October 24, 2013 – Art Holmes
Questions sent to Art Holmes
in advance of the meeting of October 24, 2013, and his responses:
Questions sent to Art Holmes, Director, Department of Transportation, in advance of the meeting of October 24, 2013, and his responses given at the meeting:
Most of the presentation was made by Edward Gonzalez, Deputy Director for Transportation Policy.
They passed around a packet of papers showing the organization of the Department. There are five Divisions:
Transportation Engineering is in charge of building roads.
Traffic Engineering and Operations manages traffic signals and studies. They recently installed a new computer system, replacing the centralized computer with a distributed system as a fail-safe measure.
Parking Management builds and maintains parking garages.
Highway Services is in charge of snow removal and fixing potholes.
Transit Services is responsible for maintenance and operation of buses although the buses are physically maintained by the Department of General Services.
The transportation system is composed of roads, transit, taxis and pedestrian mobility.
1. What is your current budget and what are the major categories, e.g., road maintenance. Also what do you currently budget for Ride-On, Metrobus, and Metrorail? What are your cost projections for the next 5 years? As there is no Maintenance of Effort Law for transportation how do you plan ahead for possible budget cuts?
The FY2014 operating budget of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) totals $196 million, of which $121 million (61%) goes to transit, $34 million (17%) to highway maintenance, $27 million (14%) to parking, $9 million (5%) to traffic engineering, $1 million (1%) to engineering and $4 million (2%) to the Director’s Office. Over the last 3 fiscal years that budget has increased only slightly while percentages have remained basically unchanged. In addition, the state has provided $121 million in funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) to benefit Montgomery County.
ICC revenues are slightly exceeding projections with the FY2013 revenue totaling $39 million, all of which goes to the state.
2. The State has recently announced that it will fund the Purple Line but is also looking at a public-private partnership. This is an innovative approach never before been implemented at quite this scale. What do you see as pitfalls for Montgomery County? Can we be left holding the bag? How does budgeting for such a project work?
The window for public comment on the 18-mile Purple line closed in June with further announcements to be made later this year regarding how much Federal funding to request. After that funding request is sent to the Federal Department of Transportation, they will make a decision about whether to include it in the DOT budget request to be submitted to Congress by the President early in 2014.
The estimated cost is $2.2 billion with Federal aid estimated at $900 million. Both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will provide $110 million each.
There will be a connection at the Bethesda station between the Red and the Purple Lines and a stop at the new Silver Spring library. The south entrance at Bethesda will increase Red Line ridership by only 440 riders daily. On the surface there will be 6 elevators to take passengers to the Purple Line and 2 more to take them to the Red Line.
Building the new station in Bethesda for the Purple Line is complicated by the presence of the current Apex Building. The county is now negotiating with the Apex owners about the county buying the building and tearing it down. However, the negotiations have not yet produced any kind of an agreement.
The public-private partnership (P3) now being considered for the Purple Line does have some risks although it has worked well in other places. The state will be leading the negotiations with representatives from both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties involved. There is always the possibility that the private company can go bankrupt. There could also be construction problems and problems between the county and the concessionaire, which will be responsible for “curb to curb” maintenance.
3. How much will your budget grow to build and maintain the Corridor Cities Line and the Bus Rapid Transit lines? How much do you estimate for each in maintenance costs? Costs for these new projects are often quoted in “cost per mile”. What are the total number of miles involved? How much of this will be funded by the state?
The Corridor Cities Line will have only a slight impact on the budget as operating costs per mile of the 9-mile line will run $2-3 million. Construction costs are not yet known but are estimated to be $540 million. There are alternative ways to finance the project.
Bus Rapid Transit operating costs will run at a minimum of $600K annually. Concept planning is now taking place for 3 of the lines. Total miles for the project is 80. The state has not yet made a commitment to this project.
4. How do your department’s salary costs compare to Howard and Fairfax counties? If Montgomery County’s costs are higher is our productivity proportionately higher?
It is difficult to get “oranges to oranges” information to make accurate comparisons. Fairfax County does not make a good comparison as it is smaller in size (350 square miles to Montgomery’s 495). Its local bus system has 350 buses while Montgomery has over 500.
After the meeting Deputy Director Gonzalez provided us with the following information:
As far as comparing the Department of Transportation in Fairfax County to our Department the size and responsibilities are quite different. Let me point out a few for starters:
1. Fairfax does not design or build roads or any other transportation facilities. All of those responsibilities are with the State of Virginia, not the County.
2. Fairfax does not maintain their roads, deal with tree maintenance or remove snow. Those are the State of Virginia’s responsibilities.
3. Fairfax does not operate or maintain their Traffic Signals and street signs. Those are responsibilities of the State.
4. Fairfax contracts out their transit system, which is much smaller, by about 100 buses.
5. Because of all the functions the State performs in Virginia, including Fairfax County, their Department size is not even 25 percent of the size of our Department.
So, it would not be quite the same level of authority, responsibility and accountability involved in both jurisdictions.
