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February 2010

 

From the Desk of the Council President: Savings for Current Budget - back to top

Nancy FloreenWe are currently considering the County Executive's proposed FY10 Revised Savings Plan designed to respond to the significantly worsened economic and fiscal conditions the County is facing.  This round of cuts of about $70 million is in addition to earlier cuts for a total of $100 million in the current fiscal year.  An 11 percent decline in income tax revenue (the largest decline in over 25 years) contributes significantly to the current budget gap.

These cuts, if approved by the Council, will impact County service. In particular, the plan calls for the abolishment of 70 County positions, 44 of which are filled.  As we consider the plan, we're doing our best to minimize the effect on residents and to protect our highest priorities, including education, public safety and services to those most in need.

You can follow the Council Committees' work on the plan by checking our Web site.  We will vote on the plan February 9.


 

After the Snow - back to top

The Department of Transportation (DOT) did a heroic job in its response to the December blizzard. The last time we had this much snow (in 1996), DOT received nearly 10,000 calls for service. This time, the number of calls was down to about 1,100.

As chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, I asked DOT to brief us on snow removal for this particular storm.  At the presentation, I was reminded how truly complex and sophisticated DOT snow removal procedures are. Did you know that DOT clears 5,085 lane miles when it snows? In the case of large amounts of snow, they clear these lanes multiple times (for a total of 18,000 miles in this case). This requires a workforce of over 400 personnel (some County employees and some contractors).

snowplowTo understand more about the County's snow removal policies and what they mean to you, check out the very informative bulletin, Winter Weather Operations - Salting and Snow Removal. Essentially, DOT clears emergency routes and primary residential streets completely before beginning to clear neighborhood streets.

The December blizzard dropped about two feet of snow throughout the entire County. DOT anticipates that clearing this much snow takes 48 to 60 hours. In this case, DOT completed the work in this timeframe. Still, some residents raised questions about the timing and quality of snow removal in their neighborhoods.

Some have suggested that wealthy neighborhoods were cleared before less affluent neighborhoods. Based on the correspondence I received in my office from residents all over the County and from yesterday's briefing, I can say unequivocally that this is not true. All residential streets, including cul-de-sacs, are treated equally.

Some residents said that their streets weren't plowed. In a very few cases, DOT's Geographic Information System (GIS) was not correct. In these cases, DOT updated its GIS so that the error will not occur again.

More often, plows had been down a street once, but because of continued heavy snowfall and stiff winds, plowing was not evident to residents. Snowplows returned to residential streets for further clearing later. It is important to note that DOT's policy is to make residential streets passable, not to clear them to bare pavement. This policy appears to have caused some confusion. Although we would like to have bare pavement, such a policy would add unreasonable expense and time to the overall clearing project.

For the most part, residents were patient during this storm, and there is no question patience was needed, especially for those whose streets were plowed near the end of the clearing period. You can see the entire briefing on our Web site. And let's hope we don't have another blizzard like this in the near future.


 

Town Hall Meeting for Students - back to top

Join us for our first-ever town hall meeting for students on Wednesday, February 3. High school and middle school students from across the County will be able to express views on issues and ask questions of councilmembers in an organized, but informal, setting.

When it comes to decisions affecting young people--whether in regard to schools, libraries, recreation, parks or the community in general—the practice too often is to have one set of adults talk to another set adults. This Council will have many important decisions to make in the coming months--and many of these decisions could have significant impacts on people 18 and under. We think the best way to find out what this generation of Montgomery County residents need and want is to hear directly from them.

The meeting, in the Council's Third Floor Hearing Room, will start at 7 p.m. A pre-meeting reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the building's second-floor cafeteria. The meeting will be broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery (CCM--cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and rebroadcast at various times in the following weeks.

RSVP by calling 240-777-7931.


 

New Phone Message Line for Budget Input - back to top

Call our new phone message line to voice your opinion on any aspect of the Fiscal Year 2011 Budget. Dial 240-777-7802.

Our budget experts estimate that the County is facing a $608 million gap as it prepares the budget that will go into effect on July 1. Over the next five months the Council and its committees will be examining the budget requests of County government departments, and requests of County agencies including the Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

This line is open to any and all types of ideas. We are expanding the number of methods available to seek fresh thoughts and reach people who may not be able to participate in the process through other channels. Whether you have innovative ideas on how we can approach achieving a balanced budget or if you have thoughts about specific items we will be addressing, we want to hear what you have to say. Traditionally, people have forwarded their thoughts through letters or e-mails, but those methods do not work for everyone. For those who just want to make a telephone call, we now have another option to help shape the next County budget.


 

Green Tip of the Month - back to top

Pepco says that beginning June 1 the cost for Standard Offer Service (SOS) electricity will decrease by 2.2 percent for residential Maryland customers. The reduction in the cost of electricity translates into a savings of $3.37 on the average monthly bill. This decrease is the result of competitive bids to supply electricity. Pepco still encourages customers to take aggressive steps to conserve energy and save money.


 

Fast Fact - back to top

Montgomery County Public Schools has 29.3 percent of its students participating in the income-based Free and Reduced Meals (FARM) program for a total of 41,464 students.  That's up from 27.1 percent last year.  Montgomery County has more FARM students than the total student population in 18 of the 24 Maryland school districts.  The school system also has 12.5 percent of its students participating in English as a Second Language.  That's up from 11.2 percent last year.


 

Let's Talk - back to top

Is your community organization hosting a public meeting?  Please let me know how I can help.  I am happy to assist residents in understanding pending bills or in finding ways to get involved in the political process.  Even more important, I want to hear about what matters to you.  Send your meeting notices to councilmember.floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov or call 240-777-7959 if you would like me to address a particular topic with your group.