Thursday, January 15, 2009

Board to examine budget priorities - Gazette

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009

Board to examine budget priorities

Sufficient funding for emergency services, transportation, public safety and health and library services were among the priorities discussed Monday by the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board in preparation for a February meeting with County Executive Isiah Leggett to discuss the county's fiscal 2010 operating budget.

Unger and Vice Chairwoman Kathy Stevens will meet with Leggett (D) Feb. 3 as one of several panels to advise the county executive before his office determines next year's budget. In a year with large-scale cuts anticipated around the county, Unger and Silver Spring Regional Center Director Gary Stith urged residents to be vocal about budget concerns.

"The best thing is if you go to the county executive and tell him what you don't want to have cut because, quite frankly, everything is going to be cut," Stith said at the advisory board's monthly meeting Monday.

Board members said it was important that funding for key programs in Silver Spring is not pulled because it has been underfunded in the past in relation to its growing population.

"Cuts for Silver Spring and east county should be proportionately less than in less dense parts of the county," said board member Alan Bowser of Sligo Hills.

While economic shortfalls mean there is less money to spread around, board members noted that economic problems also increase the need for sufficient funding in certain areas.

Crime increases in difficult economic times so police funding in Silver Spring should not be cut. The use of public transportation also increases as people have financial difficulties so Silver Spring's Ride On and VanGo bus service should not be compromised, board members said.

Board member and Sligo Park Hills resident Fran Rothstein said library hours and funding should not be cut because people use the library's inexpensive services more often in tough economic times.

Before drafting a list of priorities to present to Leggett, Unger and Stevens will also get feedback from residents on the upcoming budget at a community forum 7 p.m. Thursday at the Long Branch Community Center, 8700 Piney Branch Road in Silver Spring. The meeting is the third in a five-meeting series sponsored by the County Executive's Office. Leggett is expected to host the meeting.

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