County Council votes to approve FY18 budget savings plan

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The County Council yesterday approved a resolution calling for $53.4 million in cuts to the FY18 operating budget and $9.3 million in cuts to the Capital Improvements Program.

County Executive Isiah Leggett had proposed a FY18 savings plan that included $58.7 million in operating budget savings and $13.5 million in current revenue capital budget savings to reduce costs in the current year.

The latest fiscal estimates showed a net decrease in anticipated county revenues of $180.9 million ($94.9 million in FY18 and $86 million in FY19), compared to estimates assumed at the time the FY18 budget was approved.

The council’s six committees reviewed Leggett’s recommendations earlier this month. Among the more significant differences between the executive’s recommended savings and those approved by council committees is the restoration of about $2.5 million to provide fire and rescue services at several fire stations, according to council staff.

The money will include covering the staffing of fire engines at the Hillandale station, among others. It will also help provide 24/7 paramedic services at the Takoma Park fire station. The station is one of only two in the county without a paramedic.

Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-District 5) pushed to add funding for the services in the current FY18 operating budget, and worked to spare this cut in the savings plan voted on Tuesday.

“I take very seriously the public concerns about our local access to emergency services, especially given the imminent relocation of Washington Adventist Hospital [to White Oak],” Hucker said in a statement. “Public safety is a critical function of county government and should not be cut. People’s lives are at stake.”

The council originally budgeted $450,000 in the FY18 budget for the Takoma Park paramedic services: $400,000 to add five paramedics and $50,000 for equipment, to provide 24/7 coverage.

On Monday, the county learned that the fire and rescue service would receive a federal grant that will cover all but $160,000 of the paramedic costs. That portion of the funding was included in the savings plan approved Tuesday.

The council also approved about $300,000 to start a limited-stop Ride On bus service on U.S. 29 in May. The county executive had recommended cutting more than $600,000 from the budget and starting it in September.

The service was initially supposed to start in January, but was put on hold by the county’s Department of Transportation pending a decision on the spending plan, according to council staff. The new service is intended as a bridge for commuters until Bus Rapid Transit starts along U.S. 29.

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