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MoCo Unions Quiz County Leaders

Leaders of the six labor unions that represent more than 30,000 Montgomery County employees quizzed elected leaders last night on the county's budget crunch and politely pressed them to stick with wage and benefit agreements.

The meeting was just the beginning of the budget debate that officially begins next month when County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) submits his fiscal 2009 blueprint for closing a $297 million gap.

Union members representing police officers, firefighters, teachers, principals and general government workers challenged the depth of the county's budget shortfall, noting that in past years revenues have come in higher than anticipated.

Leggett assured them in stark terms that "this problem is real." "To bury our heads in the sand and in effect pretend it does not exist would be a disservice," he said. "This notion that someone wants to lowball" the shortfall, he added, "it's foolhardy."

Among the council members attending the forum last night, Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) was the only one to pledge to honor the employee contracts. Council member Phil Andrews, in contrast, was the lone council member to tell the group that their planned salary increases are "unsustainable."

"I think everyone needs to help," he said of the county's budget problems. "Everyone should be asked to contribute to the solution."

Not surprisingly, his assertion was met with head-shaking and pointed questions.

"Why is it you want the people in this room to pay twice," asked David Rodich, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 500.

By Anne Bartlett  |  February 28, 2008; 10:36 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Marimow  
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Comments

Homeowners have already contributed. We cannot exceed the charter property tax limit. Yesterday, I went to list a home for sale in Bethesda, The assessment was $758,000 this year and will be $929,000 next year. But properties in this neighborhood are not selling. Values have dropped below the assessment. This home is going on the market for $758,000.

We have had increased Metro, water, and electricity fees. Gasoline is headed to $4/gallon. Foreclosures are about 150 per week in Montgomery County. Thanks to Senator Garagiola in a 24-23 vote we have had increases in computer, sales, income, car and corporate taxes. Any property tax increase, any exceeding the charter property tax limit will result in hundreds more foreclosures and price thousands, including my children out of the housing market here. SAVE OUR HOMES! I said in the last campaign that A Vote for Ike Leggett was a Vote to Raise Your Own Taxes. How prophetic! SAVE OUR HOMES!

Thank goodness we have a charter amendment on the November ballot to make it more difficult for the Knapp tax increasing council to exceed the charter property tax limit again(Knapp has already done so from FY03-050. Thank goodness we have Mark Fennel of Citizens Against Government Waste running for Council in the April 15(tax day, how appropriate) and May 13 special election. It seems the council is determined to vote on the budget a couple of days before the election. They should wait to vote on the budget until the newly-elected person is sworn in and can vote. To do otherwise would be to disenfranchise the voters of District 4.

Posted by: Robin Ficker Broker Robin Realty | February 28, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: Just like the Post Office | February 28, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

So....schools don't need janitors?

Posted by: Liz | February 28, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Silver Spring, MD - Mark D. Fennel has announced his candidacy to run for Montgomery County Council in District 4 in the up-coming special election. A life-long resident of Montgomery County, Mark Fennel lives in Silver Spring with his wife Estela, who immigrated to the United States from Honduras, and their 6th month old son Caleb, who was born at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. Mark Fennel graduated from Walter Johnson High School in 1984 and holds a B.A. in political science from Vassar College.

A writer and marketing analyst, Mark Fennel is the long-time Director of Membership for Citizens Against Government Waste, a nationally known, non-profit organization that exposed the infamous, "Bridge to Nowhere," and other notorious earmarks. Previously, Mark Fennel worked for four years in the development department of The Heritage Foundation following a stint in the private sector.

When Mark Fennel launched his previous campaign for County Council in District 4, he was quoted in The Gazette as saying, "This year [FY06] the budget has ballooned to an incredible $3.5 billion, and there is talk of a $4 billion budget. . .For the future prosperity of Montgomery County and its residents, it's critical that an austerity program be put in place to curtail this vicious pattern of unrestrained and unsustainable spending" ("GOP newcomer making bid for County Council," Dec. 14, 2005).

On Oct. 9, 2006 shortly before the election, Montgomery Community Television videotaped Mark Fennel saying, "Tragically, Montgomery County is facing a financial crisis. During the first eight months of 2006, we've seen a $300 million falloff in transfer and recordation taxes; a new federal law requires $200 million to pre-fund some county employee benefits; the county employees' retirement system is $674 million in deficit; and, we're facing a $67 million shortfall in facility maintenance. All the while, the council irresponsibly went on an election year spending spree."

Today, Montgomery County is facing a $300 million budget deficit and the threat of higher property taxes is looming on the horizon. Having just received increases in Maryland state computer, sales, income, car, and corporate taxes, it appears the County Council is preparing to override the county's charter property tax limit which will cause hundreds more foreclosures especially for minority families, and price thousands more out of the county housing market. Under this dire background, according to the February 14, 2008 edition of the Montgomery County Sentinel, Council President Mike Knapp inexplicably said, "Right now we're looking back to see how committees were structured 15 or 20 years ago and seeing if we even need an Management and Fiscal Policy committee."

Mark Fennel has pledged not to support an override of the county's Charter Amendment, because the Charter Amendment was put in place to protect families from unfair tax increases. According to Mark Fennel, "The solution to this budget crisis, is to go through Montgomery County's budget with a fine tooth comb and root out waste, mismanagement and inefficiency while slowing the rate of growth of Montgomery County's budget." This is a task Mark Fennel is well prepared to handle, because he's been working on this issue for many years at Citizens Against Government Waste. Mark Fennel went on to say, "an integral part of reigning in over-the-top spending and the associated high level of taxation to support it, is to end the decades old symbiotic relationship between special interests and the County Council, where the County Council and special interests win, and Montgomery County families lose."
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Posted by: VoteFennelforCountyCouncil | February 28, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

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