As to the question of outsourcing (that was raised in the meeting) the county tried outsourcing bus services in FY2007-2011 but it resulted in poor maintenance and poor service. Although there are no current plans to review the situation, outsourcing is reviewed periodically. However, the County bus services are lower than comparable services from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
5. Bus Rapid Transit is less costly than the proposed Purple Line. Are we planning to proceed with both?
The County wants to proceed with both but there are still a lot of unknowns.
6. How much do you collect from Inter-County Connector fees? What progress has been made collecting fees from drivers who do not pay?
All revenue from the ICC go to the state. The law changed July 1, 2013, to give the state Motor Vehicles Administration legal authority to collect fines and penalties from those who use the system but don’t pay. Currently there are about 650,000 unpaid fines amounting to over $6 million. But 99% of all current users do pay.
More information can be found at the website of the Department of Transportation:
Comments are closed.
Sept. 19, 2013 – Bob Hoyt
Questions sent to Bob Hoyt
in advance of the meeting of September 19, 2013, and his responses:
Questions sent to Bob Hoyt, Director, Department of Environmental Protection, in advance of the meeting of September 19, 2013, and his responses given at the meeting:
1. How much did the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) collect from rain tax revenue and how much was spent last year including administrative overhead, public education, environmental remediation projects? Any surplus or deficit? Does WSSC get any of this money?
The tax produced $22.8 million for the county for FY2013. All of the revenue goes into the Water Quality Protection Charge (WQPC) fund and stays in the county. The revenue from the “bag tax”—$2.3 million in FY2013—also goes into the WQPC fund. There is a state fund for the same purpose but that fund can be used for other purposes, unlike the County fund.
None of the tax in the county WQPC fund goes to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. It goes only for storm water treatment, not for waste water treatment.
One of the problems lies in the areas that were built before the current regulations took effect.
Old storm water ponds are being renovated to bring them up to current standards. DEP is required to capture the runoff from 20% (= 4000 acres) of the county’s impervious surfaces. The 2002 law was put into effect to maintain the storm water tanks under gas stations, shopping malls, parking lots, etc., since they don’t have the ability to maintain them as required.
2. Given that state and county buildings are exempt from the Rain Tax, who are the top five rain tax taxpayers in Montgomery County? How much does NIH/Bethesda Medical Center pay in rain taxes?
The top five are Wheaton Plaza, Medlantic, Summit Hill apartments, Georgetown Prep school and Silver Oaks campus.
Federal installations are billed but they do not pay. Their last bill was $385K.
3. What platform is used to collect the aerial photos used for rain tax calculation (drones, satellites, etc.), what company takes these photos, and how much are they being paid to do so?
The share of the cost of digital imagery—used by more than one county department—for the Department of Environmental Protection is $20,000
4. Is there enough WSSC capacity to process all the diverted storm water, or will there be additional costs to increase the capacity of treatment plants or build new ones?
The WSSC has no connection to this program. All funds colledted by this tax stay within the county.
5. With the availability of permeable concrete and asphalt for driveways, streets and parking lots, rain water can soak directly into the ground without entering storm water drains. Ergo will the Rain Tax be re-evaluated?
This situation will be addressed through credits to a maximum of 50%. Businesses can also get a reduction up to 60%
6. There is a series of taxes and fees imposed by the county, the WSSC and the state all attributed to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Can you list them? What percentage of these taxes and fees are spent directly on cleaning up the Bay. Are these taxes meted out equally among residents, businesses and agricultural interests?
About 50% of the county’s watershed is rated fair to poor. The county’s program of dealing with rainwater run-off does not apply to Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park.
There is a difference between rain water and waste water. Rain water is naturally occurring and runs off surfaces to street drains which empty untreated into a waterway. Waste water is sanitary water which is piped into homes and businesses. It exits as sewage and goes to treatment plants before being emptied into waterways. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission is responsible for treating of waste water; it is not responsible for rain water.
The Bay Restoration Fee (not the rain tax) goes to the state for waste water treatment.
Each year the County spends $3 million on the removal of plastic bags from waterways. Although paper bags are biodegradable, they are taxed along with plastic bags so that stores are not hurt financially. Paper bags cost stores about twice as much as plastic bags do.
One way or another each county will have to contribute financially to Bay cleanup caused by impervious surfaces. They can delay it all they want but they can’t escape it. So some counties may just raise their property taxes to pay for it rather than a rain tax.
Each county is individually responsible for its financial share. If Montgomery goes full steam ahead and the state still doesn’t get the full $14.8 billion estimated by the state, Montgomery County will not be forced to pitch in to make up the total shortfall, only our original share.
Montgomery County is the reason that Annapolis did not specify what the rainfall tax rate should be for each county. Had they done that, then Montgomery rainfall taxes would have gone to Annapolis and into the general fund, meaning we would get back the usual 20 cents on every dollar we send to Annapolis. Montgomery officials tried to bargain with the state (“Can you give us back at least 50 cents on the dollar?”) but the state rejected those pleas. So, luckily for us, each dollar that is collected in any county stays in that county, to be used only for rainwater runoff control.
