Montgomery County Taxpayers League

The Voice of Taxpayers of Montgomery County, Maryland

Public Schools

“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.

Teachers’ Union Pres. Defends Lobbying

Teachers’ union president defends the union’s lobbying, but did he inadvertently betray his own cause?

When the economy crashed last year and a contract we had bargained in better economic times was no longer feasible, MCEA members voted overwhelmingly to forgo $89 million in pay raises for the current school year. We know that the recession has made it necessary for everyone to make sacrifices.

The coming years won’t be much rosier.

Read the full op-ed at the Washington Post »

Money Doesn’t Buy Test Scores

The Maryland Public Policy Institute debunks the myth that increased school spending necessitates higher achievement:

The fact is that the level of education funding has little to do with how well students are taught…..One of the most comprehensive reviews of studies on education funding was done by Dr. Eric Hanushek of Stanford University. He found that only 27% of 163 studies found a statistically significant relationship between an increase in per-pupil funding and student achievement. Of those studies, two-thirds showed an insignificant correlation and the others showed a negative correlation. Another study of Dr. Hanuskek finds that input-based education policies, such as increased funding, don’t produce results unless you change incentives within schools.

Read the full article at the Maryland Public Policy Institute »

Post: “Cash on the barrel”

The Post’s editorial board wants to know whose interests the Council really serves

In effect, local officeholders are so beholden to the union that they have forfeited their obligation to exercise independent oversight over contract negotiations. One result is that the average salary for a Montgomery County teacher, $76,483, is the highest among suburban school systems in the Washington area…But what confidence can the public have that officeholders in Montgomery are carefully weighing competing interests when most of them are held hostage to the overbearing influence of a single union?

Read the full editorial at the Washington Post »

Post: “In Montgomery County, scare tactics by teachers union are the norm”

From the Washington Post’s editorial board:

Unsurprisingly, the MCEA, backed by its anointed candidates on the Montgomery County Council, the county school board and the local delegation to the state legislature, has been able to squeeze enormous concessions from the school system in past contract negotiations. Over the past three years, the salary of a typical teacher with 10 years of experience has risen by 23 percent.

Read the full editorial at the Post »