Montgomery County Administrator Craig Meadows presented the county’s $186,327,113 proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018) to the Board of Supervisors at Monday’s meeting.
The proposed budget is just over $4 million more than the current one, but the county also generated nearly $3 million in additional revenue from property taxes ($1.1 million), new construction ($1 million) and other local taxes ($900,000).
The majority of the $4 million increase will go to the school’s and county’s operating budgets.
Meadows said during his presentation that the new budget “reflects the Board’s commitment to the future through increases in funding provided for the core responsibilities of the County – public education and public safety, while also looking at our capital needs today and for the future.”
Meadows said that four critical areas of investment remain the same as last year:
• Facilities and programs
• Public safety operations, like the volunteer rescue and fire departments
• Public school operations
Meadows recommended a two percent salary increase, which he said would help employees from falling further behind in compensation. He also noted that a 2014 study indicated that the county’s pay plan was, on average, four percent lower than their peer group. The same study also revealed that department head level positions were 11 percent lower than neighboring jurisdictions.
The school’s budget makes up approximately 60 percent of the proposed budget at $106,596,812, which is nearly $3 million less than what Superintendent Dr. Mark Miear requested at the Feb. 13 supervisors meeting.
And while Miear said that more state money will be coming in than originally anticipated (which lowers the amount needed from the county), with what has been offered now, MCPS would still have to increase insurance rates for its employees.
“We are going to have to do something to make it work, especially if employees want a raise,” Miear said.
He noted that the state has said that it will be giving all state employees and teachers a two percent raise for the upcoming fiscal year, but that would not kick in until Feb. 2018, and would not apply to all teachers, leaving MCPS to cover the difference.
Miear said that waiting until next February would not be fair to employees, which if they did wait, would cost over $400,000 and approximately $1.2 million if given July 1. State funds for the pay increase would remain around $200,000 regardless of when MCPS decided to give the raise.
Miear has been vocal about the county’s need for a competitive benefits and salary package in order to compete with surrounding districts to attract and retain the best teachers possible.
Other highlights from the proposed budget include: adding two full-time employees to help with storm water management, converting three part-time parks and recreation positions to full-time employees and upgrading software and county capital projects.
Meadows said that the county was about $6.5 million short of being able to fulfill all budget requests, and doing so would require the property tax to be raised nine cents from its current rate of $0.89 cents per $100 of assessed value ($890 for a $100,000 home). For every cent property taxes are increased, the county generates $762,000 of revenue.
Meadows recommended not raising the property tax rates for the fifth year in a row.
The next meeting will be held at 7:15 p.m. March 13 at the Montgomery County Government Center 755 Roanoke St., Christiansburg.