Montgomery County Taxpayers League

The Voice of Taxpayers of Montgomery County, Maryland
Montgomery County Taxpayers League

The Voice of Taxpayers of Montgomery County, Maryland

Latest Posts

Testimony by Pres. Fidler on Transparency in Labor Negotiations

Testimony Before the County Council on Expedited Bill 24-16, Collective Bargaining – Impasse Procedures – Amendments

by  Joan Fidler, President of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League, July 12, 2016:

President Floreen and members of the Council, I am Joan Fidler, president of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League and I am here to testify in support of Expedited Bill 24-16 on Collective Bargaining – Impasse Procedures.

First, we would like to thank President Floreen for proposing the bill as it reflects a degree of courage that we admire. It begins to restore the balance for the taxpayers of the county.

Bill 24-15 is a new beginning. Let us count the ways:

The bill provides transparency – it requires public disclosure at the outset of bargaining and at evidentiary hearings.

The bill introduces objectivity – it separates the roles of mediator and arbitrator

The bill recognizes the need for a level playing field – it replaces the single arbitrator with a 3-member panel.

There will be opposition to this bill from the labor unions. We believe that labor unions are important and so are employee rights. But taxpayers are important too and they too have rights.

So to the argument that requiring public disclosure would impede efficiency and effectiveness, we would respond that opening proposals are not exactly state secrets to be hidden from the taxpaying public and that evidentiary hearings in all trials are open to the public. Why not here?

To the argument that the transparency provisions of this bill are harmful, we would argue that the only two transparency provisions in this bill are opening positions and evidentiary hearings. Should the taxpayer be barred from those? The bill does not require any open bargaining sessions.

To the argument that using the same individual as mediator and arbitrator streamlines the process, we would argue that separating the two roles is a standard method of mediation used in our court system and in other local collective bargaining laws. Why not here?

To the argument that labor relations professionals will be replaced by retired judges, we would argue that retired judges have vast experience in assessing facts fairly. Why would we reject an experienced judge?

Most important, the current system of interest arbitration has a direct and tremendous impact on the cost of County wages and benefits. In the last 3 years most county employees have had pay raises of 21% with another 4.5% this year. The bulk of property tax increases fund the salaries and benefits of our county employees. It is said that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Could taxpayers see the arbitration sheet music before the score is settled?

We invite you to post your comments.

 

Booing and heckling against transparency in collective bargaining

President Joan Fidler of the Taxpayers League testified on July 12, 2016, before the County Council in support of Bill 24-16, Collective Bargaining – Impasse Procedures – Amendments.  She was booed and heckled by union workers during her statement in the last paragraph of her testimony where she stated “In the last three years most county employees have had pay raises of 21% with another 4.5% this year”.

For those who do not follow the minutiae of pay raise percentages, here is the source on Page 9.

http://montgomerycountymd.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=10488&meta_id=92904

Specifically “…..For merit system County Government employees not at their maximum salary (nearly three-fourths of the total), the compound pay increases negotiated by the Executive and approved by the Council for these three years” (FY 2014 – 2016) “total 20.6 percent for general government employees and still more for public safety employees eligible for make-up service increments.”

In the video of the hearing, President Fidler’s testimony begins at minute 16 and lasts for 4 minutes.

“Is Maryland building ‘Cadillacs or Buicks’ for its new public schools?”

From the Maryland Reporter website of July 7, 2016:

“In a heated discussion with the head of the [state] school construction program, Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot aired serious concerns about the state’s spending on public school projects at Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting.  “We can’t just keep shoveling more and more money without accountability,” Hogan said.  “The taxpayers are getting pretty frustrated with the results.”

Report: Comparison of Montgomery’s tax burden to other jurisdictions

This report (2016-7) from the County Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight describes the Individual and Business Tax Burdens in Local Jurisdictions”. The report analyzes the tax burden for individuals living in and businesses based in Montgomery County compared to Prince George’s County (MD), Fairfax County (VA), Howard County (MD), The District of Columbia and Frederick County (MD).

Analysis of 2016 General Assembly Legislation

An analysis by The Maryland Public Policy Institute of 2016 legislation by the Maryland General Assembly. 

“In the negotiations over the final version of the bill, House negotiators offered to cut the highest tax bracket (affecting households making over $300,000) to 5.69 percent from the current rate of 5.75 percent. The Senate countered with a reduction to 5.65 percent. That difference proved too much, and the tax legislation died upon adjournment.”

The difference between a tax rate of 5.65% and one of 5.69% on a taxable income of $300,000?  Exactly $120:  $17,070 – $16,950.  So tax reduction was done in by $120. 

We invite comments.

 

“Biggest tax hike since 2009 is now official in Montgomery County”

From the Washington Post of May 26, 2016:

“The Montgomery County Council gave final approval Thursday to a $5.3 billion budget that includes the biggest property-tax hike in seven years, trims pay raises the county had promised to unionized workers and pours record funding into the school system….The budget, which takes effect July 1, includes a nearly 9 percent property-tax increase that will add $326 to the average residential tax bill. It is also supported by a rise in recordation taxes that will add $455, for example, to the cost of buying or selling a $500,000 home.”

Feel free to comment below.

“Montgomery County homeowners face biggest tax hike in seven years”

From the Washington Post of May 19, 2016:

“The Montgomery County Council, citing the unmet needs of a school system facing explosive enrollment growth and a widening academic achievement gap, voted Thursday to raise the average residential property tax bill by 8.7 percent — the largest increase in seven years.

The tax hike required a unanimous 9-0 vote because it exceeds the charter limit on tax revenue the county can collect each year. That revenue will help underwrite a $5.2 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, with about half of the money resulting from the tax increase going to Montgomery County Public Schools.

The council set the property tax rate at $1.02 per $100 of assessed value, 3.9 cents above last year’s rate. With rising assessments, it means that the average annual residential property tax bill will rise $326, to $4,075.”

Feel free to leave your comment below.

 

“County Council Votes to Cut Pay Increases, Reduce Class Sizes”

From the Bethesda Beat May 16, 2016:

“The council then pledged unanimous support of a $2.45 billion schools operating budget that is nearly $90 million more than the minimum required by state law…Council members made clear the spending approved Monday is dependent on the council’s approval of a 6.4 percent property tax increase and an increase of the county’s tax on home sales,…“We are about to do three things that some of us said we would not do again,” council member Roger Berliner said, referring to the proposed property tax increase above the county’s charter limit and home sales recordation tax increase as well as funding the school system over the minimum required by the state’s maintenance of effort law.”