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Montgomery County Taxpayers League (MCTL)
Educating and Advocating for Taxpayers of Montgomery County
Founded 1975
Montgomery County, Maryland


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Last updated April 12, 2010*

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Next meeting:
  April 22, 2010 - 7:30 - 9:30 p.m
5th floor conference room (TENTATIVE), Stella Werner Council Office Building,
100 Maryland Ave., Rockville MD 20850


 Leggett Presents FY 2011 Operating Budget

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett presented his recommended Operating Budget for FY 2011 March 15, 2010.

"Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today announced his recommended $4.3 billion operating budget that closes a $779 million gap for fiscal year (FY) 2011 that begins July 1. Leggett’s budget focuses on protecting essential services and his priorities of education, public safety and the safety net for the most vulnerable, but includes significant reductions in services and staffing levels. "

His news release about the FY2011 budget is available on the county website.


  Testimony of MCTL President Joan Fidler
to the County Council April 5, 2010


Testimony before County Council on FY 2011 Recommended Operating Budget
Joan Fidler, President, Montgomery County Taxpayers League
April 5, 2010

Thank you for this opportunity to present our recommendations on the County Executive’s proposed budget for FY 2011. And we know that what Mr. Leggett proposes, the Council can choose to dispose.

I am Joan Fidler, President of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League. We have been in existence since 1975 and have testified before this Council for over a decade. You have often heard us but have rarely listened. In these difficult economic times we need to work together. Let us hope that you will both hear us and listen.

First, we largely support the budget proposed by Mr. Leggett. He has shown great courage. We ask the same of you. We are quite aware that this is an election year and that courage may be in short supply. But we ask you to remember that we taxpayers have generously funded many of your unsupportable and unsustainable actions of the past. We ask you to remember that you represent not only heavily-funded large interest groups but all of the citizens and taxpayers of the county. If you must pander, we ask that you pander to the taxpayers of the county.

Here’s where you can begin. The salaries and more particularly the benefits of the employees of the county government and the school system account for 80% of the operating budgets funded by taxpayers. Let us also state that we do not deny the caliber and dedication of these employees. They are, by all accounts, a well-qualified and dedicated staff. But do we have to mortgage our future and that of our children by providing them with salaries that are the envy of their counterparts in the metropolitan area? Do we have to fund benefits that exceed the gold-plated benefits of the federal government? Yes, we know this is an election year. But can we ask that you not vote for salary and benefit giveaways unless you have calculated that taxpayers can afford them in the short-term and sustain them in the long-term?

Which brings us to the phantom COLA. Last May, 7 of the 8 members of this Council voted for a deal giving county employees a paper or “phantom” COLA which they did not see in their paychecks but are now used as a base for their pensions - in perpetuity, no less. This deal will cost us taxpayers over $8 million this year and cost our children over $200 million over the next several decades. We ask that you have the courage to eliminate the phantom COLA. Taxpayers do not pay phantom taxes, but you passed a phantom COLA for which we pay real taxes.

Next, we ask that to promote equality, school system employees have the same benefits as County employees. County employees pay 23% of their health care premiums; school system employees pay 5%. Savings from this alone would gain taxpayers $30 million. County employees will not get step increases this year; neither should school system employees. The savings? An additional $26 million. Would the combined savings of $56 million require too much courage to enact?

And finally, this is an election year. Do you have the courage to release to us taxpayers the responses to questions sent to you by interest groups?

We have no litmus test but 3 questions:

1. If elected, will you vote to support all the citizens and taxpayers of the county, not just powerful interest groups?
2. Will you remember the unempowered vulnerable people of the county?
3. Will you recognize declining revenues and enact honest, realistic budgets for the county?
Thank you.


Did you know that....

Many believe that Federal workers are the gold standard for health care insurance? Here are some facts about health care premiums paid by Federal, County and Montgomery County Public Schools employees and retirees:

Percent of health care insurance premium paid by Federal, Montgomery County and Montgomery County Public Schools employees:

Employer:

Full time

Part time

Retiree

Federal Govt

27%

27+%

27%

Montg. County
Govt.

20-24% 20-24%+ 20-24%
Montg. County
Pub. Sch.

5-10% 5-10% 35%



Your tax dollars provide "Lamborghini" health insurance benefits to employees of the Montgomery County Public Schools?  Do you get the same or better benefits?   (The following information is taken from the "2010 Employee Benefit Plan Summary for Active Employees" - Effective January 1, 2010)

For a family plan an MCPS employee pays a maximum ANNUAL premium of $1366.56 (taxpayers kick in an additional $12,299.04). That plan provides the following benefits totally free if the employee uses the two Open Point Of Service "In Network" Plans (CareFirst BlueChoice POS, UnitedHealthcare Select Plus POS ). Do you get the same benefits?

