Montgomery County Taxpayers League

The Voice of Taxpayers of Montgomery County, Maryland

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‘Montgomery County Bracing for Long-Term Revenue Decline’

From bethesdamagazine.com:

“Montgomery County is revising its six-year revenue forecasts down by more than $400 million as income tax revenue lags behind previous projections…[County Executive Ike] Leggett noted that during the recession the county passed a savings plan of about $970 million in one year. But he said cutting spending at that rate isn’t possible anymore, given how much had to be cut from the operating budget during the years of economic decline from 2008 to 2011.”

Read the full story.

Questions for meeting of November 15, 2017

Questions for the meeting of November 15, 2017

Topic:  “Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation:  Bringing Jobs to  Montgomery County?”

Speaker: David Petr,  President and CEO, Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation

Free and open to the public

The following questions sent to the speaker in advance of the meeting:

1. The Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) has produced several publicity campaigns, including “Moco365,” “We are Montgomery County,” and “Think Moco.”  What has been the largest concrete accomplishment of these campaigns?  What particular businesses and quantifiable economic activity have they brought to the county?

2. Your previous experience includes:  President and CEO of the Central Florida Development Council and Executive Director of the Winter Haven Economic Development Council.  What was your greatest success in these positions?  What parallels do you see between these regions and Montgomery County that have informed your work here?

3. Despite a $1,127,000 boost in the FY 2017 budget, the MCEDC remains less well-funded than its Fairfax and Prince George’s county counterparts, which receive $7.5 million and $9 million, respectively.  Do you believe this puts Montgomery County at a great disadvantage relative to these neighboring counties?  Are there plans to expand the MCEDC budget to achieve parity and what successes would MCEDC achieve?

4. To what extent do county and state laws and regulations hamper the mission of the MCEDC?  What changes or new legislation will help you achieve your goals?

5. Montgomery County boasts many other economic development groups, including countywide and municipal chambers of commerce, Rockville Economic Development, Inc., and the Latino Economic Development Center.  How has your organization collaborated with these existing institutions?

6. A focus of the MCEDC appears to be biotechnology: the website highlights two biotech companies, Medimmune and Qiagen.  Is biotech the only reliable investment for Montgomery County taxpayers?  What about other key industries–agribusiness, cyber security, financial services, tourism, IT, and healthcare–and what would attract them to Montgomery County?

Next meeting:  January 17, 2018

Comments on Planning Board presentation of Oct. 25, 2017

MCTL Member Max Bronstein had these comments about the Oct. 25 presentation by Casey Anders, Cir, Montgomery County Planning Board:

There is an emphasis on walkable & bikeable communities & that’s fine for those who choose to live in that type of dense setting, but the majority of the county’s 1.1 million residents have not chosen that lifestyle & are not choosing that lifestyle going forward.  Also, if biking is applied to commuting, it’s less than 1% of commuters who travel on a bicycle.  Also, try hauling 6 grocery bags on a bike after shopping.  Biking & walking for exercise & recreation, is fine. Just recall that seniors are the largest population growth segment & many can walk only short distances & usually don’t bike at all.”

Mr. Bronstein’s full comments are here

 

 

“Setting the Record Straight on MCPS Funding”

From Seventh State, Oct. October 13, 2017, a letter to the editor from Nancy Floreen, a member of the Montgomery County Council:

Were the preceding seven years really a period of “austerity” for MCPS and “lavish” times for others?  Consider the facts….

2. During the worst years of the recession, FY09-12, only two agencies – MCPS and Montgomery College – saw increased funding. To be sure, the increases were small (1.8 and 3.2 percent, respectively) and relied on higher State aid. But during this same period, vital County functions like Police, Fire and Rescue, and HHS were down 3.4, 5.0, and 14.7 percent, respectively.  Recreation was down 23.5 percent, and Libraries was down 29.2 percent.”

And here’s the response to Ms. Floreen’s letter:

“The schools need small, steady increases in per pupil funding to deal with their challenges. There can no longer be wild swings between extended periods of per pupil cuts and freezes followed by huge tax hikes intended to undo the effects of those cuts and freezes.”

 

Meeting of October 25, 2017: MoCo Planning Board Decisions

        Montgomery County Taxpayers League Meeting

                                www.mctaxpayersleague.org

                            Wednesday, October 25, 2017 – 7-9 pm
                        Council Office Building, 3rdf floor Conference Room
                          100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20817
                    Free and open to the public
Topic:  “How do Planning Board decisions affect the Taxpayers of Montgomery County?”
Speaker: Casey Anderson, Chair, Montgomery County Planning Board

 

“Montgomery County’s expensive private attorneys”

From the Washington Post website of July 15, 2017:

“Montgomery County accumulated excessive legal bills to pursue a lawsuit against the designers and builders of the long-delayed Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center in Silver Spring.  When all these payments are added together, Montgomery County, in a case that never went to trial, will have paid more than $18 million and will have received a settlement only $6.7 million higher. ….It is absurd to pay $6.5 million for outside counsel for a case that didn’t even go to trial.  “

Questions for the meeting of June 14, 2017

Questions for the meeting of June 14, 2017

Topic:   Affordable Housing in Montgomery County: Vouchers or New Construction?

Speaker:  Clarence Snuggs, Director, Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Montgomery County

June 14, 2017  — Free and open to the public — 7-9 pm. —  Council Office Building

The following questions have been sent to Mr. Snuggs in advance of the meeting:

1. Could you provide us with definitions of the various categories within which you operate?

    • MPDU versus affordable housing versus low-income versus median income housing
    • – what are the income cut-offs and are they pegged to inflation?
    • – what are the other qualification requirements for each category?

