Montgomery County Budget Officer Amanda Carter presented the preliminary budget, though she said county departments are still finalizing some numbers, and tax rates were not available at the meeting. Previously, the commissioners stated they wished to avoid tax increases.
FY 2020-21 ends Sept. 30.
The preliminary total budget is $376.21 million, an increase of around $13.7 million, or around 7.1%, from last year's $350.56 million, Carter said. The general fund for the county is estimated at around a 6% increase, and it will make up $244.05 million of the total budget, she said.
Carter said she wanted to highlight general fund contracts, such as contracts with law enforcement, are seeing an increase of about $2.58 million, or 16%, for the upcoming year.
Commissioners discussed the county's internal service funds, which covers medical plans for employees and retirees. Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said three or four years ago, the county had $17 million-$20 million dedicated to its internal service fund, but it has not increased.
"During that time ... that fund has been depleted to the point where last month, the county had to step in, make some changes and put in $6 million-$7 million more," Noack said. "Any option that is not solving the problem today is off the table."
One proposed option to resolve the issue would mean a tax rate increase of $0.01 for the FY 2021-22 budget. Each $0.01 of the tax rate provides about $5.4 million in revenue, Carter said.
However, Judge Mark Keough said the county is still hurting from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic with around a 6% unemployment rate.
"If there is a way to get rid of all of this and move on, I am all for it," Keough said.
Montgomery County Auditor Rakesh Pandey said a possible solution could come from unassigning up to $15 million in funds and moving it into the fund balance to cover the $6 million for employee health care rather than raising the tax rate. Commissioners voted in favor of that option.
The county will hold budget workshops in late July and August. A timeline is anticipated to be sent out the week of July 19.
Noack also expressed a desire to see recommended raises for county employees compared against neighboring entities.
"Whether people like it or not, we compete with all of those other entities for talent," Noack said. "We have the most talented people working here, I do not want them to leave for more money. We have to get our law enforcement pay up ... compared to the people we are competing with. Somehow we need to prioritize that into this budget or next budget."