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Montgomery County Braces For Possible 'Doomsday Budget'

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It's been a week since the Maryland General Assembly recessed, and a week closer to a so-called "Doomsday budget" deadline that will slash hundreds of millions of dollars statewide. The effects are expected to be felt by residents of Montgomery County.

Without a special session of the General Assembly to pass a bill that would -- among many things -- increase the state income tax, massive cuts will occur to school spending. That includes reducing the amount spent on each student by $111 -- which may not seem like much, but could have profound effects, according to Montgomery County schools superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr.

"We have 147,000 students," says Starr. "You can do the math on that. It's a lot of money."

A much larger cut would do away with what's called the Geographic Cost of Education Index, a funding formula that benefits larger jurisdictions where it's more expensive to run schools, says county board of education president Shirley Brandman. Just as the cost of living is higher in Montgomery County than in many places in the state, Brandman says, so too are the educational costs.

But the remedy for the school cuts -- an income tax hike -- will also hurt the county, says council president Roger Berliner.

"It's more targeted at high income earners, which will have a disproportinate impact on Montgomery County," says Berliner. "So in the context in which we're trying to create positive incentives to get businesses to locate here, this will not be a plus for us."

When visiting the Kojo Show on Friday, Governor Martin O'Malley said he will not call for a special session until he's sure legislative leaders have reached a consensus on raising taxes.


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