Social services biggest chunk of Montgomery County’s $975 million budget for 2023

County says water and sewer rates will stay the same; employees will get 4% raises.

Montgomery County Commissioners have approved a $975 million budget for 2023, with most of the spending allocated for four areas — social services ($429.7 million or 44.1%), judicial and law enforcement ($212.6 million or 21.8%), environment and public works ($157.9 million or 16.2%) and general government ($152.5 million or 15.6%).

“Providing programs and services to Montgomery County citizens is something that will not take a back seat to project investments,” County Commission President Carolyn Rice said. “Social services are absolutely critical for our community, and that is why it accounts for so much of our annual budget.”

Total county revenue for 2023 is budgeted at $951.9 million, an increase of $14.3 million over 2022. Areas of projected increase include investment income (up $8 million), sales tax (up $5 million) and real estate assessment fund ($3.4 million), according to John Parks, the county’s director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Total expenses for 2023 are projected at $975.5 million, an increase of $21.5 million. County officials pointed to a 4% rise in health insurance costs, and some water and sewer capital projects as part of the increase. Parks said personnel costs will rise by $14.8 million because of staff increases (14 new positions) and 4% pay raises.

County Administrator Michael Colbert said residents’ water and sewer rates will stay the same for 2023.

Social services

The biggest pieces of the county’s social services budget, which incorporates the human services tax levies, will go to Human Services Planning and Development ($146.2 million or 34%), Job and Family Services ($140.7 million or 32.8%) and Developmental Disabilities Services ($53.1 million or 12.4%).

The social services budget is offset by the passing of the levies, which, combined with state and federal funding, provide $276 million for vital services such as homeless solutions, food equity and elder care.

“We are so, so thankful that citizens vote for the levy,” Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge said. “The local levy funding, combined with the state and federal, really does a world of good for our developmentally disabled, those living in food deserts, people with mental health needs and so much more.”

Law enforcement

The Sheriff’s Office ($68.3 million or 32.1%) and Juvenile Court ($26.7 million or 12.5%) constitute nearly half of the spending under the Judicial and Law Enforcement part of the budget. Other high-ticket areas include “Miscellaneous” expenses to fund the Domestic Relations Court, the public defender and crime lab.

County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman said many of the Judicial and Law Enforcement program dollars will continue to support criminal justice programs in the county.

“We will keep promoting initiatives that lower the jail population. The Electronic Home Detention Program, which reduces costs and still affords the safety needs of our community, does just that,” Lieberman said. “We also continue to support our regional JusticeWeb system to give the criminal justice community an accurate picture of the jail population and data to support courts, law enforcement agencies, Children Services and many others.”

Public works

Under Environment and Public Works, 87% of the budget is set to be spent on Environmental Services (water, sewer, waste, recycling), to the tune of $137.5 million.

Environmental Services capital projects, which modernize or replace end-of-lifecycle water and sewer infrastructure, account for a $25.1 million investment.

Major projects for Environmental Services in 2023 include bidding and funding for the Stillwater Lift Station replacement at an estimated cost of $8 million, and bidding and funding for Eastern Generator Replacement at an estimated cost of $5 million, according to county spokeswoman Deb Decker.

Other budget areas

Colbert said there were limited “new” initiatives in the budget because although the county had exceeded pre-pandemic levels, the likelihood of a recession still loomed.

Funds totaling $13 million will go towards County Commissioners’ initiatives next year, including $4 million for PreSchool Promise, $3 million for the county’s workforce and leadership training program, $2.5 million for the Economic Development/Government Equity (ED/GE) grant program, $1.5 million for facilities, $1 million in arts and culture and $1 million in strategic community projects.

Actual sales tax receipts through November are $110 million and the county expects the 2022 total to be $120 million, Parks said.

“The budget increase of $5 million is based on (a) 2022 budget of $110 million,” he said. “We are expecting to be $10 million over budget for 2022, but based on recession possibilities causing a slowdown in spending, we’re only expecting $115 million in 2023.

“Our comparisons are always adopted budget to adopted budget, not actuals.”

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