More information can be found at the website of the Department of Environmental Protection:
Comments are closed.
April 25, 2013 – David Dise
Minutes of the Taxpayers League Meeting – April 25, 2013
Speaker: David Dise, Director of Montgomery County’s Department of General Services
On April 25th, the Taxpayers League meeting featured David Dise, Director of Montgomery County’s Department of General Services. The Department is responsible for a combination of public works and transportation for the County. The Taxpayers League’s members had submitted a number of questions to Mr. Dise in advance and engaged in a discussion of a wide range of issues related to the Silver Spring Transit Center. Several of the topics related to costs and management: “What is the difference between the original projected cost for the Silver Spring Transit Center and the estimated final costs?”; “How can the methodology be improved to keep projects on schedule?”; “How can benefits expected from a project be less heavily weighted in favor of the business partners?”; and, “What is the role of inspectors in the Permits Division on such projects, and how can more timely escalation of management issues take place?”
An initial question addressed to Mr. Dise requested that he talk about the Transit Center which has been featured in the Washington Post with concerns about it being unsafe, unsound, unusable and experiencing significant cost overruns as well as providing some background on what his department does. A preliminary proposal for the Silver Spring Transit Center was developed in 1999 and was estimated to cost $35M. The original proposal was totally different from the ultimate design and development of the current project that was initiated in 2006-2007. After a competition in which two bids were received (Clark and Foulger-Pratt), an award of $66.5M was made to Foulger-Pratt in 2009. More recent cost estimates have risen to $109M and currently are projected to be $120M or more.
The original cost was a substantial underestimate and several of the factors contributing to this difference according to Mr. Dise were:
- Test borings encountered more rock than anticipated
- Duct work for conduit for Pepco had to be re-located and had to be deeper
- “huge challenges” in re-locating water and sewer lines
- Then encountered telephone and fiber optic that had to be accommodated
With the Center project still not completed and two years behind schedule, the County is looking at faults/flaws in several areas:
- Concrete core samples (from trucks and from site – how and where cured?) water and air affects cure time and may weaken the concrete
- Concrete not of sufficient strength – possible water involvement
- Problems were encountered with rebar and post tensioning cable (9 strands of wire)
- Consultant suggested that concrete is over or under tensioning requirements
- An enumeration of several issues:
- In October 2011 noticed concrete flaking and the plastic tubing (casing for cable) was exposed
- The concrete was supposed to be 10 inches thick – some is 8 or 8.5 inches thick
- Quality of the concrete is inadequate (how did water and air get into the mix?); uneven mix
- Contractor or engineers may have over or under designed the facility
For several years Robert B. Balter has provided inspections and materials testing oversight for the project.
Mr. Dise noted that KCE Structural Engineers provided oversight for this project as well. He indicated that his office had received 1400 RFIs (request for information) from Foulger-Pratt on this project; whereas, a typical project would involve several hundred or fewer RFIs. He said the transit Center’s completion date was supposed to have been a year and a half ago, and his focus now is on getting it done safely with appropriate durability, etc. The Transit Center was projected to have a 50 year life, but current estimates anticipate only a 12 year life.
In response to a question about the CIP (Capital Improvement Projects), Mr. Dise indicated that over a six year period a $4 billion CIP entailed slightly over one-half addressing Montgomery County Public Schools projects and approximately $1.8 billion for County facilities. In response to another inquiry he said that no Federal money was involved in the Silver Spring Transit Center project; however, the County did receive a $4M grant from the State for this project. All the other funding is from Montgomery County.
In response to a question regarding whether or not Fachina (the concrete company) utilized union or non-union employees were utilized and whether they are equally qualified in terms of training and experience, Mr. Dise did not think they used union employees, and noted that they are a nationally known and respected firm. Mr. Dise said “clearly the quality of the concrete is inadequate”, noted that the mixes were uneven and wondered how water and air got into the mix.
Mr. Dise mentioned that the County’s Inspector General was looking at the Transit Center project but that no action has been taken yet. He mentioned that his office has 15 other projects underway at present and that almost all are on schedule with the exception of the Gaithersburg library which is being held up because of required storm water system changes.
Two other Department of General Services projects were referenced in closing. They are both $80M projects; one for Fleet Management (dump trucks, trailers and snow plows) and another for the Judiciary Center. Design work entails about 10% of the ultimate project cost.
Comments are closed.
February 28, 2013 – Janette Gilman
February 28, 2013 – Janette Gilman
MCTL Meeting of February 28, 2013:
Our questions (sent to her in advance) and MCCPTA President Janette Gilman’s responses at the meeting:
2. What is MCCPTA’s role in determining the MCPS budget? Is there a tripartite budget committee (MCPS – Unions- MCCPTA) that negotiates and approves the budget prior to its release? Have there been any instances where the MCCPTA did not agree with the MCPS and Union proposals or are you in lock step with them?
