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March 8, 2018

Montgomery County cuts $25 million from MCPS budget

by Emma Markus, Staff Writer
The Montgomery County Council has approved $120 million in budget cuts for the 2018 fiscal year. Budget cuts include $5 million from Montgomery College, $4.3 million from the Department of Health and Human Services, $3.8 million from the police department and $2.6 million from the fire department. In addition, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) have only been allocated $2.5 billion for their operating budget, which is a $25 million reduction from 2017.

2018 budget cuts are a means of offsetting improper revenue projection by Montgomery County's Department of Finances. The incorrect prediction "comes as a result of a huge downturn in tax revenue," explained County Executive Isiah (Ike) Leggett. The department's routine projections were complicated this year by a change to federal tax law. According to the Montgomery County Sentinel, wealthy residents whose taxes comprise the bulk of the county's income tax revenue refrained from paying taxes until after the federal tax cuts took place. While this allowed individual taxpayers to save money, it also created a shortfall of $95 million. Along with $25 million shortfall from other revenue sources, the County's current revenue is short by $120 million. "We had to reduce the budget by $79 million in order to compensate," Leggett explained.

According to Leggett, cutting funding from education was a last resort. "You don't go there unless you absolutely have to," Leggett said in an interview with the Sentinel. Leggett also mentioned that he respects each department's budget. No department is 'best' to cut from," he said in an interview with Silver Chips Online.

Leggett stressed that, while he can take money from the MCPS operating budget, he has no say in how MCPS restructures their programs to respond to budget cuts. "I don't say, 'cut x' or 'cut y.' We don't determine that," Leggett explained.

MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith has promised that the cuts will be absorbed by central office operations and not have an impact at the classroom level. Leggett affirmed this, stating that the cuts are supposed to impact "non-classroom related items." He mentioned that one of the proposed cuts is some central office and support staff.

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