Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Attended a Budget meeting yet?

Written by Sharon Dooley. She has been a county resident for more than 30 years, now lives in Olney; Sharon was a Democratic candidate for County Council in District 2 (Olney, Poolesville, Damascus, Germantown) in 2006. Currently she is a Vice-President of the Greater Olney Civic Association (GOCA), a non-political organization of 33 local civic associations in and around Olney. Sharon actively explores land use and environmental issues. Additionally, she works in the health industry and is involved as a volunteer in healthcare advocacy; she remains an avid observer of the political process. Her comments here do not reflect those of any other group.

Facing a projected $400 million budget shortfall, County Executive "Ike" Leggett has taken his show on the road to both inform and learn from county residents.

At the crowded forum in Germantown on Monday evening, the county finance department provided an educational powerpoint on the income sources and expenditure streams the county experiences each year. This was followed by Q & A with the County Executive. For over an hour Leggett was in professorial mode as he discussed the mechanics of the county and state budgets and answered questions along the lines of his stated goals of full communication and transparency.

The audience appeared engaged and appreciative with many thanking Leggett for his leadership even as they pursued advocacy for their particular issues. These concerns ranged from libraries and schools to public safety. Other pleas were voiced about keeping programs such as those that support Linkages to Learning and Mental Health as well as keeping commitments to affordable housing. Even perennial gadfly and self-styled anti-tax resident, Robin Flicker seemed mollified when Leggett pointed out that it was he who authored the Charter Limit Cap Legislation.

Will audience participation solve this budget gap? No, but it is an excellent PR move as it gives citizens a direct voice in the process. If you don't want your pet project shelved - now is the time to speak up!

It is to be expected that more county residents will believe that they are now a part of the solution and the county executive and council may find an even more engaged electorate in these upcoming budget decisions. Leggett will present his budget to the County Council in mid-March and it needs to be approved by the end of May. I expect a lively Spring!

Sharon Dooley
Want to exercise your voice? The remaining meetings are noted below:
January 10, Belmont Elementary School, 19528 Olney Mill Road, Olney.

• January 16, Eastern Montgomery Regional Services Center, 3300 Briggs Chaney Road, Silver Spring.

• January 22, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda

• January 31, Long Branch Community Center, 8700 Piney Branch Road, Silver Spring.

For residents who cannot attend one of the budget forums, an online form is available to accept comments and ideas about the budget. The form is available on the County’s website at by clicking on the online form link under the FY09 Budget heading.

Sign language interpreter services will be provided only upon request with notice as far in advance as possible, but no less than 72 hours prior to the event. If these or other services or aids are needed to participate in this activity, call 240-777-6530 or TTY 240-777-6505, or email a request to