It’s tempting to dash off an indignant letter to the Washington Post for once again trampling on your union and our determination to stand up to the County Council and Executive. But, what’s the point? The Post’s influence is waning, their profits are plunging. They’ve made their bed with the education industry charletans and the plutocrats of Washington and now the Post is suffering the consequences. If Valerie Ervin believes that favorable mention in Post editorials can insulate her from the judgment of thoughtful and indignant voters, she’s making a serious mistake.
Montgomery County will spend $4.3 billion this year to fund the priorities established by the County Executive in consultation with the County Council. Public safety—police, fire and rescue service—and libraries were among the essential services that were subjected to deep budget cuts resulting in police manpower shortages, reductions in fire and rescue staffing and cutbacks in hours and programs including the popular children’s summer reading program in our County libraries.
• 58 fewer police officers are on the street.
• 23 front line fire fighter positions remain unfilled.
• 129 library positions have been abolished and library budget reduced by 30% in the last 2 years.
Consequently, the quality of life in Montgomery County is in decline. Our County’s elected representatives avoided other viable alternatives in the current budget, including closer scrutiny of the School Board’s $2.45 billion budget that was superficially cut by the County Executive and the Council.
PROTECT YOUR MONTGOMERY, a coalition supporting essential public services, FULLY SUPPORTS THE COUNTY’S STATED COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION. In fact, we believe that the top-heavy Education Bureaucracy, that consumes 57% of all spending in the County and pays for the 2,626 BOE administrators making in excess of $100,000 contributes very little to the education system. Unchecked spending for a top heavy education bureaucracy is crowding out available funds for critical County services that protect residents and their families. As the County goes forward on a search for a new County School Superintendent, we recommend that the compensation package for the new Superintendent’s position must be open and transparent and far more modest than that paid to outgoing Superintendent Jerry Weast.
These are choices the politicians have made, but the County’s residents will live with the consequences for the remainder of this year, and possibly long into the future. Demand a more effective approach in the coming years sign our petition below and send it to the County Executive and the Council.
Montgomery County doesn’t have enough money to honor its contracts to police officers, firefighters and general government workers, so how can they “forgive” $450,000 in taxes that Lockheed Martin owes?
The County Council will hold a hearing on Sept. 21 to review a bill recommended by County Executive Ike Leggett and introduced at his request by Council President Nancy Floreen to allow Lockheed Martin to skip out on the $450,000 it owes in lodging taxes. The company already slipped through forgiveness for $370,900 in similar taxes it owed the state on an “expedited” bill that passed the last session of the legislature.
Here’s what Mr. Leggett had to say in a statement introducing the bill to the Council:
“In these challenging economic times, it is critically important that the County create an enabling business environment, that we identify and address unwarranted impediments to private sector growth, and that we help our companies be competitive in bidding on federal government contracts.”
Mr. Leggett’s compassion for a corporation that reported $45.2 billion in revenues in 2009 and paid its CEO more than $42 million is remarkable.
Montgomery County is ready to move mountains to get County Executive Ike Leggett’s pet Fillmore Project built, but not for libraries. It has recently come to light that the County “found” some $3 million in additional funds for Fillmore—even though the County Executive’s office had stated more than once that the County’s financial obligation for Fillmore was capped at $4 million.
It is disturbing that only days earlier, County officials were telling residents of Silver Spring that they should be prepared to reduce their expectations for the new Silver Spring Library project by exactly the same amount—$3 million. Coincidence? We don’t think so.
The Montgomery County Library system has become, for some inexplicable reason, a target for budget cuts well beyond reasonable austerity—with 129 jobs cut this year and a 30 percent cut in funding over the past two budget cycles. If anyone in the County needs a reminder of what those cuts have cost residents, just remember that Montgomery County is the only jurisdiction in the state of Maryland that was forced to cancel its summer reading program and as a result, 23,000 children in Montgomery County were underserved over the past summer.
The Protect Your Montgomery Coalition—made up of general government workers, police officers and professional fire fighters— calls on Mr. Leggett and members of the County Council to re-examine their priorities. County residents are connecting the dots: we don’t have enough money to pay for essential services in May, but nobody is going to notice an extra $3 million to fund rock and roll just three months later?
