Amid major changes in governmental structures, heavy budget cuts are also in the works for Montgomery County, particularly for education.
Last week, the county council approved a $53 million in cuts as part of an effort to close a budget shortfall.
The slashing included a $25 million reduction in funding for the county school system, which had a budget of $2.5 billion.
However, Council member Craig Rice said that he could support the school system cut, due to assurances from schools Superintendent Jack Smith that the cuts would be absorbed by central office operations.
In addition, County Executive Isiah Leggett submitted a plan to the council to cut $60 million from the current fiscal 2018 budget; however, the council opted to maintain spending for some programs, including dental health and mental health services for low-income families.
Council Pushes Panhandling Bill
The County Council members convened Tuesday, Jan. 30 to advance a bill outlawing panhandling in the county.
Proposed in December by Council member Craig Rice, the bill prohibits individuals from standing in the roadway to “solicit, sell or distribute any material” to drivers, but allows people to perform those activities as long as they’re standing on a sidewalk or an unpaved road shoulder.
The bill stemmed from an uptick of homeless people fatally struck by vehicles while panhandling. However, a representative of the Montgomery County Career Firefighters Association testified against the bill, contending that it could affect efforts to raise money for muscular dystrophy research by firefighters, who use the same soliciting methods.
The council has not scheduled a committee meeting or future action on the bill, which would ultimately need approval by the General Assembly due to its potential impact on state roadways.
Multifamily Housing Project in the Works for Downtown Bethesda
Council members recently approved a preliminary proposal to build more multifamily housing on Feb. 1.
Scheduled to be located next to Edgemont at Bethesda, developer Equity Residential aims to construct a nearly 150-foot residential complex in place of the single-family home that currently occupies the downtown property, Bethesda Magazine reported.
The existing multifamily building at 4903 Edgemoor Lane reportedly has 122 units and is about 155,190 square feet, while the new proposal includes a high-rise with up to 186,000 square feet and 160 units.
Though some community members have expressed concerns with the development, fearing it might affect residents in nearby housing complexes, the Bethesda Downtown Design Advisory Panel has reportedly assured groups that the architectural plans were sensitive to mitigating shadowing and recognized the building’s relationship with surrounding properties.