County Council President Michael Knapp [also] talked about the challenges the council and County Executive Isiah Leggett face with last week's news about the growing budget gap, which has nearly doubled to about $450 million from earlier estimates. Jennifer Barrett, Montgomery County's finance chief, warned lawmakers that coffers are hurting because of the stock market drop, a decline in home prices and less-than-anticipated income tax revenue.
Knapp pointed to a startling piece of data that county officials publicized last month: A family of three -- one adult, a preschooler and one school-age child -- needs an income of $68,086 to live at a minimal level in Montgomery. Two years ago, when the same analysis was done by county officials, the amount was $61,438. Either is far more than $17,600, the official federal poverty level for that family. For a family of four, the minimum income needed is $79,736.
The income data is part of a report completed every two years by the county to help it evaluate what types of public assistance the county may need to provide. The federal standard is used to determine eligibility for federal and state programs, but county officials say they do not reflect the high cost of food, housing and basic living expenses in communities such as Montgomery, one of the most expensive counties in the nation. The summary, formally known as the Self-Sufficiency Standard Report, is assembled by the county's Community Action Board, made up of volunteer members appointed by the county executive to assess the needs of low-income residents and to monitor county policies that affect those residents.
Montgomery Extra - Washington Post, December 4, 2008