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April 2010

 

Addressing Our Structural Deficit - back to top

We can't continue going on this way, chasing after shortfalls year after year.  That's why I'm initiating a legislative branch assessment of the structural deficit that has created large annual operating budget gaps in recent years--gaps that are projected to persist in future years.

The County Executive's recommended FY11 budget includes significant service reductions, no pay increases for County government employees, elimination of more than 450 positions (including more than 230 that are currently filled), 10 days of furloughs for many employees and a withdrawal of about $102 million from the County's rainy day fund. This was necessary to close a $779 million gap to achieve a balanced budget.

That's just next year. Budget gaps projected for FY12-16, respectively, are currently estimated to exceed $212, $303, $417, $464 and $514 million. I, along with other Councilmembers, believe we need to address the County's structural budget deficit.

Besides resolving the acute FY11 budget challenge that is now before us, we need to look at the chronic budget challenges that lie ahead. I believe that we must address at least three central questions:

What are the assumptions behind the Executive's future year gap projections?
What are the cost drivers associated with the structural deficit in future years?
What policy and budget options are available going forward to address the structural deficit?

I'm starting the process by asking the County's Office of Legislative Oversight to develop a recommended scope of work to address those questions with a completion date of early December. I believe that this project has the potential to produce not only useful information but real results. With this hard work, we will be able to create a template for all future Councils.


 

40 Environmentalists in 40 Years Awards - back to top

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we at the County Council will recognize 40 individuals that have made a green imprint in Montgomery County in the past 40 years.

Starting with Silver Spring resident Rachel Carson, who is widely considered the mother of the modern environmental movement, Montgomery County has a rich history of environmental advancement. The "40 Environmentalists in 40 Years" awards will pay homage to that history and to the individuals who shaped it.

To be eligible for the award, a nominee must have made a significant impact on climate policies, energy efficiency, renewable energy or other environmental goals in Montgomery County in the last 40 years. Individuals may be living or deceased and must be nominated by someone who lives or works in Montgomery County. Individuals may not nominate themselves.

Nominations must include contact information for both the nominator and the nominee and must include a description of the nominee's contribution to the environment. The "40 Environmentalists in 40 Years" tribute will be held on April 20.

Submit your nomination by April 9 to councilmember.floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov with the subject line "40 in 40." You can also send nominations to the Montgomery County Council/40 in 40 Award, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850. For more information about the 40 in 40 awards, call 240-777-7959.


 

White Flint Sector Plan Passes Unanimously - back to top

We unanimously approved the White Flint Sector Plan that will transform the North Bethesda area around Rockville Pike into a denser, more urban community strongly supported by public transit and designed to make residents and workers less dependent on automobiles.

The plan targets future growth along the Pike with development clustered around about 430 acres near the White Flint Metro Station. It will allow replacement of aging low-rise commercial properties in the area with mixed-use buildings as tall as 30 stories. The revitalized new urban neighborhood would include residences, offices, service-oriented businesses, restaurants and entertainment venues. The neighborhood would evolve through creation of a grid of streets to promote walkability for residents and employees.

This is a very ambitious and complex plan that will transform the White Flint area along Rockville Pike into an exciting destination. Property owners in White Flint have committed to a financing plan to speed up creation of infrastructure that would support growth. With everyone working together, as they have throughout the planning process, this will remake the strip shopping malls along the Pike into a new, urban community that will make Montgomery County proud.

A key element of the plan will be the way it incorporates the Bethesda North Conference Center and Hotel into the transformed neighborhood. The plan provides for public gathering space and local parks. The long-term vision suggests civic or entertainment uses, such as a community playhouse or theater.

White Flint was proposed as an urban, mixed-use community as the center of North Bethesda more than 30 years ago as the influence of Metro's Red Line was starting to take hold. The sector plan covers an area bounded by the CSX train tracks and White Flint Mall to the east, the merge point of Montrose Parkway and Old Georgetown Road to the north, Old Georgetown Road to the west and an area just below Edson Lane to the south. The Georgetown Prep school and the Strathmore Performing Arts Center are south of the plan. All of the plan is within a walkable three-quarters of a mile from the White Flint Metro Station.

It is expected that as the plan is implemented over a period of about two decades, approximately 9,800 new residences will be added (there are approximately 2,300 residences currently within the plan area). There will be approximately 2,600 affordable housing units.

This plan was truly collaborative. We heard from a lot of stakeholders and saw cordial work among those involved. I think that gave us a good product in the end, and I am pleased we were able to reach a resolution that works for everyone. It would be great to see this type of collaboration in future plans.


 

Your Opinion Matters - back to top

In mid-March, the County Executive transmitted his Proposed FY11 Operating Budget to the County Council. Next year's operating budget presents the County's greatest fiscal challenge in decades. I commend the County Executive and his team for their hard work in developing his budget proposal.

To balance the FY11 budget we must close a $779 million gap between projected expenditures and resources--by far the largest gap in our history. But for the $100 million in spending cuts the Council has made in the current year’s budget--which itself was the leanest in 18 years--the gap would have been that much larger.

I am committed to fully engaging the community in these hard decisions. The Council welcomes your input--through our public hearings on April 5-8 (sign up to speak at 240-777-7803), e-mail, regular mail (at 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850), or our budget hotline (call 240-777-7802). You can also follow the Council's daily work on the budget by going to our Web site and clicking on "budget update." With your help we will make the best decisions we can in this challenging year.


 

Public Hearings - back to top

April 5, 7:00 p.m.--FY11 Operating Budget
April 6, 7:00 p.m.--FY11 Operating Budget
April 7, 7:00 p.m.--FY11 Operating Budget
April 8, 7:00 p.m.--FY11 Operating Budget
April 13, 7:30 p.m.--Emergency Medical Transport Fee
April 20, 7:00 p.m.--Fuel/Energy Tax
April 22, 7:30 p.m.--Transportation Fees, Charges and Fares

To sign up to speak at a public hearing, call 240-777-7803. Hearings will be held in the 3rd Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville. They will be broadcast live on CCM channels (Comcast 6, RCN 6 and Verizon 30).


 

Green Tip of the Month - back to top

Instead of buying mulch, have you ever considered using mulch made from this year's Christmas trees?  All Christmas trees that are collected curbside by the Division of Solid Waste Services through the end of January are placed through a grinder and chipped into mulch.  This mulch is available for county residents at no charge and is available for pick-up at two sites.  In addition, mulch may be available for community beautification projects.


 

Fast Fact - back to top

We've recently seen a sharp uptick in the County's unemployment rate from December 2009 to January 2010 from 5.2 percent to 6.2 percent.  The states of Maryland and Virginia, as well as other counties in the region, also show a sharp uptick. The number of Montgomery County residents who were unemployed in January was 31,521. 


 

Note to Newsletter Editors - back to top

Did you find something useful in this e-newsletter? Some people have asked me if they can use the material from my newsletter in their own civic association or HOA newsletters. The answer is yes. I provide this information to help residents find what they need and participate in the legislative process, so feel free to use it.