2. The Department of Housing and Community Affairs (HCA) has 96 employees and a budget of $52M with an infusion of funds from HUD.  One strategy deployed is affordable housing through payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT).  Another strategy is requiring 12.5-15% of multifamily housing to be moderately priced also known as “mandatory inclusionary zoning”.  How are these strategies working?  What was HCA’s primary performance goal for FY 2017.  Did you accomplish the goal?  Have you revised your plans for FY 2018 and is this reflected in the FY 2018 budget?

3. County Executive Leggett announced a new program to help qualified applicants purchase a home with the support of the Montgomery Homeownership Program. The down payment assistance program is available for buyers with qualified incomes to purchase a Montgomery County home as their primary residence, up to a $429,000 sale price (up to $525,000, in certain neighborhoods.)  Applicants who qualify and are approved may access Down Payment Assistance loans in amounts up to $40,000 – or up to 40 percent of the household income of the prospective homeowner – whichever is less.  Approved buyers also will receive a below-market rate. Montgomery County has committed $1 million to this program.  What are your measures of success for this program and how will you handle defaults on the loans?

4. The Housing Opportunities Commission, is a different organization within the county which also deals with affordable housing, but with a much smaller budget ($6M).  Is there overlap or do each of the two organizations have separate and  distinct missions?

5. How does HCA handle reports of unlicensed rental homes?  Does HCA check to ensure that rental homes and condos using vouchers are licensed?  How does HCA determine that rental income is being declared on state and federal tax forms? How much tax revenue do you estimate we lose from unlicensed rental units? 

6. Given that most mid- and low-income homeowners/renters use the strategy “drive until you qualify”, has the county considered underutilized commercial land or vacant office parks as an avenue to increasing affordable housing?  And as transportation is a major cost concern for low- and some middle-income buyers/renters, would this mitigate the problem?

7. We understand that there are about a thousand homeless people in Montgomery County.  Several studies have shown that providing permanent housing is the solution to improving health and well being for people without homes.  What is the county doing to enable homeless individuals and families to find permanent housing?

Next Meeting: TBA

County, Schools Arrive At Plan For Fully Funding Schools’ Budget

From BethesdaBeat.com May 15, 2017:

“The Montgomery County Council agreed to supply the county’s public schools with $1.663 billion during fiscal 2018, enough when combined with state and federal aid to cover the $2.522 billion spending plan backed by the school board….The $1.663 billion funding level suggested by the county executive is about $19 million above the state-required minimum…The council is expected to finalize the MCPS budget later this month.”

Questions for the meeting of April 19, 2017

Topic:   ” The Montgomery County Police Department and Performance-Based Budgeting”

Speaker:  J. Thomas Manger, Chief of Police, Montgomery County

April 19, 2017  — Free and open to the public — 7-9 pm. —  Council Office Building

The following questions have been sent to Chief Manger in advance of the meeting

1. Almost every police department in the country has performance targets to reduce crime.  We assume that such targets do exist for the Montgomery County Police Department.  However they are not included in the budget or strategic plan (except for strategy 1.3.2- traffic safety).  How do these targets compare, over the last 5 years, with those in Fairfax County where you were the Chief of Police prior to your current appointment?

2. Other than crime reduction, many police departments use performance measures such as clearance rates, response times, and enforcement productivity (#of arrests, citations, “stop and frisk” searches, etc).  Are these useful measures for the Montgomery County Police Department?  How do you measure whether the department is working intelligently, using appropriate methods and having a positive impact? 

3. How much of the $115 million for Patrol Services goes for Community Policing?  The research shows that unreported crimes such as crimes against youth ages 12-17 and crimes committed by someone the victim knows well, for example, are 2-3 times higher than reported crime rates.  Would these and “invisible” crimes such as crimes within the family, white collar crime, crimes involving intimidation, etc. be covered by community policing? 

4. The $43 million budget for Strategic Direction 1, “Reduce and Prevent Crime and Create Safer Communities”, is allocated to Field Services.  What are the performance measures for this category; more specifically, by how much will this $43 million reduce crime?

5. The budget for Investigative Services is $46 million.  What are the performance measures for this category inasmuch as they relate to reduction in crime? 

6. Management Services- How much of this $73 million budget relates to Strategic Direction 1 (e.g. body cameras), and how much relates to the other 4 strategic directions?  How does the cost of overhead functions compare to other police departments such as those in Fairfax and Howard counties?

7. How large is the fleet and what is the budget for operating and maintaining this fleet?  How does this compare to other police departments such as those in Fairfax and Howard counties?  What are some of the metrics used to make these comparisons?

8. Last year, personnel of the Police Department received a 4% pay raise,; at the national level the increase was 2.3% as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This year’s budget includes a general wage increase of 2%, service increase of 3.5%, and longevity increase of 3.5%.  Are these pay increases linked to the productivity of the Police Department?  How does the average annual compensation (salary plus overtime) compare to police departments in   Fairfax and Howard counties?

9. The retirement plan for county government workers is a defined contributions plan.  The retirement plan for the Police Department is a much more generous and expensive defined benefits plan.  Can you give us some reasons for the discrepancy between the two?  Also, what percentage of those retiring this year are retiring on a disability?

10. Are there initiatives that longer term would make your department more efficient and save taxpayers money that are not in your budget due to belt tightening?

11. What is your process for identifying cost savings?  What cost savings are included in this budget?  Other police forces have implemented cost saving measures, have you considered or implemented any of these: 

– eliminating land line phones for officers that have department-issued cell phones

redesigning patrol deployment and creating shorter shifts to optimize coverage during periods of high call volumes and reducing coverage during times of low call volumes

– fleet reduction measures