Libraries, affordable housing major concerns at budget forum

Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large) addressed the issue of raising the county’s minimum wage at Wednesday budget forum as County Executive Isiah Leggett listens. Photo by Trish Rimo.

Library funding and affordable housing were residents’ two biggest concerns at a Jan. 25 FY18 operating budget forum held in the silver Spring Civic Building.

The budget, which will be released March 14, will focus on priorities that include affordable housing in an inclusive community, an effective and efficient transportation network, funding that ensures children prepared to learn and live, and healthy, sustainable communities, said County Executive Isiah Leggett.

Above all, he said, he intended to propose a budget that was responsive and accountable to citizens.

Leggett also pointed out that relatively fixed costs such as schools, public safety and debt service account for about 70 percent of an approximately $5.5 billion budget. This affects the amount of the county’s discretionary spending on other items.

He briefly touched on the recently vetoed legislation to raise the county’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, saying he expected an increase to pass within the next two years.

Here’s a rundown of some of the major topics raised by attendees.

  • Affordable housing for senior citizens
  • School staffing issues for record numbers of students
  • Help for small businesses affected by redevelopment and other construction
  • Aid for those with developmental disabilities
  • Affects on revenues from a freeze on federal hiring
  • Expenditures for the first county public funding of elections in 2018
  • Support for the arts and county nonprofits

Trish Rimo contributed to this report.