3. There are no targets in either the MCPS budget or the MCPS strategic plan for reducing the achievement gap? Does the MCCPTA support an “equity” budget where funding allocations would favor those schools that have disproportionately high African-American, Hispanic and FARMS concentrations with relatively low performance outcomes? How confident is the MCCPTA that the placement of teachers is strategically determined? What is the MCCPTA position on allocating our most highly-paid, senior and most experienced teachers to red zone schools where the achievement gap is most pronounced?
4. What is the MCCPTA position on sharing administrative services with the Montgomery County Government – services such as procurement, IT, human resources, etc.? Are you confident that the costs related to these duplicate administrative entities are justified and are not stealing resources from the classroom?
5. Montgomery County has acquired a reputation for the quality of its public schools. What does the MCCPTA consider the top 3 performance indicators for the success of its students? How do these indicators compare with Howard and Fairfax counties?
Notes from the MCTL meeting of February 28, 2013
Following are comments made by Ms. Gilman:
The MCCPTA had just had a presentation on the proposed budget, so this meeting is very timely. She also said she is a member of MCTL.
1. She prefaced her remarks by saying that the bylaws of the MCCPTA prohibit her from speaking on some subjects. She would not address any topics for which MCCPTA did not have enough information.
PTAs operate in nearly all the county’s 180 schools but not so much in the special schools. There are 43,000 members representing all county PTAs. The MCCPTA has 9 standing committees. Only the state PTA—not the county—can charter a new PTA. It is difficult to keep all PTAs functioning.
New MCCPTA officers take office each May. The nine MCCPTA vice-presidents oversee the same area as the MCPS area superintendents. At various meetings parents have said the MCPS needs to better implement Curriculum 2.0. The parents like the program but are not happy at how it is being implemented. Another $2 million has been added to the budget to train teachers on its implementation. Another big issue with parents is technology: Some schools have it, others do not. Some technology improvements are funded by parent groups resulting in inequalities.
School capacity—overcrowding—is also an issue with parents but class size is not.
2. MCCPTA creates its priorities for the MCPS operating budget, then presents them to the individual PTAs, which vote.
MCCPTA is represented during the deliberations in the formulation of each new MCPS budget. It is there where MCCPTA makes its priorities known. However, MCCPTA takes no part in negotiations with unions. One high priority is closing the “achievement gap”. Superintendent Starr is pushing this issue but it is not easy to solve.
MCCPTA also wants police officers in every one of the county high schools.
The MCCPTA does not get involved in funding issues; it is not important where the money comes from, be it county, state or Federal resources. Nor does it address how effective the various programs are or set any kind of performance measures. MCCPTA is there to put forth the views of the parents.
3. Concerning the achievement gap, MCCPTA has no position on giving bonuses to entice teachers to teach in under-performing schools.
An attendee commented that if the MCPS employee benefits were the same as those for county employees, MCPS would accrue substantial savings, which then could be directed to improving the achievement gap.
Another attendee suggested that there should be a per-school salary ceiling, which would result in every school having a mix of new and veteran teachers.
Each principal hires his or her own staff; those decisions are not made by the Superintendent. Average teacher tenure in schools in the eastern part of the county is lower than in the western part. Teacher turnover is greatest during the first 5 years of their career.
An MCTL study has shown that teachers in the “red zone” are paid 4% less than those in the “green zone”.
There is a shortage of male African-American teachers not only in the county but also nationwide. Strategies to overcome the achievement gap are varied based on the characteristics of each school.
Many individual PTAs partner with PTAs at other schools. MCCPTA has never done an analysis of PTA fund-raisers. Some schools have fund-raising activities; others don’t.
4. Over the past few years MCPS has made $400 million in cuts, mostly in front office costs.
5. As for performance indicators of school success, MCCPTA just looks at performance not indicators. It looks at what is best for every child and favors better funding for pre-school breakfast for example. MCCPTA believes that Superintendent Starr is determined to close the achievement gap
Comments are closed.
January 24, 2013 – Nancy Navarro
MCTL Meeting of January 24, 2013:
Our questions (sent to her in advance) and
President Nancy Navarro’s responses at the meeting:
County Council President Navarro started by saying that she sees her role as President to be one of helping facilitate legislation, not of introducing it. The overall priority will be the budget and within that the top priority will be transportation, particularly in the eastern part of the county. She does not expect there to be any significant increase in funding available.
1. Now that Governor O’Malley has proposed a budget with no tax increases, will the County Council follow suit? What is your position on “sun-setting” the energy tax?
She will soon meet with County Executive Ike Leggett to discuss the budget. No promises can be made on taxes until it is clear what the budget will be. Property values are up so property tax revenue will also go up.
2. On assuming the presidency of the County Council, your acceptance speech mentioned “One Montgomery”. How do you plan to achieve this with, in essence, the two Montgomery’s that exist today – the MCPS and the rest of County government?