Washington Monthly// Steve Benen The Political Animal
August 7, 2010
IN THE WEALTHIEST COUNTRY ON EARTH…. To note that the United States is the richest country on the planet is a bit of an understatement. We can take the economies of some of the world’s wealthiest countries — Japan, China, and Germany — and combine their gross domestic product totals, and the U.S. still has more wealth.
But how we decide to use or not use our wealth, particularly in times of economic distress, can occasionally boggle the mind.
Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation and sending working parents scrambling to find care for them.
Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.
Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.
Faced with the steepest and longest decline in tax collections on record, state, county and city governments have resorted to major life-changing cuts in core services like education, transportation and public safety that, not too long ago, would have been unthinkable. And services in many areas could get worse before they get better.
At least in theory, this is what many Americans, including nearly all conservatives, say they want. The demand is for “spending cuts,” “smaller government, and fewer “public services.” Americans should fend for themselves. We’re all on our own. If the wealthiest country on the planet can’t afford buses or streetlights, so be it — just don’t raise taxes a penny or we’ll run you out of town.
Last year’s stimulus, it’s worth noting, prevented many of these state and local cuts from happening sooner. But the Recovery Act is nearly finished, and a few too many of our political leaders believe the public would rather see schools struggle to stay open five days a week than see additional economic stimulus that could literally help keep the lights on.
For Republicans, it’s simply a matter of priorities — America doesn’t like and can’t afford spending on core public services like a local police force, but we can afford wars and tax cuts for millionaires. And don’t ask too many questions about this, or you’ll be accused of being one of those liberal big spenders who likes “class warfare.”
And in case this isn’t obvious, also note who feels the brunt of these decisions. When schools are closed on Fridays, middle-class families feel an added burden they can hardly afford: “For those 17 Fridays, parents reluctantly worked from home or used up vacation and sick days. Others enlisted the help of grandparents. Many paid $25 to $50 per child each week for the new child care programs that had sprung up.”
When bus systems are shut down, wealthier folks with cars are fine, but low-income workers who need a way to get to work are out of luck. When street lights are turned off and police officers are furloughed, families in gated communities and private security are probably feeling a lot better off than everyone else.
And all of this is happening, right here in the wealthiest country on earth.
The public school system accounts for 57% of Montgomery County’s $4.3 Billion budget, edging out other valid and essential County services such as public safety, libraries and transportation, which received 34% of County spending.
* County Council Reports
Montgomery County’s bloated Education Bureaucracy includes 2,626 bureaucrats who make more than $100,000 a year and who don?t report to work in a classroom.
* MFP Committee Memorandum #1 April 29, 2010.
The Superintendent of Montgomery County public schools makes somewhere around $400,000 a year; but the exact figure is cloaked in absolute secrecy. Mr. Weast’s contract, which has never been made public, includes a 6% annual raise which goes into a separate retirement account, according to a report by the D.C. Examiner 7/14/08.
With 22,000 employees the Montgomery County public school system accounts for roughly two-thirds of the personnel cost (work years) in the County. Actual Countywide personnel costs (not including the school system) represent 57.2% of the County’s current budget, not 82% as the County sometimes claims and is often misreported in the media. *County Executive Budget Summaries, Schedule B-4, page 70-7.
County personnel costs declined 4.7% in the current budget, while debt service increased by 50.3%. Iin other words, it’s not lavish pay and benefits that are swelling the cost of County government.
A key reason for that marked decline in personel costs: County employees VOLUNTARILY gave up scheduled pay raises two years in a row at the bargaining table saving the county $280.2 million.
* County Council Staff Reports
Where are the priorities: people or corporate welfare?
In September 2010, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett recommended an ‘expedited’ bill to give Lockheed Martin a tax break worth $450,000 out of concern for maintaining a good climate for business in the County. An outcry by County workers and citizens forced the County Council to withdraw the bill.
* County Council Expedited Bill 44-10.
The Montgomery County Council and the County Executive gave $11 million of taxpayer money to a private developer to build a rock and roll nightclub in Silver Spring. They took $3 million of that money from Silver Spring Library projects.
* Montgomery Gazette August 20, 2010 “Live Nation concert hall project $3.2 million over budget”
The County Council gave $4 million to assist Costco to locate in the Westfield Mall Wheaton Plaza.
* Washington Examiner 7/29/10 “Montgomery Unveils Wheaton Revitalizations Plan”