also funded. 

At the end of the day, after much contemplation, I cast a vote for this budget because we are a body of 11. I respect the work of my colleagues, and frankly, I want to move forward and continue our work together on behalf of the residents of Montgomery County.

Thank you again to my colleagues and to our staff.

If you would like to stay up to date with Council efforts throughout the year, sign up to receive my newsletter here.

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Release ID: 23-186
Media Contact: Cecily Thorne 240-777-7968
Categories: Kate Stewart