There are many opportunities to practice collaboration by using current resources than increasing the budget. It is hard to solve systemic problems with just money. It was a big mistake for the County not to seek a waiver from the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirement [to fund the Public Schools budget]. The Council tried to persuade the School Board to do so, but the Board didn’t change its position. The big problem with the new MOE law is that the Council has very little control over the school system and its budget. The Council spent a lot time trying to educate the public about the negative impact of MOE but got nowhere. Now the public needs to apply pressure to the MCPS school board.
3. While Education Week rates Maryland #1 in the nation for public education, the removal of Montgomery County from the equation would make Maryland #26. Is the Maintenance of Effort law and its support by our delegates to Annapolis an altruistic effort by them for the greater good of the state? If so, could the waiver process be modified so that Montgomery County is not penalized for its success? For example, could some of the criteria used for waivers be tied to statewide goals for test scores and graduation rates? Another waiver requirement requires the concurrence of the Board of Education. Did our delegates to Annapolis really believe that the Board of Education would agree to a reduction in Maintenance of Effort funding? As a test case, will the Council work with the MCPS Board of Education to file a MoE waiver for non-recurring MCPS costs?
In order for the Council to request a waiver, both the Council and the School Board need to agree to do it. It is bad logic to penalize the county over the MOE question. Students need more services than just education. The Council is not pleased about the MOE law.
Some in the County’s delegation to Annapolis [all but one of which voted for the MOE law] said they voted that way because the are “state” delegates. But there should be another way to evaluate the success of school systems. How does imposing an MOE penalty benefit students who need help?
4. Since many County teachers are paid on average 20% more than their peers in Howard and Fairfax county, can we limit pay increases until productivity increases 20% and taxpayers see a benefit for their generosity?
Council members have said that if they had more control over the MCPS budget, the decisions they make would be different for those made by the School Board. One example would be to look at the return on investment. The Council has to figure out how to fund the schools even though it has limited resources. For the County, the Council responded to the economic downturn by delaying the implementation of furlough days to give employees time to adjust. The School Board voted not to decrease anything but instead to reward employees with 2 pay raises. . Voters should communicate to the politicians that everyone has to work together.
5. You recently wrote a commentary published by the Montgomery Gazette regarding the need to further tax Montgomery County residents to help alleviate the I-270 traffic nightmare leaving the impression that the County Council has not been complicit in creating what has become some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. Yet the County Council’s makes decisions in approving developments that only exacerbate the county’s traffic gridlock problems. For example, the Council has already approved additional high density residential development at the Shady Grove transfer station (Gaithersburg), the Rio farm development (Gaithersburg), and the continued over-development of Clarksburg. All these high density projects will only dump thousands more commuters onto already woefully inadequate road infrastructure (State routes 27 & 355 and I-270). Is it fair that taxpayers should be required to fund the Council’s continued approvals of development policy without the infrastructure to support it?
When Ms. Navarro said she didn’t recall writing such an article, one of the attendees said it was actually written by someone else. She said that the eastern part of the county needs more jobs there to ease the transportation situation
Comments are closed.
Testimony By Robert Monsheimer about MCPS FY2014 Budget
MCTL Review of the Proposed Superintendents FY 2014 Budget
Robert Monsheimer, Education Chair MCTL
Good Evening, I would like to thank the Board for allowing me to speak tonight regarding the proposed FY 2014 budget. The request presented to us is 10 million above the MOE budget and will not be accepted by the Council. As a Board you ask why is a mere 10 million dollar addition causing such a problem?
A: The current law for MOE punishes counties for exceeding the MOE by making it a
new base. This new base has to be funded each year at the possible reduction, in police,
fire, health services that do not have this onerous state mandate. What will 10 million in
other service cuts mean to those other departments?
B: The new MOE law has potential of the State mandating local tax rates, thus decreasing
our sovereignty on fiscal prudence.
So if the County is not going to fund these extra dollars, does it mean we will not be able
to maintain our great education standards in Montgomery County?
Short Answer: Absolutely everything planned can be made available and the 10
million is not required:
A: I have reconciled the staff additions required to handle growth and initiatives
requested. We analyzed the staff increases for this budget and they exceed the detail
requirements by 100. Wow we just saved 7.5 million dollars without impacting
Mind you this still means we will increase total staffing by 253, a ratio of 1 new staff
member for each 9.2 students. Wow that is an interesting ratio.
B: In listening to MCGEO, It is time that all employees of the county have similar copays
for doctor visits. We would assume the 2.5 million is a token of the amount of increasing
copays to $15/20 per visit in the current environment. As you know MCPS spends nearly
40 million each year if we followed MCGEO contracting rules.
Now we are saving 8.5 million.
C: Tighten up the rules for those that are eligible for full health benefits. Please ask staff
to determine how many employees work less than 15 hours per week and get the full
benefit of MCPS Health benefits. Should people that work so little get the same benefits
as employees that work the majority of the time? People like bus drivers would be
covered under these rules but occasional employees should not get the same benefits as
our truly committed employees.
