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March 2010

 

Golden Shovel Awards Open for Nominations - back to top

Nancy FloreenDid someone you know make your neighborhood safer?  Nominate them for a Golden Shovel.

I started the Golden Shovel awards in 2003 to honor residents who lace up their boots to help neighbors shovel out after a snowfall.  After this season's record-breaking blizzards, I'm bringing back the awards after a two-year hiatus due to a lack of snow.  The awards recognize individuals who go above and beyond in helping clear ice and snow from County sidewalks.

Our seniors, school children, people with disabilities and those who walk to work or use mass transit depend on snow-free sidewalks.  This goes beyond convenience--it is a matter of public safety.  I certainly hope that residents will nominate for a Golden Shovel those individuals who put the Golden Rule to work.

Get your nomination form in your Gazette newspaper, or download it from my Web page, and turn it in by March 26.


 

Return Your Census Form - back to top

Everyone counts in Montgomery County.  That’s why I’m participating in the “Be Counted Express,” along with other County officials to urge residents to return the 2010 Census form that will arrive in the mail about March 15-17 and is due April 1.

Why is it so important?  Census data are used to distribute Congressional seats to states; to make decisions about what community services to provide; to distribute $400 billion in federal funds to local, state and tribal governments each year; and to allocate state legislative districts and draw County Council districts.  Did I mention the $400 billion in federal funds?  If that’s not motivation enough, completing the form on time helps you avoid visits from Census enumerators.


 

Gap Now Estimated at $761 Million - back to top

This week we met with the County Executive for a fiscal update that set the stage for the upcoming budget season.  I have been advocating for communication and collaboration between the executive and legislative branches, and I thank the County Executive and his staff for providing an extensive preview into his upcoming budget.  By law, the County Executive transmits his proposed budget to the County Council on March 15.  We hold hearings and work sessions, and then we pass a final budget at the end of May.  The budget takes effect on July 1.

We knew the news would not be good.  Our last fiscal update projected a gap of $608 million for FY11.  Now, because of decreases in state aid, fees and taxes, the gap has grown to $761 million.  The biggest contributing factor is the unprecedented 15 percent drop in income tax revenue as a result of decreases in both the number of taxpayers and the incomes of those taxpayers.  The snowstorms also took a big bite.

In anticipation of next year's budget crisis, County government already has instituted a hiring freeze and a procurement freeze.  We have liquidated selected outstanding contracts and slashed spending across the board.recycling truck

Still, the County Executive told us today his budget will aim to reduce public safety, health and human services, and transit spending by seven percent.  He plans to reduce spending in the remaining departments and agencies by 20 percent.  The Executive made it clear that significant layoffs, furloughs and service reductions likely will be required. 

Although the details of the proposed budget won't be available until March 15, I appreciate the advance information.


 

Approved Savings Plan - back to top

On February 9, we unanimously approved a mid-year savings plan that will reduce spending for the remainder of FY10 by about $70 million.  The approved plan included more than 99 percent of the reductions the County Executive proposed

We declined to approve any of the County Executive's proposed reductions in Ride On service, but we did approve his plan to increase Ride On fares.  We also modified the Executive's proposed reduction in the Call and Ride taxi voucher program for low-income residents.

I don't think there was a single cut in this plan that any of my colleagues or I wanted to make, but this is evidence of the fiscal situation we are in.  We are being forced to make real cuts that affect real residents and real employees.  They were difficult decisions, and they are only a precursor to many more difficult decisions we will need to make in the coming months as we prepare the FY11 budget.

This savings plan is in addition to a nearly $30 million reduction taken earlier this year for a total of about $100 million.


 

Green Tip of the Month - back to top

Now is a good time for community groups to plan group service projects around the time of Earth Day.  While Earth Day is April 22nd, the Montgomery County Volunteer Center and other organizations celebrate Earth Day throughout the month of April.  Get your nonprofit, school, religious, civic or other community group volunteering to improve the environment.  Park, waterway, and neighborhood clean ups, painting and gardening are just a few ways groups can make a difference.  Find Earth Day volunteering opportunities and view the Earth Day Toolkit, full of ideas on how to plan and organize a group event, by visiting the Volunteer Center Web site or calling 240-777-2600.


 

Fast Fact - back to top

If you own a historic home in Montgomery County, you are eligible for local tax credits for snowstorm-related repairs.  To qualify, the cost of the repair work must exceed $1,000.  The tax credit, applied toward county property taxes, will equal 10 percent of expenses.  To learn more, or to download an application form, visit Montgomery Planning's Web page or call 301-563-3400.


 

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.