Leggett: County Must Move Beyond Challenges
While presenting the challenging economic situation, County Executive Isiah Leggett says the County can overcome and move forward.
County Executive Isiah Leggett spoke on the need to "rebuild our community," at Monday morning's Montgomery County Executive and Council Inauguration Ceremony. Leggett spoke of both hope and hard times ahead in the coming session.
"I would like to tell you this is the last 'bad' budget year and that recovery is well on the way. But I cannot tell you that. We are projecting a budget gap of nearly $300 million for the County for fiscal year 2012," Leggett said.
"Despite these challenges, the County has retained our triple-A bond rating, saving current and future County taxpayers millions in borrowing costs and further demonstrating that Montgomery County is a reliable and stable place in which to do business."
Leggett as both inaugurated into a second term today, along with returning Council members Philip Andrews (District 3); Roger Berliner (District 1); Marc Elrich (At-Large); Valerie Ervin (District 5); Nancy Floreen (At-Large); George Leventhal (At-Large): Nancy Navarro (District 4).
New to the Council are Council members Hans Riemer (At-Large) and Craig Rice (District 2). Reimer said the County's budget would dominate the council's work.
"That's really the first, second and third order of business," he said.
The council will work first on midyear savings and then move on to the deficits forecast in next year's spending plan.
"There a widespread recognition now that for the last few years we've gotten through one budget at time. Now we have to go through five budgets at a time. That's really where we're trying to make the focus," he said.
Budget options discussed last year would have reduced the amount the county pays municipalities for county services the municipalities provide. Reimer called the ideas "misguided."
"Countywide, we have municipalities that have a lot at stake with this budget," he said.
Leggett has said that the failure of the ambulance fee to pass a referendum last month has meant $14 million will be taken from the fire and rescue budget.
"I think we're going to have to look at other options," Reimer said. "It struck me as very difficult to imagine that many fire positions to be cut. I think you have to look at the implication of that for a service and then make some decisions about that moving forward."
County Council president Nancy Floreen called on Council members to work together to represent the diversity of Montgomery County as they confront "the biggest budget challenge the County has ever faced."
"I hope that we can agree that our definition of the common good will be all-inclusive," Floreen said. "It's been said that if you're not at the table you're on the menu, and we cannot let that be true."
Rice, who will represent Germantown, said his previous experience, as a delegate during 'bad fiscal times' will serve the Council in the coming session.
"It's instrumental for us to have some background, some experience, that will carry us in terms of what some of the negotiations might be, what the state's going to be doing and how that will effect our budget."
Rice said plans to hold a town hall meeting in Clarksburg at the beginning of January, modeled after Leggett's County town hall meetings.
"That's going to be important for us to set that same kind of groundwork, to say to people 'We want to hear your opinions' because we know that that's the only way that we can actually make some good decisions that are representative of exactly what our community wants," Rice said.
The newly-inducted County Council members will serve four-year terms.