Now we estimate that savings are nearly 10 million dollars:
We have observed that MCPS procurement relies heavily on continually extended
contracts: We believe by adding additional 3 to 4 specialists that another 1 to 3 million
dollars could be saved annually.
Now we are at a savings of nearly 12 million.
Two statements of the Superintendents have our members disturbed in regards to
the budget request.
1: “This is an estimated budget. We have ongoing negotiations with our unions.”
No this budget that you are proposing is the framework for the costs to the
citizens of Montgomery County. No free pass because you have the negotiations in a
timeframe that does not allow you to properly budget. That is managements fault,
negotiate that all timelines for negotiation need to conclude by November 30th
of the preceding year and you would have solved the issue.
2: Partnership: Of the groups that are pointed out, none represent the taxpayers of
Montgomery County. We at the League have been trying for several months to meet
with the Superintendent and staff, but our request has been ignored. We see the groups
that have been your partners as the sound of one hand clapping; until you have the fiscal
hand no sound can be made.
The budget presentation is a lot of work to simply state, take last year’s budget add
staff to cover the new students and facilities. The budget is 10 million over stated and
unfundable to maintain the other areas of the County budget at the operating levels we as
citizens’ desire. We are disappointed not to have a seat at the table in the budget
formation. We wait for the day that activities of the school system have transparency to
Comments are closed.
September 20, 2012 – Jay Wilson and Daniel Cinquegrani
MCTL Meeting of September 20, 2012:
Our questions to and responses from Jay Wilson and Daniel Cinquegrani:
The speakers were Jay Wilson of the Montgomery County Young Democrats and Daniel Cinquegrani of the Montgomery County Young Republicans
Note: The Maryland Dream Act, a law passed in 2011 but put on hold because of a successful petition drive to put the question to Maryland voters, would let some illegal immigrants pay the lower in-state tuition rate at the state’s colleges and universities. The law would apply to illegal immigrants who have attended Maryland high schools and whose families have filed state tax returns. Students would have to attend two years of community college before applying to a four year college.
1. How many students will the beneficiaries of the Maryland Dream Act add to college populations? The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for 4-year colleges is $17,000 per year ($5,000 for community colleges). Will this additional cost to taxpayers eventually result in increased tuition costs for all? Will it result in additional revenue for colleges?
Daniel Cinquegrani (DC): It would cost $45 – 153 million annually depending on the number of students covered. This would be about 3% of the budget of the University of Maryland system.
Jay Wilson (JW): The above number is overstated. In other states with a similar DREAM Act, the additional enrollment is about 1%. Given that Maryland has 230,000 college students the additional numbers would be immaterial. The Act is supported by the president of the University of Maryland. In the state’s university system the current tuition is about $8K annually; for out-of-staters and undocumented residents the tuition is $17K. Revenue for the universities will actually go up because students who do not go to the university now (due to the high out-of-state cost) will enroll in the university while the marginal cost of adding students to the existing classes will be minimal.
2. How many “legal” Maryland students will be denied admission to Maryland colleges due to the influx of Maryland Dream Act beneficiaries?
JW: None, as there are separate pools for instate vs. others. Dream Act students who apply will only be competing against out-of-state students in the admissions process. They will not take slots that otherwise would go to native-born Maryland residents.
DC: The student body at the University of Maryland – College Park is 23% out-of-state; at Morgan State it is 35%. If there were 8000 additional (DREAM) students, some native Marylanders would be denied admission simply because the university would no longer have the physical capacity to educate so many students.
3. What is the cost to Maryland’s economy of not allowing undocumented students access to in-state tuition for a college education? Will this affect employment positively or adversely?
DC: There would be no effect as Federal law prohibits the hiring of illegal aliens.
JW: As of June 2012 the Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action Program enables all Maryland High-school graduates who also graduate from college to legally obtain employment. Further, a college graduate will pay over $150,000 in state income tax over a lifetime.
4. How much will Maryland and Montgomery County gain from various taxes (sales, property, car registrations, etc.) from the families of Maryland Dream Act beneficiaries? Are these families a drain on state/county services? Which ones? How much?
JW: A report by the American Enterprise Institute says that highly educated immigrants pay more in taxes than they get in benefits. The Social Security Administration has received over $120 billion in payments from illegal aliens, which they will never get in benefits because of their illegal status. The Supreme Court has ruled that states must educate all children regardless of their status. And an immigrant’s economic benefit to America should be measured over a lifetime, not just while they are in college.
DC: There are 250,000 illegals in Maryland of which 81,000 are illegal students. Health care costs for illegals are $167 million. The education and health care of illegals the state $1.2 billion annually.
5. Should the Maryland Dream Act pass, will current laws on the hiring of undocumented residents stymie employment of Maryland Dream Act graduates? If yes, what is the purpose of the Maryland Dream Act? If no, what is the projected annual contribution to state and local revenue from beneficiaries of the Maryland Dream Act?
JW: A June 2012 interpretation of existing law allows illegal aliens who are college graduates to work legally. Maryland gains over $6 billion in state domestic product from illegal aliens.