FREE Hospital Services—Inpatient:
  • Semi-Private Room
  • Professional Services
  • Specialty Care/Consultation
  • Anesthesia
  • Radiology and Drugs
  • Intensive Care
  • Coronary Care
FREE Preventive Care:
  • Childhood Immunizations
FREE Physician Services:
  • Lab Work and X-rays
  • Allergy Shots
FREE Maternity Care:
  • Physician Services and Hospital Services
FREE Emergency Services (when medically necessary):
  • Emergency Physician Services
  • Emergency Ambulance
FREE Hospital Services – Outpatient:
  • Professional Fees (Outpatient)
FREE Mental Health/Substance Abuse Services:
  • unlimited Inpatient Days and the first 5 Outpatient Visits under Mental Health/Substance Abuse Services
FREE Other Services:
  • Catastrophic Illness
  • Durable Medical Equipment (does not include diabetic supplies such as lancets, glucose strips, etc.)
  • Home Health Care
  • the first 60 visits in- and out-of-network of Skilled Nursing Care
  • Hospice Care


Testimony before the County Council on the proposed MCPS budget:

"While the Superintendent claims that the budget formulation exercise for 2011 has been a daunting challenge, we believe that what makes it so is his focus on wringing savings from 10 percent of the budget.    With over 90% of the budget devoted to staff, transportation, and fixed charges, savings will only accrue when management looks hard and acts on the current costs of salaries and related benefits. " Read all three pages of the League's testimony given January 20, 2010, by Robert Monsheimer.
The Budget in The News:


* "Md. sacrifices road repair to pay teacher pensions" (Apr. 12, 2010)

"THE NEXT TIME your car jounces into a monster pothole in the Maryland suburbs, thank the union representing public schoolteachers. It's thanks to the union's overgrown clout in Annapolis, and to politicians too timid to challenge it in an election year, that some road repairs are unlikely anytime soon. "

Read the full article from the Washington Post.



"Unions knock Leggett budget" (Mar. 17, 2010)

"'Now, not to comply with the law would be a very dangerous and short-sighted approach by Mr. Leggett because in the years when we have lost we have always honored the arbitrator's award,' [Walter] Bader [chief negotiator and past president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 35], said.

"The union could 'run to the County Council and turn the process into chaos,' he said.

"Gino Renne, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, said he also planned to lobby the County Council to reverse Leggett's proposals.

"'It all goes to council. We'll fight it out there,' Renne said."

Read the full article from the Montgomery Gazette.



"Montgomery, Md., pension deal eases sacrifice for unions" (Mar. 13, 2010)

"...officials in Montgomery County last year pressed government employees to forgo part of their negotiated pay raises. They did. But some of the county's powerful public employee unions also benefited from an unusual deal.

"Employee pensions -- already a major cost -- will be calculated as if employees had received their full raises.

"... It will cost Montgomery at least $5 million a year for the next 40 years to pay for higher pension costs on raises that never happened.

"...Critics of the move say the deal is representative of an unreasonable deference given to public employee unions in Montgomery, where officials have been trying to eliminate a $600 million budget shortfall and unions have been pressing for higher salaries ahead of Monday's release of a new budget proposal. "

Read the full article from the Washington Post.


"Ghostly handouts to unions in Montgomery County" (Mar. 19, 2010)

"But even in the rarefied world of these "only in Montgomery" schemes, it's remarkable when the county agrees to guarantee lifetime pension benefits for 5,000 government workers based on pay increases they do not receive.

"That little-noticed largess, reported in an eye-opening story [see story at left] by The Post's Michael Laris, will cost county taxpayers at least $5 million annually over 40 years, for a total of $200 million -- and that's by a very conservative estimate."

"Stunning as it is, this bargain fits a pattern in the county, where politicians and public employee unions have been tangled up in each other's bedsheets for years."

Read the full article from the Washington Post.



"Unions knock Leggett budget" (Mar. 17, 2010)

"'Now, not to comply with the law would be a very dangerous and short-sighted approach by Mr. Leggett because in the years when we have lost we have always honored the arbitrator's award,' [Walter] Bader [chief negotiator and past president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 35], said.

"The union could 'run to the County Council and turn the process into chaos,' he said.

"Gino Renne, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, said he also planned to lobby the County Council to reverse Leggett's proposals.

"'It all goes to council. We'll fight it out there,' Renne said."

Read the full article from the Montgomery Gazette.



"Leggett's best budget efforts haven't halted rise in Montgomery spending" (Mar. 17, 2010)

"Yet if the recession-era budget Leggett proposed Monday is approved, total government spending will have gone up by $423 million, or 11 percent, on his watch. "

Read the full article from the Washington Post.



"Montgomery's inspector general says county officials have interfered" (Mar. 17, 2010)

"Montgomery County's inspector general said Tuesday that unnamed county officials have withheld information and interfered with several investigations by his office, including some that have proved embarrassing for county government. "

Read the full article from the Washington Post.



"Why Montgomery teachers won't stop advocating for schools" (Mar. 14, 2010)

"When the economy crashed last year and a contract we had bargained in better economic times was no longer feasible, MCEA members voted overwhelmingly to forgo $89 million in pay raises for the current school year. We know that the recession has made it necessary for everyone to make sacrifices. "

Read the full article from the Washington Post.



