CAT | Budget
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.
Questions sent to Janette Gilman, President, Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations (MCCPTA), in advance of the meeting of February 28, 2013
1. How does the MCCPTA define “full funding” for MCPS? What would you consider the “floor” for the MCPS budget?
2. What is MCCPTA’s role in determining the MCPS budget? Is there a tripartite budget committee (MCPS – Unions- MCCPTA) that negotiates and approves the budget prior to its release? Have there been any instances where the MCCPTA did not agree with the MCPS and Union proposals or are you in lock step with them?
3. There are no targets in either the MCPS budget or the MCPS strategic plan for reducing the achievement gap? Does the MCCPTA support an “equity” budget where funding allocations would favor those schools that have disproportionately high African-American, Hispanic and FARMS concentrations with relatively low performance outcomes? How confident is the MCCPTA that the placement of teachers is strategically determined? What is the MCCPTA position on allocating our most highly-paid, senior and most experienced teachers to red zone schools where the achievement gap is most pronounced?
4. What is the MCCPTA position on sharing administrative services with the Montgomery County Government – services such as procurement, IT, human resources, etc.? Are you confident that the costs related to these duplicative administrative entities are justified and are not stealing resources from the classroom?
5. Montgomery County has acquired a reputation for the quality of its public schools. What does the MCCPTA consider the top 3 performance indicators for the success of its students? How do these indicators compare with Howard and Fairfax counties?
From the Washington Examiner of June 25, 2012:
“…the law effectively requires Montgomery County to give the county school system $30 million more in fiscal 2014 than in fiscal 2013, which begins July 1, and to keep funding for Montgomery College at the same level.
“As a result, funds available for other parts of the county — like police, fire, libraries, and the Transportation and the Park and Planning departments — are expected to drop by roughly $71 million…”
Read the full story at the Washington Examiner.
From the Montgomery Gazette of June 22, 2012:
From the Montgomery Gazette of June 14, 2012:
"School board member Laura Berthiaume (Dist. 2) said Thursday that, although she believes school employees should be recognized for their work, the school system should not make promises that it can’t keep….Robert Monsheimer, of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League, told board members Thursday that, while the county might have been able to give the raises this year due to cost savings, the move is equivalent to buying a car because enough money exists for a downpayment but without worrying about payments in the future.
“This has longterm implications that the taxpayers will pay,” he said."