DC: Many jobs in Maryland are tied to Federal contractors, which would prohibit illegals from that employment. Even if an illegal is eligible for a work permit via the June 2012 ruling from the Department of Homeland Security, it doesn’t mean he or she will be issued a work permit automatically. There are numerous other grounds for denying such a permit.
6. The Maryland Dream Act states that eligibility for in-state tuition requires the filing of tax returns. Critics claim that this does not require the payment of taxes. Is this accurate?
DC: It’s true. The requirement is only that a Maryland tax return must have been filed. The illegal alien wishing to enroll at the local community college must provide documentation that their parents or legal guardians filed Maryland income tax returns for the three years that the student attended the Maryland high school and for all years that they attend the community college.
JW: Illegal aliens are already paying numerous taxes such as the sales tax, property tax, business tax, car registration fees, etc. The DREAM Act says anyone who files a Maryland income tax return fulfills that requirement.
7. To what extent will passage of the Maryland Dream Act encourage undocumented residents of other states to move to Maryland, thereby increasing the tax burden on current residents? Since 2001, ten states have offered in-state tuition to undocumented students. Has this increased the tax burden of those states?
JW: There is no data to support the idea of a sudden influx of illegals from other states. In states which already have a version of the DREAM Act there has been no influx but there has been an increase in total tuition revenue.
DC: It is unlikely that an out-of-state illegal would make a decision to move to Maryland based solely on the DREAM Act.
8. Is there an alternative to the Maryland Dream Act which is helpful to the Maryland economy and to the taxpayer?
DC: Being here illegally is a crime. The DREAM Act is an affront to those who came here legally and have followed all the rules.
JW: The DREAM Act benefits the military also. Texas was the first state to pass a version of the DREAM Act. Illegals have to meet all the requirements of the Act, which are quite stringent. All the research shows that illegals are a benefit to the state. No Maryland student will be displaced as illegal aliens are grouped with out-of-state students for the admissions process.
After the presentations, attendees brought up several points.
While illegals do pay into Social Security, they are legally denied from receiving the benefits. But they can get the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
Tuition at Montgomery College is $1800. No one gets aid if their income is over $7500.
Actual instructional costs at the University of Maryland – College Park are $12,000 but in-state tuition is $8000. A compromise would be to charge DREAM students the $12,000 rate instead of the $25,000 out-of-state rate. Also, marginal costs are less than the instructional cost. However, the marginal cost for adding a student to a class of 400 is virtually nil while to a class of 15 that same cost is significant.
There would be no impact at Montgomery College as it accepts everyone who lives in the county and charges them the in-county rate.
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July 26, 2012 – Brian Feldman (updated Aug. 14, 2012)
MCTL Meeting of July 26, 2012:
Our questions (sent to him in advance) and
Del. Brian Feldman’s responses at the meeting:
(1) How influential is the Montgomery County delegation in standing up for the taxpayers of the county? Though the largest and, what many consider, the most intellectually superior delegation in the state, why is it that our delegation is constantly trumped by the interests of other delegations? What are some of the challenges you face in representing the interests of Montgomery County?
Montgomery County has 17% of the state’s voters. The rest of the state thinks we have everything such as the Intercounty Connector, Strathmore Hall, Metro subsidy, etc. Therefore, they are not sympathetic to our funding requests. Montgomery College receives a lot of state funding with education always being the biggest budget issue. Montgomery County also receives indirect benefits such as easy availability of a college education at the University of Maryland, where 17,000 Montgomery County residents attend. There is also disagreement over how to measure wealth. Our county gets major financial support from the state for education. A major problem is that there are very few Montgomery County residents in state-wide positions of power such as the Governorship, committee heads in the Senate and House of Delegates, etc. Another problem is that unlike other jurisdictions such as Baltimore City, the County delegation is often split. For example, those in down-county are very interested in the Metro’s proposed Purple Line while those in up-county are interested in other issues.
Delegate Feldman acknowledges that the greatest state failing has been funding for the Highway Trust Fund, from which funds have often been taken for other uses. The need now is to grow the Trust Fund, as was proposed by the Governor’s request to raise gasoline taxes. However, Prince Georges County and Baltimore City are opposed to a gas tax increase (because the tax would be hardest on the poorest).
(2) Almost all the members of our county delegation supported what we taxpayers see as destructive amendments to the Maintenance of Effort l(MOE) aw. Could you give us an explanation as to why you chose to support this law which is essentially a maintenance of emolument law? Witness the recently negotiated increase to the salaries and not one, but 2, step increases for MCPS employees. Why does the delegation consider education so sacrosanct that it has, in effect, created a lock box to protect education interests?
The top 7 schools in the state are in Montgomery County, one reason why people move to the county. Although Education Week has rated Maryland schools number one in the nation for several years, if Montgomery schools were removed from the ranking the state would place about 24th. The original reason behind the MOE law was to make sure that counties did not shortchange education. In the recent session in Annapolis the law made changes to the waiver process. This will require the state Board of Education to consider if a county has previously exceeded the funding level required by the MOE formula.
