At the hearing in the County Council hearing room Joan Fidler, President of MCTL, gave this testimony April 9, 2014:
Montgomery County Council FY 2015 Budget Testimony
Joan Fidler – MCPS Budget, April 9, 2014
I am Joan Fidler, president of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League. Here are our comments on the proposed FY 2015 budget.
First, we find untenable the unsustainable pay raises ranging from 6.75% – 9.75% for county workers. Yes, they are deserving of a pay raise but these somewhat wild leaps do not make sense. Is the private sector in the county quite as generous? Is the federal government? Yes, we did support pay raises for you and the County Executive and we stand by them. 10 people with a pay raise who have responsibilities greater than those of the rest of the county government will not break the budget. 9,600 people are another matter. Reduce their pay raises by half. You will save $10 million.
Next, the energy tax that is now looked on as a permanent stream of revenue – a tax that we were promised was a temporary tax meant for extraordinary times. It should have faded into the sunset but continues to glow in the east. Yes, you did reduce it by 10 percent in each of the last 2 years. We suggest that you decrease it by another 20%.
And now to the $26 million increase for the school system which is above and beyond the Maintenance of Effort funding level. This punitive law, which favors education over every other service offered by the county, a law which was fought for by the unions and the entire educational establishment – well, we should give them what they so valiantly sought – funding at the Maintenance of Effort level. The $26 million increase will rebase per pupil funding upward – permanently. Please do not pander to the educational establishment. Unlike county workers, they receive better health benefits. Unlike county workers, they are not furloughed. Unlike county workers, they get an additional 2% supplement towards their pensions – the only county in Maryland that is so generous. Just heed Seneca’s words of several centuries ago: “Qui multum habet, plus cupit” (he who has much desires more). Do not go over the MoE level. You will save $26 million.
Further, we are not convinced that the $2.3 billion budget of the public schools has any objective oversight. An organization as large, expensive and complex as the MCPS needs and deserves an Inspector General reporting directly to the Board of Education. We urge you to make that happen. The MoE law does nothing to incentivize efficiencies or avoid waste; an Inspector General would.
Also we are alarmed that we have 2 classes of tax-supported workers in the county – those that work for the school system and those that work for the county government. We urge you to suggest to the school system that all new workers pay the same share of their health premiums as do county government workers. It will be a small step towards equity and would save the school system close to $2 million in the first year alone.
So what could you do with all the savings we’ve suggested? The opportunities are endless. Create jobs. Lower property taxes. Improve infrastructure. And do not forget the “the least of our brethren” – the homeless, the unemployed, the poor, the hungry, and the developmentally disabled.
Budgets are a matter of choices. You have the power- and the ability- to make good ones.