Saturday, September 24, 2011

Where Was George?

The question that people are asking after receiving an email newsletter from Council President Valerie Ervin that is signed by all county councilmembers except George Leventhal:

Dear Friends of Montgomery County:

As the Council gears up for its busy fall schedule, we want to update you on some key issues the Council will be addressing. We also want to share with you our perspective on the Council's recent actions.

Issues we will consider this fall range from the curfew bill proposed by the County Executive to the post-Census redrawing of Councilmember district lines. We will also take up several land use master plans that are vital to strengthening our economy and improving our quality of life.

Our agenda so far this year has focused on the severe budget challenges that the County, like governments across the nation, has continued to face. The Council acted unanimously on issue after issue and approved a $4.4 billion County budget for Fiscal Year 2012. We listened closely to the comments we received from thousands of concerned County service recipients and taxpayers, we consulted extensively with our employee representatives, and ultimately we spoke with one voice on how best to close the huge gap between projected expenditures and resources.

The Council started with three priorities: to protect our core services - education, public safety, and assistance for our most needy residents; treat our taxpayers fairly; and provide equity among our employees. In a series of 9-0 votes on controversial issues, we did just that. Even though the overall approved budget was actually smaller than the budget approved three years ago, we targeted the reductions carefully. For MCPS and Montgomery College, we focused on areas that do not affect the classroom. For some core services, we felt that the reductions proposed by the County Executive cut too deeply, and so we restored limited funds to Police, Fire and Rescue, Health and Human Services, Libraries, and other key operations.

One of our top goals was to protect our hard-working employees and their families from layoffs. Another top goal was to ensure fair treatment for the employees of all County agencies. We felt that the County Executive's recommended changes to health and retirement benefits for County Government employees were too large, and so we made them more equitable.

Another essential goal was to protect classroom instruction in our world-class school system while ensuring that scarce resources are available for all our critical priorities. The $2.1 billion budget we approved for Montgomery County Public Schools will help create a stable future for our schools and all County agencies. The tax supported budget that we approved for the school system was an increase over the last fiscal year.

In June, despite these budget challenges, the three major bond rating agencies reaffirmed the County's critical AAA bond rating, but the continued turmoil in financial markets makes clear that our challenges are far from over.

We are proud of the way the Council came together to act unanimously on this year's difficult budget. We are deeply committed to progressive values, and all of us care deeply about the concerns of our taxpayers, service recipients, and employees in this economy. We will continue to do the best job we can for the County's one million residents.


Valerie Ervin

Valerie Ervin

Council President

Roger Berliner

Council Vice President

Phil Andrews


Marc Elrich


Nancy Floreen


Nancy Navarro


Craig Rice


Hans Riemer