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Montgomery County Budget Outlook Mixed

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Dave Dugdale: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davedugdale/5099605109/

A report from the Montgomery County office of finance shows more income tax revenue has been collected this year, which couples with a slight decrease in the county's unemployment rate in October.  After three straight years of very bleak reports, those numbers are welcome news for county leaders like council president Roger Berliner.

"I do believe we are beginning to see the faint signs of flickering lights at the end of this dark economic tunnel," says Berliner. "But it's obviously a little too soon to be rejoicing."

Other taxes collected by the county, on items such as telephones, fuel, and hotel rooms are not bringing in the money that was projected. An increase in the county energy tax was supposed to expire at the end of June, but that may not happen now. County executive Isiah Leggett has indicated the tax hike may stay in effect because of possible cuts in state and federal aid, as well as the uncertainty regarding how much money other county taxes are bringing in.

Berliner says those cuts will probably hurt social service programs: "It's not as though our safety net is being called upon less.  It's being called upon more given the strains in our economy."

Councilwoman Nancy Floreen says the failure of the Congressional supercommittee could be especially bad for the county, as she and her colleagues have no idea what kind of cuts in aid will be coming or what impact there will be on federal workers in a county where the federal government is the biggest employer.

"It's the classic elephant in the room," says Floreen. "We just don't know. So we will assume as we usually do that things will be alright and that something will be cobbled together that will keep us on an even keel."

Floreen adds the supercommittee's failure is also threatening the county's Triple-A bond rating.

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