CAT | Budget
From the The Washington Post of November 13, 2013:
“But at a council discussion Tuesday on state legislative strategy, council member Valerie Ervin said it would be a struggle to keep legislators focused on Montgomery’s needs when they are too often beholden to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D).
“They’re different animals,” Ervin (D-Silver Spring) said of the delegation. “When they get to Annapolis, the people they listen to are not us. They have other masters. … Let’s not be naive.”
Read the full story at The Post.
From the Montgomery Gazette of October 30, 2013, a letter to the editor from President Joan Fidler:
The budget of the Montgomery County Public Schools for FY 2015 is in the early stages of formulation. This budget of over $2 billion is close to 50 percent of the tax-supported budget of Montgomery County. So who are the players who will influence this budget at this critical stage?
Questions sent to Mr. Art Holmes, Director, Department of Transportation, Montgomery County, in advance of the meeting October 24, 2013, on the topic of “Transportation Plans and Policies and the Cost to the Taxpayer”
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?
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?
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?
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?
5. Bus Rapid Transit is less costly than the proposed Purple Line. Are we planning to proceed with both?
6. How much do you collect from Inter-County Connector fees? What progress has been made collecting fees from drivers who do not pay?
From the Gazette of July 10, 2013, a letter to the editor by MCTL Board member Gordon Brenne:
We’ve also shown there is no correlation between what teachers are paid and student performance improvements. And, because our teachers are paid 20 percent more than teachers in Howard and Fairfax counties, we can afford fewer of them, increasing our reliance on paraeducators to teach in underperforming schools.
From the Gazette of May 29, 2013:
The Montgomery County Council passed its next budget Thursday with barely a whisper of discontent, which seems remarkable considering the uncertainty of the economy. Anxiety breeds anxiety, especially when money’s involved.
Read the full story at the Gazette.
From the Washington Post of May 8, 2013:
MONTGOMERY COUNTY’S government unions, which for decades amassed powers unique even in the pro-labor state of Maryland, had their wings clipped when the recession forced local officials to roll back privileges — and blatant abuses — that bilked taxpayers and tied the hands of public agencies. Now, in a fit of petulance, the unions are striking back at their paymasters — elected officeholders — by boycotting and picketing the local Democratic Party’s annual fundraiser this weekend.
Read the full story at the Washington Post.
From the Washington Post of April 25, 2013:
A Montgomery County Council committee voted unanimously Thursday morning to recommend approval of $31.6 million in pay raises for members of its police, fire and general employee unions for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Read the full story at the Washington Post.
From the Washington Post of April 16, 2013:
School spending in Montgomery County will grow by at least $100 million over the next four years, an increase driven by state laws that tighten requirements for annual local funding and shift part of teacher pension costs to counties, officials said Tuesday.
Montgomery spends roughly half of its $4 billion operating budget on K-12 education. But a County Council staff analysis found that state mandates created by the General Assembly in 2012 could turn education funding into what one council member called “a runaway train.”
Read the full story at the Washington Post.
On The evening of April 9, 2013, MCTL President Joan Fidler testified before the County Council on the FY2014 budget proposed by Conty Executive Leggett. Here is her testimony:
Testimony before the Montgomery County Council on the FY 2014 Budget — April 9, 2013
I am Joan Fidler, president of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the FY 2014 budget proposed by County Executive Leggett. You have an unenviable task before you. Overall it appears to be a fair budget, with 2 exceptions.
Mr. Leggett has funded the school system at the mandated Maintenance of Effort level. We applaud him for that. The recently amended and ill-conceived Maintenance of Effort state law guarantees the school system a certain level of funding and he has provided that level of guarantee. For FY 2014 this is 49.8% of the entire tax-supported budget for the county. We would suggest that since this law derives its funding formula from the number of students in the system that there be protections in place to guarantee that we are educating only those students who are residents of the county and that this be verified on a routine basis. We recommend that this be done every other year.
Moving to our 2 areas of concern, let’s take the first – the excessive pay raises proposed by Mr. Leggett for the next 2 years – 13.5% for county workers, 14.7% for police officers and 19.5% for our paid firefighters. While we believe that they are all deserving of a pay raise as they have received no COLAs for the last 4 years and no step increases for the last 3, we find the double digit increase totaling over $70 million in the next 2 years alone is not compatible with the rate of inflation and more important adds to our structural budget deficit. We question whether it is sustainable. Kudos to you, the County Council and the County Executive for withstanding much excoriation from the unions on pay raises over the last several years. We are not denying that county workers deserve a pay raise. We question the level and affordability.
Second, we are disappointed with the energy tax that continues to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. As you know, in FY 10, county residents had their energy taxes increased by 155%, businesses by 60% with the assurance of a sunset date of 2012. This is now 2014 and the tax lives on. We suggest you ratchet back the taxes by 10-15% every year until you fulfill your promise. A promise made should be a promise kept.
With the various proposals for increased spending for FY 2014, we hope that the County Council will not make decisions at the expense of the most vulnerable among us – the homeless and the developmentally disabled. The measure of our worth as residents of Montgomery County is not to give to those to whom much is given while taking away from those who have little.
And finally, a concern of the Taxpayers League regarding our delegates to Annapolis and their support for bills that continue to favor more taxes for Montgomery County while usurping the authority of local governments such as ours. The Maintenance of Effort bill with its punitive powers, the proposed “Maintenance of Everything Else” bill and the shift of teacher pensions to the county while giving you no control over teacher pay raises highlight an urgent need to educate our state politicians as to fiscal reality at the county level. We stand ready to help in any way we can.
- Joan Fidler
Questions sent to Jennifer Hughes, Director, Office of Management and Budget, Montgomery County, in advance of the meeting of March 28, 2013:
1. Is the proposed salary increase of 13.5% over 2 years sustainable in light of revenue projections and new program needs? What will this pay increase cost the county over the next 10 years including pension liabilities?
2. What is the single largest increase to the FY 2014 budget from FY 2013? What is the single largest reduction to the budget?
3. What are your thoughts on the increases to property and energy taxes and their effect on attracting businesses to the county? Is there a plan to match Fairfax County’s successes in economic development?
4. Can the MCPS budget appropriation be tied to a requirement that MCPS conduct an independent review of management, cost and governance practices that will close the achievement gap
5. The Montgomery County delegation to Annapolis has recently supported or proposed bills such as Maintenance of Effort for the school system and what appears to be a “Maintenance of Everything” bill that can have dire effects on the county’s budget. What are some of the ways in which the county executive can educate and influence the delegation from proposing and supporting such actions that seem to usurp the authority of our locally elected officials.