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Council Agrees to $4.3 Billion FY2011 Operating Budget; Final Vote Comes May 27

At 4.5% less than the approved FY10 Operating Budget, this is the first decrease in the total budget since the current County Charter was adopted in 1968.

The budget re-establishes the reserve at 6 percent, which should help maintain the County’s AAA bond rating. The reserve was reduced to 5 percent in FY10.

The overall tax-supported budget of $3.66 billion reflects a decrease of $190.3 million from the FY10 adopted budget, a decrease of 4.9 percent. This is the second consecutive year the tax-supported portion of the budget has decreased. Read more details, including reactions from Council members.

CATEGORIES: Budget
POSTED: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | 9:00:00 AM |

County Executive Leggett Applauds Councilís Work on the FY11 Operating Budget

“My Recommended Operating Budget for the coming fiscal year included many difficult choices and continues the work that I began three years ago of putting the County’s fiscal house in order. I’m pleased that the Council approved 99 percent of what was originally recommended.

“Although I believed strongly that the County should not increase property taxes beyond the Charter limit, the Council did approve, with adjustments, my recommended increases in the energy and cell phone taxes. These increases are unfortunate, but necessary.

“My budget recommendation closed a nearly $1 billion gap for this year – making a total of more than $2.2 billion in budget gaps closed over the past four years.

“We are restoring the County’s reserve funds to six percent – and I will forward later this week my proposal to strengthen our reserve policy to provide more flexibility for the County by saving more in good years to better weather the bad years.

“These were not easy choices. I thank the Council for supporting adoption of a budget that fully supports our priorities in education, public safety, and assistance for the most vulnerable.

“I also want to thank the Board of Education, Montgomery College and the Planning Board for working closely with us to develop solutions to the worst fiscal crisis this County has seen since the Great Depression.  The cooperation and hard work of these agencies to minimize the impact on their constituents is appreciated.

“Beyond this budget, I look forward to working with the Council on further steps to restructure County government to make it more efficient and cost-effective, create more jobs to bolster our County tax base, and provide critical services to County residents.”

Read the entire statement. Also, read budget feedback from County residents.

CATEGORIES: Budget
POSTED: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | 8:00:00 AM |

The Council Has Made the Right Call Executive Says of Approval of the Emergency Medical Transport Fee

The following statement was issued by County Executive Ike Leggett following the Council’s approval of the EMS Transport Fee:

“We must keep the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service world-class and make sure it has the resources to protect our families. We must continue to serve everyone in need, regardless of ability to pay.

“That’s why Council passage of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Transport Fee is so important. This measure will save lives because our Fire & Rescue Service will have the resources it needs to meet the growing emergency service needs within the County.

“With passage of this bill, Montgomery County will receive $13 million this year – and  nearly $170 million over 10 years -- in revenue from funds already set aside by private insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid.

“Other jurisdictions are already using these funds to improve services and save lives – with no adverse effects. Passage of this fee will allow Montgomery to do the same.

  • County residents with health insurance will pay nothing – no co-pays, no deductibles, nothing. Guaranteed. The charge will be billed directly to Medicare, Medicaid, and health insurance companies. County residents without insurance pay nothing. If questions arise about reimbursements that will be between the companies/payors and the County – the individual County resident will still pay nothing.
  • Nearly all of our neighboring jurisdictions either have an EMS Transport fee -- Fairfax County, Frederick County, Prince George’s County, the District of Columbia, Arlington County, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore, Prince William County, and Alexandria. In fact 19 of 26 Maryland counties, over 50 of 95 Virginia counties and the vast majority of jurisdictions nationwide already have such a fee.
  • 100 percent of the net proceeds of the EMS Transport Fee will go, by law, to strengthen and enhance the MCFRS. 
  • There is also no evidence that health insurance premiums have gone up because of EMS charges. Ambulance expenditures account for less than one percent of insurance expenditures. In most cases County residents may already be paying for ambulance service as a part of their premiums.
  • There is no evidence from jurisdictions that have successfully implemented this fee that it deters anyone from calling for needed emergency medical transport assistance.
  • There is no evidence that such fees have hurt volunteer efforts in any of the jurisdictions that have implemented.

