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