Montgomery County Taxpayers League

The Voice of Taxpayers of Montgomery County, Maryland

Budget

Questions sent to Janette Gilman in advance of the meeting of February 28, 2013

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? 

 

 

“Montgomery faces $71m budget gap as school spending grows”

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.

 

“Three Maryland school systems among top five in per-pupil spending”

From the Montgomery Gazette of June 22, 2012:

"Of the 50 largest school systems in the U.S., Montgomery County Public Schools was second in per-pupil spending, only to the New York City School District. Montgomery spent $15,582 per student, while New York spent $19,597 per student….

"Montgomery County students and parents get their money’s worth, Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr said Thursday….

"Joan Fidler, president of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League, said she questions the claim that student achievement would drop if the school system cut back spending by a small percentage, such as 5 percent."

 
Read the full story at the Montgomery Gazette.

“School board member speaks out about union contracts minutes before vote”

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."

Read the full story at the Montgomery Gazette.

Final FY13 Budget Adjustments: Teacher Pension Cost Shift and MCFRS

On May 12, 2012, Steve Farber, Council Staff Director, sent a memo to the County Council outlining how the county's FY2013 budget would be affected by the actions of the special session of the state legislature

"the County must add $27,227,553 to the MCPS budget. …

"…the Executive recommends this FY13 budget adjustment, including the estimated "offsets" to cover the cost. The offsets include $20,706,000 in additional FY 13 income tax revenue and $6,658,375 in additional FY13 recordation tax revenue from transactions involving indemnity deeds of trust. …As the Executive notes…while the offsets may be adequate in FY13, they will not keep up with the growing burden of the pension cost shift in future years. This fact, combined with the State's radical changes to the MOE law, could create serious fiscal challenges for the County."

Read the complete memo.

County’s Annapolis Delegation vs County Council, Executive

From the March 2012 newsletter of Council Member Nancy Floreen:

Stop the Shift

State budget efforts are underway, and we in Montgomery County are very concerned about some elements of the Governor's budget. In particular, the plan to some of the costs of shift teacher pensions to counties would have a serious impact on our ability to provide programs and services. The Montgomery County Council issued a statement opposing the shift. If you want to help, contact your State legislators. Here's the full text of the statement:

Maryland State HouseMaryland's counties and school systems face a serious problem in Annapolis right now. Governor O'Malley has proposed shifting half the cost of teacher and other pensions from the state to the counties. The County Council, County Executive Ike Leggett, and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), as well as our employee organizations and our counterparts throughout the state, strongly oppose this shift. As Board of Education President Shirley Brandman said on Feb. 14, the shift "will have an immediate negative impact on the important services that our local governments provide."

For Montgomery County, the proposed pension shift would cost $47 million in Fiscal Year 2013 and $315 million over the next five years. The measures proposed to help counties pay the cost are inadequate and may not be enacted in any event.

How much is $47 million? It pays for the jobs of nearly 500 teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other vital County personnel. It is more than the County's general fund budgets for housing, transportation, and environmental protection combined. Our entire budget for libraries is less than $30 million.

The recessionary County budgets of the past three years required painful cuts that have seriously affected our residents and employees alike. For the coming year we face a further budget gap of $135 million and more hard decisions. If we now have to absorb another large burden from the state, there will be real damage to all our vital services – our schools, college, police, fire and rescue, safety net, libraries, parks, housing, transportation, recreation, and many others.

We understand that the state too must balance its budget and faces hard choices. But it is the state that sets the basic structure of pension benefits. In 2006 the state raised pension benefits by 29 percent, retroactive to 1998, but failed to provide sufficient funding. In fact, the state's financial support for the pension fund has fallen short for many years. Counties should not be asked to assume financial responsibility for costs not of their making. We have cut services to the bone, and we have reached our limit on taxes.

Elected officials and concerned organizations throughout the state, including the Maryland Association of Counties, the school community, and employee organizations, have joined together to convey this message to the Governor and the General Assembly. The coalition's web address is www.stoptheshiftmd.com. There you can learn how you can make a difference. The General Assembly will make its decision on the pension shift soon, probably by mid-March. The stakes for all our County residents are very high.

 
When the final vote was taken every member of our County Delegation except Sen. Brian Frosh voted for the proposal and against the position of the County Executive, the County Council and numerous other groups. 
 
Does our delegation truly represent the best interests of Montgomery residents?

“A REVIEW OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS BUDGET CATEGORY 12”

On November 29, 2011, Montgomery County's Office of Legislative Oversight released report number 2012-2, which was a detailed look at Category 12 of the budget of the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). 