“If we had failed to implement an EMS Transport fee, our options would have been to increase taxes further, take resources away from other critical County needs, or slow the pace of needed improvements in our emergency medical services. That is unacceptable.

“The County Council has made the right call – and County residents will be safer as a result.”

 For more information on the EMS Transport Fee, visit http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/emstransportfee, read the brochure (English PDF |172 KB | Spanish PDF | 158 KB) or watch the video.

CATEGORIES: Public Safety
POSTED: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | 7:00:00 AM |

Proposed Transportation Policy Area Review is a Step Forward in Mapping Anti-Congestion Strategies

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has sent a new proposed Transportation Policy Area Review (TPAR) strategy to the County Council that is a significant step forward in addressing the congestion experienced by County residents.  TPAR is a starting point for discussions about the best way to identify future transportation inadequacies and solutions in the development process in each of the County’s 21 Policy Areas.

Among other points, the proposed TPAR policy:

  • Is simple to understand and monitor.
  • Classifies each Policy Area as urban, suburban or rural.
  • Establishes separate adequacy standards for transit and roadways for each Policy Area in the County that reflect adequate balance between transportation and development for the upcoming decade.
  • Recommends funding the proposed improvements through a public-private partnership, with different levels of participation, based on public policy considerations of where growth is most desirable.

The full TPAR proposal is available on the County’s website at: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/dot/dir/cefinaltparapril222010.pdf

CATEGORIES: Transportation
POSTED: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | 6:00:00 AM |

Renaming Ceremony Set for Rockville Library: We Honor, Remember and Reflect

A formal, public ceremony marking the official renaming of the Rockville Library to the Rockville Memorial Library will be held on Friday, May 28 at 11 a.m. at the Town Square entrance of the building at 21 Maryland Ave.

On November 10, 2009, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett signed a proclamation declaring that the name of the library be changed to honor “those who have given their lives defending the principles of freedom [during every major military conflict since the County was created in 1776] and will be deserving of the highest gratitude and honor by the people of Montgomery County.”

The new library identification sign, centered on the angled beam at the front of the glass canopy above the front entryway, will be unveiled as part of the ceremony.

In addition to local elected officials, others on the program include veterans from past wars and representatives of the Montgomery County families who have lost loved ones. Bagpipe selections will be performed, and the ceremony will conclude with Taps.

CATEGORIES: Library
POSTED: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | 5:00:00 AM |

Military Memorabilia on Display

Throughout May, the Rockville Memorial Library is displaying memorabilia loaned by local families who have lost loved ones in major military conflicts.

The branch also has a Remembrance Book that customers may sign with thoughts/memories, while signage will mark the displays and indicate collections of library materials dealing with military history and other issues relating to veterans’ service.

The display will be up through the Memorial Day weekend. The memorial items may be seen in the display cases on the first floor of the library located at 21 Maryland Ave. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Read more.

CATEGORIES: County Executive
POSTED: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | 4:00:00 AM |

WORTH NOTING

MCPD Reminds Residents to “Click It or Ticket”

From May 1 through May 31 law enforcement officers in Montgomery County -- and across the country -- will focus on enforcement of local seat belt laws as part of the nationwide “Click It or Ticket” campaign.

County residents are reminded that the driver, front seat passenger and all other occupants under the age of 16 must wear a seatbelt or be restrained by a child safety seat.  The penalty for this violation is $25.  A child under the age of eight, less than 4’9” tall, and weighing less than 65 pounds should be secured in an approved child safety seat if the vehicle is registered in Maryland.  The penalty for this violation is $50.00. 


