Montgomery in Focus Masthead
June 2013

 

Council Passes FY14 Budget

Nancy Floreen reading papersOn May 23 we unanimously passed the FY14 budget which will take effect July 1. Overall, this is a good budget that maintains fiscal responsibility while beginning to restore some of the cuts we had to make over the past four years of the economic downturn. Particularly gratifying is the increase in funding for some very important human services.

This budget includes some long overdue pay increases for our employees who have been sacrificing for several years now. It is only because of their sacrifices that we are in a position today to try to get them back on track, and it is important to put the pay increases in context with everything else that has happened in the last four years.

Employees did not get any raises—no COLAs for four years and no step increases for three years. What’s worse, employee pay actually went down because of furloughs one year and increases in employee contributions to health and retirement benefits for the next two years.

Our employees really have been great throughout the recession, and I’m glad that we finally are able to provide some measure of increased compensation this year. It certainly is overdue and well deserved.

I’m also very pleased that we made economic development and job creation high priorities in this budget. We fully funded the Montgomery Business Development Corporation, which is providing us an invaluable business perspective on growing our local economy. We also added new positions in the Department of Economic Development so that the department can pursue new and innovative job development programs. While it is true we are still operating under constrained circumstances, I think these are responsible decisions to invest in our long-term growth. Only through job creation will our residents and our county as a whole be able to achieve the future we envision.

Also with an eye to helping families and businesses thrive, we decreased the proposed energy tax. While I wish we could eliminate the energy tax increase from FY11 entirely, I’m glad we at least were able to reduce it by an additional 10 percent. Times remain tough for many of our residents and businesses, so any relief we can provide will help.

Last but not least, this budget restores funding for tree stump removal, which I know will make many residents happy. This program has been on hold for years, and we finally will be able to start addressing the backlog of stumps in county rights-of-way.

I want to thank our Council President, Nancy Navarro, for her leadership throughout the budget process. There were a lot of moving parts this year, and she did a great job managing it all.


 

Public Hearing on the Zoning Code Rewrite

June 11 is your chance to weigh in on the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite. After 35 years, the code definitely needs some updating as it has become overly technical, contradictory in some places and difficult to understand. We aim to make the revised version more transparent, clear and consistent. To sign up for the public hearing on June 11 call 240-777-7803. For regular updates as we work through the code this summer, follow my blog. Here's the tentative schedule, but remember it could change, so check the committee agendas online.

June 14--overview/prelimary implementation discussion/agricultural zone
June 21--rural and residential zones
June 28--C/R zones
July 2--employment and industrial zones
July 12--overlay zones
July 19--floating zones
July 26--parking/signs
September 13--administration and procedure
September 20--wrap-up and outstanding issues


 

Montgomery County Hackathon

man sitting at a computer. Hackathon banner on computer screenMontgomery County will bring together residents, software developers and entrepreneurs for a hackathon event on June 1-2 at the Universities of Shady Grove, Building III at 9630 Gudelsky Drive in Rockville. The County’s Hack for Change Hackathon will be part of the first annual National Day of Civic Hacking that is designed to leverage the power of public data with the expertise of residents and entrepreneurs in finding technology solutions for the common good. Other agencies hosting civic hacking events on that date include the White House, NASA, the Census Bureau, HHS, FEMA, the National Archives and departments of Labor and Energy.

The Montgomery County event, which is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. on June 1, will offer County residents a unique opportunity to get involved and improve community life by developing new applications for smart phones and other devices. Government challenges, potential solutions and desired outcomes will be pitched by County staff to spur ideas for technology solutions, and participants will have an opportunity to pitch their own ideas for new apps that could benefit the public. Participants will select the idea they find most compelling and will form a development team to work on it. Some ideas may have multiple teams and others may have none.

Software development skills are not a requirement for participation. With the exception of County employees who are prohibited from serving on a development team, participants only need to be willing to collaborate with others to create, build and invent solutions using public data to address challenges relevant to the community. That includes students, educators, community members, engineers, technologists, civil servants, scientists, designers and artists.

Each team will develop a solution for the idea they select, and County staff will be available throughout the event to answer questions and provide guidance. At the end of the event, teams will be judged on what they have created.

Meals will be provided, and the event will conclude at 6:30 p.m. on June 2 following team presentations and judging.


 

Fast Fact

June is traditionally the start of hurricane and summer storm season. Take precautions to stay safe, including heeding storm warnings issued by the National Weather Service and taking shelter when appropriate.

A hurricane watch is issued if there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24-36 hours. A warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected in a specified area in 24 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.

Sign up for Alert Montgomery to receive up-to-date information on hurricane watches and warnings and other storms. Alerts can be sent to one or more electronic devices, including cell phones, text pagers and wireless PDAs, along with home and work emails.

See the County's storm preparedness tips.


 

Green Tip of the Month

Did you know that the County's diverse agricultural industry's 561 farms and 350 horticultural enterprises produce more than $243 million in economic contribution from agricultural products and operations? The majority of Montgomery County farms are family-run operations, many reaching back several generations, which employ more than 10,000 residents. Of the County's 561 farms, 43 percent are farmed as a primary occupation.

Check out one of the many Montgomery County farmers markets for fresh fruits, vegetables, bedding plants, cut flowers, preserves, herbs, baked goods and more. Each week, farmers markets provide different varieties of products as they come into season.


 

Let's Talk

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.