On February 8, 2018, Joan Fidler, President of MCTL, gave a presentation on the proposed FY2019 budget of the Montgomery County Public Schools.
“Montgomery County is revising its six-year revenue forecasts down by more than $400 million as income tax revenue lags behind previous projections…[County Executive Ike] Leggett noted that during the recession the county passed a savings plan of about $970 million in one year. But he said cutting spending at that rate isn’t possible anymore, given how much had to be cut from the operating budget during the years of economic decline from 2008 to 2011.”
Read the full story.
Questions for the meeting of November 15, 2017
1. The Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) has produced several publicity campaigns, including “Moco365,” “We are Montgomery County,” and “Think Moco.” What has been the largest concrete accomplishment of these campaigns? What particular businesses and quantifiable economic activity have they brought to the county?
2. Your previous experience includes: President and CEO of the Central Florida Development Council and Executive Director of the Winter Haven Economic Development Council. What was your greatest success in these positions? What parallels do you see between these regions and Montgomery County that have informed your work here?
3. Despite a $1,127,000 boost in the FY 2017 budget, the MCEDC remains less well-funded than its Fairfax and Prince George’s county counterparts, which receive $7.5 million and $9 million, respectively. Do you believe this puts Montgomery County at a great disadvantage relative to these neighboring counties? Are there plans to expand the MCEDC budget to achieve parity and what successes would MCEDC achieve?
4. To what extent do county and state laws and regulations hamper the mission of the MCEDC? What changes or new legislation will help you achieve your goals?
5. Montgomery County boasts many other economic development groups, including countywide and municipal chambers of commerce, Rockville Economic Development, Inc., and the Latino Economic Development Center. How has your organization collaborated with these existing institutions?
6. A focus of the MCEDC appears to be biotechnology: the website highlights two biotech companies, Medimmune and Qiagen. Is biotech the only reliable investment for Montgomery County taxpayers? What about other key industries–agribusiness, cyber security, financial services, tourism, IT, and healthcare–and what would attract them to Montgomery County?
Next meeting: January 17, 2018
MCTL Member Max Bronstein had these comments about the Oct. 25 presentation by Casey Anders, Cir, Montgomery County Planning Board:
“There is an emphasis on walkable & bikeable communities & that’s fine for those who choose to live in that type of dense setting, but the majority of the county’s 1.1 million residents have not chosen that lifestyle & are not choosing that lifestyle going forward. Also, if biking is applied to commuting, it’s less than 1% of commuters who travel on a bicycle. Also, try hauling 6 grocery bags on a bike after shopping. Biking & walking for exercise & recreation, is fine. Just recall that seniors are the largest population growth segment & many can walk only short distances & usually don’t bike at all.”
Mr. Bronstein’s full comments are here
Questions for the meeting of October 25, 2017
October 25, 2017 — 7-9 pm. — Council Office Building — 3rd floor conference room
Free and open to the public
1. Can you tell us about the various ways that community members can have input into the planning process? How does the Planning Board decide what comments to take into account? For example, how does the Board weigh the impact of costs versus numbers of people affected?
2. Can you comment on the issue as to why we tend to shrink impact taxes while raising recordation taxes to pay for new schools, firehouses, and libraries?
3. There is broad public expression of concern regarding shortage of school sites especially at the recent White Flint 2 hearing. While development is critical for revenue growth, it brings with it increased density. How does the Board plan for the need for infrastructure that such development creates?
4. Are we subsidizing PG county parks? What is the real value of the bi-county Maryland National Park and Planning Commission? Would a break-up be cost-effective for Montgomery County taxpayers and, if so, would it be politically palatable?
5. Concerns have been raised by some about Zoning Text Amendment – Short Term Rental Housing (AirBNB) and its related noise, parking problems, safety, etc. How have other counties with similar demographics dealt with this issue?
6. In Montgomery County we pride ourselves about the benefits of our agricultural reserve. Have these benefits increased over time or are there detriments to maintaining it at its present level?
From Seventh State, Oct. October 13, 2017, a letter to the editor from Nancy Floreen, a member of the Montgomery County Council:
“Were the preceding seven years really a period of “austerity” for MCPS and “lavish” times for others? Consider the facts….
“2. During the worst years of the recession, FY09-12, only two agencies – MCPS and Montgomery College – saw increased funding. To be sure, the increases were small (1.8 and 3.2 percent, respectively) and relied on higher State aid. But during this same period, vital County functions like Police, Fire and Rescue, and HHS were down 3.4, 5.0, and 14.7 percent, respectively. Recreation was down 23.5 percent, and Libraries was down 29.2 percent.”
And here’s the response to Ms. Floreen’s letter:
“The schools need small, steady increases in per pupil funding to deal with their challenges. There can no longer be wild swings between extended periods of per pupil cuts and freezes followed by huge tax hikes intended to undo the effects of those cuts and freezes.”
Montgomery County Taxpayers League Meeting
From the Washington Post website of July 15, 2017:
“Montgomery County accumulated excessive legal bills to pursue a lawsuit against the designers and builders of the long-delayed Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center in Silver Spring. When all these payments are added together, Montgomery County, in a case that never went to trial, will have paid more than $18 million and will have received a settlement only $6.7 million higher. ….It is absurd to pay $6.5 million for outside counsel for a case that didn’t even go to trial. “
Questions for the meeting of June 14, 2017
June 14, 2017 — Free and open to the public — 7-9 pm. — Council Office Building
2. The Department of Housing and Community Affairs (HCA) has 96 employees and a budget of $52M with an infusion of funds from HUD. One strategy deployed is affordable housing through payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT). Another strategy is requiring 12.5-15% of multifamily housing to be moderately priced also known as “mandatory inclusionary zoning”. How are these strategies working? What was HCA’s primary performance goal for FY 2017. Did you accomplish the goal? Have you revised your plans for FY 2018 and is this reflected in the FY 2018 budget?
3. County Executive Leggett announced a new program to help qualified applicants purchase a home with the support of the Montgomery Homeownership Program. The down payment assistance program is available for buyers with qualified incomes to purchase a Montgomery County home as their primary residence, up to a $429,000 sale price (up to $525,000, in certain neighborhoods.) Applicants who qualify and are approved may access Down Payment Assistance loans in amounts up to $40,000 – or up to 40 percent of the household income of the prospective homeowner – whichever is less. Approved buyers also will receive a below-market rate. Montgomery County has committed $1 million to this program. What are your measures of success for this program and how will you handle defaults on the loans?
4. The Housing Opportunities Commission, is a different organization within the county which also deals with affordable housing, but with a much smaller budget ($6M). Is there overlap or do each of the two organizations have separate and distinct missions?
5. How does HCA handle reports of unlicensed rental homes? Does HCA check to ensure that rental homes and condos using vouchers are licensed? How does HCA determine that rental income is being declared on state and federal tax forms? How much tax revenue do you estimate we lose from unlicensed rental units?
6. Given that most mid- and low-income homeowners/renters use the strategy “drive until you qualify”, has the county considered underutilized commercial land or vacant office parks as an avenue to increasing affordable housing? And as transportation is a major cost concern for low- and some middle-income buyers/renters, would this mitigate the problem?
7. We understand that there are about a thousand homeless people in Montgomery County. Several studies have shown that providing permanent housing is the solution to improving health and well being for people without homes. What is the county doing to enable homeless individuals and families to find permanent housing?
Next Meeting: TBA
The financial condition of the Washington Suburban Commission (