"Please, don't make us cheat!" (Mar. 14, 2010)

"The schemes that allowed officers to score guns on the taxpayers' dime are finished, and presumably, so is the county's laxity when it comes to tuition assistance programs for employees. What seems alive and well, however, is the sense of entitlement among public employee unions in Montgomery County, which have been coddled by politicians for too long. "

Read the full article from the Washington Post.



"Report on Md. police tuition aid cites poor oversight, abuse" (Mar. 9, 2010)

"Montgomery County awarded more than $600,000 in no-bid payments to nine companies that had ties to county police officers and were part of a controversial tuition-assistance program, Montgomery's inspector general said in a report released Monday....Inspector General Thomas J. Dagley concluded that the close ties among the companies, employees and students enrolled in the classes have 'and will continue to expose county taxpayer dollars to waste and abuse until more comprehensive guidelines and monitoring are put in place.' "

Read the full article from the Washington Post.



"Money Doesn’t Buy Results" (Mar. 4, 2010)

"The fact is that the level of education funding has little to do with how well students are taught.....One of the most comprehensive reviews of studies on education funding was done by Dr. Eric Hanushek of Stanford University. He found that only 27% of 163 studies found a statistically significant relationship between an increase in per-pupil funding and student achievement. Of those studies, two-thirds showed an insignificant correlation and the others showed a negative correlation. Another study of Dr. Hanuskek finds that input-based education policies, such as increased funding, don't produce results unless you change incentives within schools. "

Read the full article from the Maryland Public Policy Institute.



"Montgomery checks hours of police officers who took classes" (Mar. 5, 2010)

"The weapons classes were set up by a firm with ties to a Montgomery police officer.  Fellow officers enrolled in the classes, and their tuition was paid by the county's tuition assistance program.  A suit filed by the county Wednesday accused the firm and officer who helped run it of fraud.  Officials allege that the classes were designed with a special enticement to get officers to enroll:  County-subsidized guns they could take home for personal use.  The tuition program is not supposed to cover books or other materials, including guns. "

Read the full article from the Washington Post



"Tense union negotiations" (Feb. 24, 2010)

"According to council staff director Steve Farber, salaries for members of [Gino] Renne's union [United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization] increased by 96 percent from 1999 to 2009.  That percentage represents increases from cost of living adjustments and scheduled annual raises.  During the same time period, the cost of living within Montgomery County increased 36.6 percent, Farber said.

"In just the most recent three-year contract period, which ends this fiscal year, salaries have been increasing at 7 percent to 8 percent each year.  Health benefits are also extremely generous, with the county paying 80 percent of insurance premiums for MCGEO members; employees of the school system have, on average, 90 percent of their premiums paid by their employer."

Read the full article from the Gazette



"Cash on the barrel" (Feb. 22, 2010)

"In effect, local officeholders are so beholden to the union that they have forfeited their obligation to exercise independent oversight over contract negotiations.  One result is that the average salary for a Montgomery County teacher, $76,483, is the highest among suburban school systems in the Washington area...But what confidence can the public have that officeholders in Montgomery are carefully weighing competing interests when most of them are held hostage to the overbearing influence of a single union?"

Read the full article from the Washington Post.



"County, labor union at an impasse in contract negotiations" (Feb. 17, 2010)

"Gino Renne, president of The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization" [said] 'But the county will have to get off their high horse and take a leap of faith with their work force,'

Doug Prouty, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, which represents teachers [said] the teachers' union is aware of the county's financial difficulties, but would not rule out seeking pay raises...

'We do not have resources to pay for additional employee compensation this year,' [Nancy] Floreen [Montgomery County Council President (D-At large) of Garrett Park] said. 'I do believe everybody understands that.'

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) also has said it would be difficult to give pay raises to employees...

Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg ... criticized by Renne last year — when Andrews served as council president — for saying the county could not afford cost-of-living or step pay increases for employees...said Monday that pay raises remain unaffordable."

Read the full article from the Gazette



"In Montgomery County, scare tactics by teachers union are the norm" (Feb. 11, 2010)

"Unsurprisingly, the MCEA, backed by its anointed candidates on the Montgomery County Council, the county school board and the local delegation to the state legislature, has been able to squeeze enormous concessions from the school system in past contract negotiations. Over the past three years, the salary of a typical teacher with 10 years of experience has risen by 23 percent."

Read the full article from the Washington Post.



Next meeting:   March 18, 2010 - 7:30 - 9:30 p.m; 6th floor conference room, Stella Werner Council Office Building,
100 Maryland Ave., Rockville MD 20850



Important Documents:

County Executive's Recommended FY11 Capital Budget and FY11-16 Capital Improvements Program



Latest information:
*Montgomery County Public Schools:
2010 Employee Benefit Plan Summary for Active Employees



Documents of interest

1. Testimony by Robert Monsheimer of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League before the Montgomery County School Board on January 20th, 2009, concerning the proposed FY2010 budget of the Montgomery County Public Schools.


Officers

President:  Joan Fidler
Vice PresidentRobert Monsheimer
Secretary:  Richard Fuller
Treasurer (Acting):   Fred Offermann

Directors
Charles Lapinski
Fred Offermann
Joseph Russek
Philip Schneider
Marvin Weinman
Yale Wiesberg
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