Delegate Feldman said the only 3 states (Maryland being one) pay 100% of teacher pension costs. With the recent change the state will be paying 2/3 of the cost with the counties share being phased in over 4 years. The county’s share is a very minor burden on the county budget, which is nearly $4 billion. Maryland is one of eight states with a triple-A bond rating. Delegate Feldman acknowledges he is not an expert on education. He said our County Council has made no request to the state for more control over the county’s Board of Education. He feels that education groups have now gotten all they are going to get for the future because the state will now devote its attention to transportation.
(3)What role did the county delegation play in allowing Annapolis to raise income taxes such that 40 percent of the burden of higher state income taxes falls on Montgomery County taxpayers? Also, Maryland has some of the highest individual and corporate taxes in the country. Does the delegation support further tax increases? If yes, what are your plans for attracting businesses to the state and preventing an exodus of individual taxpayers?
Not addressed due to time constraints.
(4)What was the rationale behind the shift of teacher pension costs to the county? This would appear to be unnecessary and harmful to Montgomery County taxpayers especially as the state has never fully funded pensions and with the new amendments to the Maintenance of Effort law has given the Board of Education absolute authority to raise salaries with no responsibility for its effect on future pension obligations.
For the first question see response to (2) above. As to the “absolute authority” of the Board of Education, it is Montgomery County voters who have opted to elect members of the school board.
(5)What strategy has the delegation devised to prevent what has been a dereliction of duty by the Public Service Commission in its oversight of PEPCO?
The law now mandates performance standards for PEPCO. And PEPCO can’t be fined so much that it goes bankrupt. As for the county purchasing PEPCO it is a very complex situation. Much of PEPCO is at least 50 years old. The purchase cost could be $1 billion; does the county really have that kind of money? Additionally, the county is served not only by PEPCO but also by Potomac Edison
(6) What role did our delegation play in the constant raiding of the Transportation Fund in previous years? Will the proposed gasoline tax pass this coming year? If yes, how will the tax prevent such depredations of the Fund in the future?
The Transportion Trust Fund There needs to be demarcated so that it cannot be used for purposes other than transportation. It’s time for an increase in the state’s gasoline tax.
(7) What is the delegation’s position on the Governor’s initiative on gambling and casinos?
The proposal to expand gambling will pass the Senate but is questionable in the House. Many county delegations are divided on the issue, Prince Georges being one. The Montgomery delegation would want something in return for supporting gambling as the County is not directly affected. The problem with gambling is the economic assumption. The whole question is very complicated.
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Council Budget Testimony by Gordie Brenne – April 12, 2012
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Testimony On the Proposed FY 2013 Budget
Testimony before the Montgomery County Council
On the Proposed FY 2013 Budget
April 11, 2012
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the FY 2013 budget proposed by the County Executive. I am Joan Fidler, President of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League. Like Mark Anthony I come here not to bury the budget but, in some areas, to praise it.
In his budget, the County Executive has exercised restraint in many of his spending proposals for which he is to be commended. Mr. Leggett has proposed a fiscally prudent pay increase in the form of a one-time bonus for county government employees. And last year, he increased the employee share of healthcare premiums. But more needs to be done. The gold-plated health benefits of county employees and the platinum-plated benefits of our school employees continue to be the envy even of federal workers, who are often cited as the most pampered public employees in the nation. Just a side-by-side analysis will show you glaring disparities. As health care costs continue to increase we cannot continue our generosity in this area. Yes, we know that “cost shifting” is anathema to our unions. But what is our choice? Magnanimity to our county and school workers? Or provision of essential services to county residents who subsist at 100% of the Federal Poverty Standard?
On the subject of taxes: we are greatly disheartened that the proposed budget extends the energy tax. This tax was considered an “emergency” and was sold to us as “temporary”. Extension of the tax will be a broken promise to taxpayers. And what does this do to our reputation as a business-friendly county? It definitely does not enhance the view. As for the increase in property taxes, this is tax creep personified. Property taxes creep up while the value of our properties stagnate. Taxes increases should be our last resort. The State is bludgeoning us already.
And now to the sword of Damocles – the budget of the public schools, which accounts for 50 percent of the county budget. The fatally flawed maintenance of effort law has now shown itself for what it truly is – a maintenance of emolument law. It will continue to increase the salaries and benefits of the adults in the system. The school system seems to think that it has a cost-plus contract with taxpayers, the kind that bakes in past inefficiencies and shirks off any notion of compensation containment. With 90 percent of the schools budget devoted to employee compensation, and with the State’s iron curtain of protection drawn around it, the services offered to the rest of the residents of the county will suffer. You have just a finite number of dollars. But a solution lies before you. Why not move all school-related services to the school system? They cannot have it both ways. They have the funds; they can pay for the services.
Budgets are a matter of choices. The State has made a choice for the school system; you can make a choice for the rest of us.