Questions for meeting of February 20, 2019

Questions for meeting of February 20, 2019

Presentation:   “County Executive’s Transition Plan”

Speaker:  Andrew Kleine, Chief Administrative Officer, Montgomery County Government

7 Questions sent to Mr. Kleine in advance of the meeting:

1. Thriving Youths –   Will the Executive recommend an MCPS FY 2020 budget based on a review of MCPS strategies to close the achievement gap?  How?  By how much will the $400 million provided by the County to MCPS (in addition to its appropriated budget of $2.6 billion) succeed in closing the achievement gap? Will the infusion of funding for Pre-K programs be accompanied by rigorous student academic performance measures to ensure that strategies are producing results that do not disappear by 3rd grade? 

2.  Growing Economy and Tax Equity – How will transition strategies address the 2018 slump in residential and commercial development and foster balanced growth in the residential and commercial property assessment tax base?  Residential assessment base growth remains low, in part because the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) reassessments have not kept pace with improvements to existing single family homes (“McMansions”),and also because policy treats these improvements as subject to Charter Limits.  Consequently, homeowners without improvements are subsidizing the property taxes of those homeowners with improvements who see delayed and in some cases no market-based reassessments by SDAT.  How would the Executive change this and encourage better coordination between the Department of Permitting Services, SDAT, and the Department of Finance?

3. Non-Governmental Grants – If arts organizations are an integral part of the quality of life in Montgomery County, what are some of the results from such organizations that would qualify for funding under “outcome budgeting”?

4. Affordable County – Demand for rental housing has increased significantly in recent years, from 25% to 32% since 2008, but supply has remained limited, driving up rents.  The average cost to build an MPDU (Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit) is now $190,000, placing further pressure on supply.  A consultant studied the county’s affordable housing policies in 2017 for the Council and recommended that funding for the small but promising locally funded voucher program be increased. The Council declined.  How would the transition plan expand access? 

5. Effective, Sustainable Government – One performance measure calls for awarding more work to minority-, female- and disabled-owned and local businesses presumably to improve the cost-effectiveness of County services?  Shouldn’t a performance measure include periodically evaluating every non-core activity to determine if out-sourcing would make the service more cost-effective?  Could the County’s bond rating be improved by subjecting capital spending to rigorous return on investment analysis and ranking?  

6. WSSC-  A billion dollar operation, WSSC has water rates double those of Fairfax Water and spends on projects that have either no rate of return or one that’s lower than the cost of capital. We, as rate payers, subsidize the resulting debt service.  Consequently, we have endured a never ending spiral of above market rate increases (132% since 2003).  But WSSC continues to argue in its proposed budget (1/15/19) that it cannot calculate ROI or rank projects based on their returns.  In a 2/7 hearing about the CIP plan that involved no substantive discussion of major projects, the T&E chair remarked that he would stay in his “swim lane”, and would look to the state delegation’s Metro committee for oversight.  Does the Executive plan to also defer to the state?  Would the Executive support shifting rate-making away from local politicians to the state’s Public Service Commission?

7. Safe Neighborhoods – The Police Dept has 1/3 more officers in its Investigation Division than does Fairfax County, but does not have comparable closure rates.  Unlike Fairfax county, our 911 call system is not run by an independent agency with strong cost controls and has been slow to innovate and add features to locate cell phone callers.  How does the transition plan address performance in these areas?


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