"The primary expenditures in Category 12 are funding for employee benefits such as reitrement, health insurance, and social secuirty…

"From FY03 to FY12, Category 12 expenditures increased by 101% while total MCPS operating expenditures increased by about 57% (from $1.29 billion to $2.03 billion) during the same period.

"As a result, Category 12 expenditures as a percent of total MCPS operating expenditures have increased from 18% in FY03 to 23% in FY12."

Read the full report.

Questions to be asked at Oct. 20 meeting

The questions below have been sent to our speakers:

Steven Silverman, Director, Department of Economic Development,Montgomery County
Gerald Gordon, President, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority

1.  What is the budget and staffing for each of your organizations?  Are your budgets growing or being reduced? Does your staff specialize in the various business sectors?  Which ones? Do you have offices in other US states, other countries?

2.  There is a 200,000 job gap between Fairfax and Montgomery counties.  Can you give us the reasons why this is so?

3.  In competing for the relocation of businesses, what do you believe should be the average cost of tax credits and other subsidies for each job created?  In competing for the relocation of government offices (which don’t pay taxes), should these subsidies be the same for jobs retained?

4.  Have business incubation programs (subsidized office space, counseling, enterprise zones etc.) been more effective in creating jobs, and what is the average cost for each of these jobs that are created?

5.  Do the two counties concede any industry sector to the other, e.g. bio sciences, lodging, defense?
6.  Are there ways for Montgomery and Fairfax counties to cooperate to bring new industries to our region?

7.  How do your state laws and regulations encourage or impede economic development in your county?

8.  An example :  The CEO of Company X has decided to move his large company to our area.   The four main reasons for the move are high taxes, poor schools. terrible transportation and the rising rate of serious crime.  He has narrowed the move to the Washington, DC Region, specifically either Fairfax or Montgomery county.  Both counties have highly educated workforces.  Corporate and personal taxes are higher in Montgomery versus Fairfax.  Both Fairfax and Montgomery counties have excellent school systems.  On transportation, Fairfax county has heavier traffic congestion.  Montgomery has a higher rate of serious crime.  What would you do to convince the CEO to relocate his company to your county?

9.  How do “quality of life” issues affect job creation/economic development in your county?  For example, vehicular traffic in the DC metropolitan area is among the worst in the nation with many roads past saturation point.  Many community groups believe that development occurs at the expense of quality of life.  Is economic development compatible with quality of life?  Please give us some examples.

10.  What more can the Fairfax Board of Supervisors and the Montgomery County Council do to help you succeed in your mission?

Phantom COLA Repealed

On April 27, 2010, Joan Fidler, the MCTL President testified to the County Council to support the repeal of the phantom COLA (Expedited Bill 16-10, Personnel – Retirement – Imputed Compensation Limit)

Madam President and members of the Council, thank you for the opportunity to testify against the continuation of the phantom or “ghost” COLA that was passed by the Council last year.

I am Joan Fidler, President of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League and I am here today on behalf of the taxpayers of the County and in support of Expedited Bill 16-10. As a well-known author once wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. These are not the best of times for Montgomery County. We are facing a budget shortfall of close to $1 billion with painful decisions ahead of you that will have, in many cases, a devastating impact on the services offered to the residents of the County. You have no choice but to repeal the ghost COLA you so generously offered County employees last year. Though the COLA has been characterized as a phantom, in reality, it has already cost us taxpayers $7 million this year. If continued, this phantom will loom over us in the amount of $200 million over the next 2 decades. We cannot afford it.

Which brings us to the irony of the situation. The cost of living actually dropped last year, yet the Council voted for a ghost COLA. More ironic, you denied County employees a one-year COLA yet gave them a lifetime ghost COLA.

As I have testified before, the Taxpayers League recognizes the value of our County employees – they are dedicated and hard-working. We are proud of the services they provide us. And yes, I expect they will say a deal is a deal.

But the fact is that revenues continue to drop — and the predicted budget gap increases. In September 2009, the budget gap was $370 million. By December, it grew to $608 million. On March 15, it was $779 million. On April 22, the County Executive reported the gap had grown to nearly $1 billion, or more than 25% of the tax-supported budget. To add to the gloom and doom, Montgomery County now has 30,000 unemployed workers. The stimulus funds which have served as a band aid will soon end. Our draining of the Rainy Day Fund has not gone unnoticed by Moody’s. Need I say more?

Members of the County Council, the journey of eliminating a deficit of $1 billion begins with $7 million? Won’t you take the first obvious step and vote for Bill 16-10?

Thank you.

The Council passed the bill to repeal the phantom COLA.