Tuesday, May 04, 2010

SEIU Rings Alarm Bell on Furloughs

SEIU Local 500 President Merle Cuttitta sent out the following email to her members about school system furloughs today.

Dear [Member],

Your phone call or email today could not be more important. This past Thursday, April 29th, the Management and Fiscal Policy committee of the County Council voted unanimously in favor of a recommendation to furlough all county employees, including those of MCPS, in the name of 'equity.' Legally, the Council does not have the authority to furlough MCPS employees. Only the Board of Education can do that, and both the Board and the Superintendent are committed to not furloughing MCPS employees.

However, the Council staff recommended a furlough of five (5) days for all county and MCPS employees. This recommendation, if approved, would reduce the MCPS budget an additional $33.7 million beyond the cut of $ 137.7 million in the County Executive's plan.

If the additional cut of $33.7 million is enacted by the County Council, it will severely damage the chances of the State Board of Education approving a waiver of Maintenance of Effort for next year. That could cost MCPS an additional $51.3 million in state aid. MCPS would have to ELIMINATE AN ADDITIONAL 800-1,000 POSITIONS on top of the 270 positions already eliminated if these cuts occur due to the actions of the County Council. Make no mistake: this would mean LAYOFFS in every unit of MCPS- administrators, teachers, and support staff.

An additional cut to the MCPS budget is not necessary, nor are furloughs for ANY employees of the county, including MCPS. This year the County's reserve fund was 5% of the budget. Initially, County Executive Leggett proposed maintaining it at 5% for next year, and restoring it to the 6% policy level in FY12. Two weeks ago, the County Executive changed his recommendation and put an additional $37 million in next year's budget to restore the reserves to 6% in FY11. The County Council could simply increase the reserve fund from 5% this year to 5.6% next year and still be at 6% in FY12. By doing so, they could avoid furloughing any county employees.

Some on the County Council seem more concerned with pleasing the bond rating agencies on Wall Street than taking care of its employees and the children of MCPS during this time of economic turmoil and hardship: the very same bond rating agencies that brought us the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

The County Council's staff memo tries to justify furloughs of MCPS employees by stating that, "MCPS provides more generous health and retirement benefits than does any other agency." This is factually incorrect, unless one conveniently ignores the County's retirement plan for police, firefighters and sheriffs and also ignores the County's retiree health benefits for all its employees.

There are even indications that some on the County Council would like to double the cost of health insurance to MCPS employees, despite the agreement we negotiated with the Board of Education last year when we gave up our pay raise for the current year to maintain our health insurance premium co-pay formulas for the next four years.

WE URGE YOU to email, call, and write to the County Council immediately demanding that they adopt a budget that:

• Does not furlough ANY county employees

• Avoids any additional cuts to MCPS beyond the $137.7 already agreed to

• Raises the full $101 million proposed increase in the energy tax

• Phases in the restoration of the reserve fund by going to 5.6% in FY11 and then to 6% in FY12

ACT NOW! The Council will conduct a straw vote on the budget on May 20th.

For more information, read a joint MCPS union letter sent to Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, Chairperson of the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee, who voted to recommend furloughs: http://www.seiu500.org/admin/Assets/AssetContent/e3b285a0-22a3-4358-84a8-2aea224be311/546bfa9e-94e2-495f-9d30-54cc81f55e47/3f701040-9719-4446-a78c-8038bd9d3847/1/jointunionletteronfurloughs.pdf

Contact the County Council TODAY:

• Phil Andrews (240) 777-7906 councilmember.andrews@montgomerycountymd.gov

• Roger Berliner (240) 777-7828 councilmember.berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov

• Marc Elrich (240) 777-7966 councilmember.elrich@montgomerycountymd.gov

• Valerie Ervin (240) 777-7960 councilmember.ervin@montgomerycountymd.gov

• Nancy Floreen (240) 777-7959 councilmember.floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov

• Mike Knapp (240) 777-7955 councilmember.knapp@montgomerycountymd.gov

• George Leventhal (240) 777-7811 councilmember.leventhal@montgomerycountymd.gov

• Nancy Navarro (240) 777-7968 councilmember.navarro@montgomerycountymd.gov

• Duchy Trachtenberg (240) 777-7964 councilmember.trachtenberg@montgomerycountymd.gov


Merle Cuttitta