Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett unveiled his recommended $4.3 billion operating budget Monday.
The county is facing a staggering deficit of $779 million that is forcing cuts at all county agencies with significant cuts proposed in services and staffing.
Hard choices resulted from the economic recession, rising unemployment, and sharp declines in tax revenues and state aid, Leggett said.
"I'm recommending the Montgomery County government implement a 10-day furlough," he said. "Eighty working hours of non-public safety public employees."
The union representing county employees was taken by surprise by the furlough announcement.
"It could mean hardship," said Tony Thomas, the executive vice president of UFCW Local 1994. "It could mean a matter of making it from one pay period to the next. It could mean losing a home."
In addition to the furloughs, the budget eliminates 452 county jobs and provides no pay increase of any kind.
Leggett is once again proposing an ambulance fee -- an idea that has been defeated every time it has been raised by volunteer rescue squads arguing for ambulance services to remain free.
An ambulance fee would raise $15 million in revenue every year, at a cost of approximately $450 per transport, which Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Chief Richard Bowers said insurance companies would pay.
"Even though it is a fee, it's actually reimbursement," he said. "We're recovering money from the insurance companies, and no county resident is going to pay a dime."
Montgomery County Public Schools funding will be reduced by $79.5 million -- a 3.9 percent cut. That means bigger classes and less money spent per pupil.
"We will be deferring 300 positions, we will be reorganizing the central office and we will lower that cost per pupil a thousand dollars," Schools Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast said. "We have to do it because there's no other way out of this."
Other cuts include ending 18 Ride On bus routes, eliminating 40 police positions and closing for satellite police stations.
And to those who object to the cuts, Leggett said he doesn't like them, either.