The Message is Clear – Visit Montgomery

To celebrate the recent National Travel and Tourism Week, the Montgomery County Conference and Visitors Bureau (CVB) has launched a new, user-friendly website -- www.visitmontgomery.com.

The site features more than 700 restaurant listings with the option to make reservations on OpenTable and at all major County hotels, plus the option of making hotel, airline and car rental reservations with Expedia. There is also an interactive map of the County featuring 25 pages for local towns and municipalities. Event and sports planners can submit requests for proposals (RFPs), CVB members can update business listings and organizations can submit event calendar listings.


County Offers Farmer’s Market Coupons to Low-Income Seniors

A limited number of free farmer’s market coupon books will be distributed to low-income seniors in Montgomery County beginning June 1. The coupons may be used at farmer’s markets in Montgomery County between June 1 and October 31, 2010. Coupon books will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at community centers around the County. Press Release.


Volunteer Center on the Move

The Volunteer Center is moving to a temporary office location on May 21 due to changing office needs within Montgomery County Government.  The Center will move to its permanent location in downtown Rockville in mid-August.  During this time, the Center will not provide in-person advising to prospective volunteers, however, the service will be available by appointment -- via phone or by e-mail.  The Center's website will remain fully operational and the e-mail address remains volunteer@montgomerycountymd.gov.    


Department of Environmental Protection Updates Website


The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has launched an updated website at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/dep that reflects DEP’s key initiatives and shows residents how to help achieve the environmental goals of the County -- e.g., increasing recycling; keeping pollutants out of our streams; reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions; and timely enforcement of environmental laws.

A user-friendly section called I Need Assistance takes the guesswork out of finding help and was developed around key themes derived from data on incoming calls, emails and walk-in requests. 

Topics include how to order a blue recycling bin, obtain a bulk trash or scrap metal pick up, report a noise complaint, report trash or illegally dumped materials, and what to do about neighborhood environmental problems such as drainage issues or downed trees.


Tropical Storm and Hurricane Season Starts June 1

With Tropical Storm and Hurricane Season starting June 1, residents are urged to heed any hurricane watches and warnings, and plan for a more active hurricane season this year. Weather forecasters are predicting as many as eight major storms in 2010.

Residents are advised to be alert to weather advisories and to prepare for high winds and flooding, as well as power outages. A “watch” is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 48 hours. A “warning” is issued when hurricane conditions are expected in a specified area in 36 hours or less. Hurricane conditions include winds of 74 miles per hour (64 knots) or greater and/or dangerously high tides and waves. Actions to protect life and property should begin immediately when the warning is issued.

Click here for tips and helpful phone numbers during storm emergencies.


Fire Safety Tips for Warmer Weather

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) reminds residents to use caution and common sense when it comes to fire safety as warm weather arrives. Special attention should be given to the dangers of improperly discarded cigarettes, particularly around landscaping. Chief Richard Bowers notes that “We have seen a steep increase in mulch fires as commercial and public facilities ban smoking inside buildings and smoking materials are discarded into landscaped areas as people enter and/or exit a building presenting a significant safety hazard.”

To reduce the potential for a fire in landscaping materials and mulch, MCFRS has issued guidelines for residents to follow. 


New Edition of “Seniors Today” Covers Day Trips, Affordable Housing, Transportation Alternatives 

This month on County Cable Montgomery's "Seniors Today" show, host Austin Heyman interviews Phil Weinstein, director of the County’s Senior Outdoor Adventures in Recreation (SOAR), about a wide range of day trips for seniors sponsored through the Recreation Department.  Leslie Marks of Marks Collaborative talks about the challenges of affordable housing for those on a fixed income. Also, Sue Dollins, executive director of The Senior Connection, and Amy Cole, manager of the Jewish Council for the Aging’s (JCA) Connect-A-Ride Program, will provide information on transportation alternatives for seniors.

“Seniors Today” can be seen weekly on Sundays at 2 p.m., Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and Fridays at 8 p.m. on channel 6 for Comcast and RCN viewers and on channel 30 for Verizon subscribers. To watch on-line, go to "Seniors Today" at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/ccm.


