MCTL President Joan Fidler sent the following email April 25, 2016, to Nancy Floreen, President of the County Council, asking the Council to vote against any tax increase:
Dear President Floreen,
We have been listening to the various Council committee hearings on the FY 2017 budget and it appears that all 9 members of the Council are headed towards an increase in property taxes above and beyond the charter limit. We urge you and the members of the Council to listen to voices such as ours by voting in favor of the taxpayers of the county.
– The bulk of the tax increase is slated for the salary increases of county and school employees. While we do not deny them a COLA increase tied to inflation, we do question the percentage of the step increase and the absurdity of a make-up increase – something unheard of in the world of work. So why support a tax increase?
– Funding MCPS over the Maintenance of Effort level re-bases the per pupil cost – in perpetuity. We believe that the purpose of the MoE mandate was to help children. Instead it has evolved into a method of guaranteeing the compensation levels of staff in the school system, among the highest paid in the region. Also adding to the salary demands of MCPS staff are the extraordinarily high share of their healthcare premiums paid for by the MCPS budget. This level of benefit is not available to county staff who pay 25% of their premiums. If there were no discrepancy between the two, huge savings would accrue. So why support a tax increase?
– Why do employees of the school system need a supplemental pension – one not offered to any other school system in the state? How much of the MoE overage is tied to this extraordinary form of largesse? The savings from the healthcare premiums and the supplemental pensions alone would save $80 million. So why support a tax increase?
– The Council claims it has little control over the school system. Yet, when an opportunity, such as this, arises for the Council to exercise that limited control, why would you fund the school system beyond the MoE limit? The school system exists to educate our children, which it does well in certain quarters. But it fails miserably in closing the achievement gap and in reducing class size. Given the gargantuan percentage of the budget of the school system that goes directly to compensation, is it any wonder that the system cannot afford to hire more teachers in our low performing schools thus possibly narrowing the achievement gap. Is it possible that the school system has reached the point where additional funding goes almost solely to cover compensation demands? How would funding the school system beyond mandated levels solve the achievement gap? Has the school system delineated the budget allotted to the achievement gap? Have you seen strategies tied to this achievement gap budget? Have you seen achievement gap performance measures that will allow you to make decisions on funding now and in the future? If not, why support a tax increase?
We know that you and your colleagues in the Council help make Montgomery County a great place to live. We know that you are serious people, so we urge you to give serious consideration to the issues we have raised. This proposed tax increase above the charter limit leaves a host of questions unanswered. So why support a tax increase?
Montgomery County Taxpayers League