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How Some Would Save $1 Million in Montgomery

Here's an idea for how to fix Montgomery County's troubled tuition assistance program for county employees: Get rid of it, at least for next year.

That was the idea floated Monday by Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrews.

The program for county employees is "not essential," and given tight budgets and crucial social service needs, "it would be responsible to suspend it next year," Andrews said. That would save about $1 million, he said.

Andrews spoke after a council committee was briefed Monday. Members were updated on a series of investigations launched after questions were raised about a law enforcement course. One issue is whether public funds were used to essentially get private firearms for employees at cheap prices, according to officials.

County attorney Leon Rodriguez, a former federal prosecutor, said investigators are looking into whether there was any criminal wrongdoing. Inspector General Thomas Dagley is leading a separate inquiry. Officials are also looking into oversight and spending issues, and they said they hoped the investigations would be completed by year's end.

The broader program is also being scrutinized by the council. Council member Valerie Ervin questioned several of the classes that received county funds, among them "Bible Doctrines" and "Life on the Down Low." "The list goes on and on. Why are we allowing the funds to be used in that manner?" Ervin asked. County officials said they would supply additional backup materials on the courses submitted by employees.

Council member Duchy Trachtenberg noted that there is a legitimate need for some educational courses, such as language classes to help employees serve a diverse population. Insights from the ongoing inquiries will help shape coming budget discussions and potential new program rules, she said.

Joseph Adler, director of the Office of Human Resources, said the tuition assistance program will be on the table during coming negotiations with employee unions over benefits, but he wouldn't discuss specifics.

By Michael Laris  |  September 14, 2009; 4:52 PM ET
Categories:  Maryland State Budget , Michael Laris  
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Comments

Whoa, Phil.

Great idea. But don't worry, this council will beat that idea out of you. The very idea of cutting stuff is not considered by our county council precisely because they're afraid it would set a bad precedent: cutting things rather than increase taxes.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | September 14, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Go Phil, good luck. Any county program that dosn't work or is abused, CUT IT.

Posted by: VikingRider | September 14, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

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