Gaithersburg Library Closed for Major Renovations; Book Drop Still Open

Although the Gaithersburg Library has closed for major renovations, the exterior book drop will be open through June 7. After that date, customers may take their returns to any MCPL branch. The two branches closest to Gaithersburg are Quince Orchard and Germantown

An interim facility is tentatively scheduled to open in late summer, with actual construction at the current site slated to begin in mid-October. The renovation is expected to be completed by spring 2012. Customers should check the library’s website -- www.montgomerycountymd.gov/library  -- for updates on the location and opening date of the interim facility.

CATEGORIES: Worth Noting
POSTED: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | 3:00:00 AM |

MAKING NEWS

And, the award goes to…Heritage Montgomery

The mission of the Heritage Tourism Alliance of Montgomery County (a.k.a. Heritage Montgomery) is to bring the County's rich history to the attention of its residents and visitors. One of the ways this is accomplished is through the annual Montgomery County Heritage Days, the two-day event that brings together local museums and heritage organizations to celebrate the history and places that shape our County.

Now, the efforts of Heritage Montgomery in making Montgomery County Heritage Days an unqualified success have earned the organization a 2010 Maryland Preservation Award from the Maryland Historical Trust.  The awards recognize activities in historic preservation, architecture, archaeology, museums, cultural conservation, education, and related fields and represent the best of preservation in Maryland.

Heritage Montgomery received a Preservation Service Award which is presented to individuals, organizations, agencies or institutions for laudable activities or accomplishments that advance the public’s appreciation, understanding and/or involvement in historic preservation and/or conservation of living traditions at the local or regional level in Maryland.

The awards will be presented on May 21 in Easton.

For more on Heritage Montgomery and the 2010 Montgomery County Heritage Days on June 26 and 27, visit heritagemontgomery.org.


Rockville Named A Top 10 Startup Town

A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article reports that Rockville is among the top 10 cities in the U.S. for new business startups.

According to the article, “The epicenter of suburban Washington D.C.'s biotech industry, Rockville benefits from nearby universities and federal facilities like the National Institutes of Health.” 


Department of Correction and Rehabilitation Chosen to Pilot Federal Grant Program

The Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (DOCR) was chosen as one of two sites in the country to pilot a federal grant program that seeks to enhance jail reentry services for returning offenders by building on family and social supports.  Also chosen was the Green Lake County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin

“We are honored to be selected to participate in this program and to partner with the Vera Institute which has developed and supported evidence-based correctional programs throughout the country for almost 50 years,” said DOCR Director Arthur Wallenstein.  “Ultimately, programs that strengthen families and communities also reduce recidivism, save taxpayer money and enhance public safety.”

For more information, call Patricia Braun at 240-773-4222 or Gale Starkey at 240-773-9769.

CATEGORIES: Making News
POSTED: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | 2:00:00 AM |

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

Wednesday, May 26 – Live Call In Show with Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and County Council President Nancy Floreen. From 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., the officials will answer residents’ questions on any topics of local concern. Hosted by Alisa Parenti, the show will be broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery, Channel 6 for RCN and Comcast cuastomers and Channel 30 for Verizon subscribers. Residents can call in to 240-777-6540 during the show. The show can also be viewed live on the County’s website; go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov  and click on County Cable 6.

Sunday, June 6 -- Paws in the Park, a 1K 3K, 5K dog walk benefitting homeless animals through the Montgomery County Humane Society. Registration at noon, walk begins at 1 p.m. Wheaton Regional Park, 11751 Orebaugh Ave.  Rain date, June 13.  Pet games, demos, off-leash dog park, a "flealess" market for pet-friendly vendors, food, music, prizes, etc.  Register online.

CATEGORIES: Calendar
POSTED: Monday, May 24, 2010 | 1:00:00 AM |
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Last edited: 11/8/2010