Over 450 letters were sent earlier this week by cyclists asking the Montgomery County Commissioners to spare the Parks & Heritage Services Department and the Planning Commission when they voted on the 2012 budget this morning. These letters were in addition to the 1600 letters sent several weeks ago when the Commissioners were considering eliminating those two departments.
An overwhelming response from the cycling community helped forestall an elimination of those two departments. Our letters and testimonies at the public hearing on December 10th made a huge impact. This morning, the Commissioners adopted by a 3-0 vote a $417.4 million budget, which will cut all non-court related departments by 2.5%. They voted a tax increase of 16.9%, which will raise average property taxes by $77.
Although we had asked the Commissioners to keep the Parks and Planning department budgets at 2011 levels, a 2.5% cut is better than many expected. It will be up to the Department heads to decide how to make those cuts, so we won't know for a few weeks what the exact impact will be.
The Parks Department just sent the Bicycle Coalition this email message:
"The Montgomery County Commissioners have adopted a 2012 budget that includes funding to keep our department up and running! Your voices, emails, blogs and personal appearances were instrumental in keeping our Parks, Trails and Historic Sites open to the public, with sufficient funding to be maintained and patrolled. We could not have been successful with this challenge without concerned users like yourselves. We are also very “humbled” by the thousands of people who supported our facilities, and the work we take pride in doing every day!"
While we dodged a bullet this year, this debate will undoubtedly come up again in the 2012 budget. We will need to keep on top of this issue during the next year. Nevertheless, we're grateful for this victory!
Thanks to everyone who took action!