Friday, May 16, 2008

What the Heck Happened on the Budget?

It’s been quite a week. And a good example of how eight people with differing points of view can ultimately come to agreement after a certain amount of pushing and shoving.

Throughout this process, I worried about the burden the proposed property tax increases would have on the average resident and kept advocating for spending less generally while some of my colleagues directed their attention to reducing employee compensation one way or the other. It was certainly true that everyone here was genuinely concerned about protecting our residents from unnecessary costs, although we may have expressed that point in different ways.

After the dust cleared, we ended up this way:

1. We eliminated Ike’s proposed 7.5 cent property tax rate increase and still were able to give every homeowner a $579 credit on their tax bill. Although the rate has not gone up, residents will still see an increase in the bottom line.

2. We adopted my carbon tax surcharge which takes some of the burden off property tax payers by generating about $11 million from ALL users of power, including those who do not pay property tax such as the federal government.

3. Our tax supported budget spends about $6 million less than Ike proposed. (At least a start towards my objective!) No employee compensation is affected by this.

4. We allocated about $18 million more to schools than Ike proposed; restored nighttime fire and rescue staffing to Glen Echo; restored community outreach officers and a recruit class to the police; added $7.5 million for Montgomery College; and added nearly $5 million to the park and planning budgets, among a myriad of other things.

It’s a good but not perfect budget; it represents a fair compromise among eight different points of view.

I’ve included the material we had to work with in the links to the right. Take a look. I’ve had my turn. How would you have balanced the budget based on the information in the links?


Anonymous said...

The Unions have won the taxpayers have lost. The leasing companies have won and the renters were not assured that the reductions will be passed to them.

Heads should have rolled at MCPS for approving the budget busting contracts, but all of them are now unionized.

How much more will the avergae taxpayer have to endure before we vote with our feet. Fairfax is looking better every day.

Bogdan said...

Dear Mrs. Floreen,

Let me start by thanking you for publishing this blog that indeed contains useful information and most importantly allows your constituents to express their opinions. Your willingness to speak your mind and open yourself to potential criticism deserves appreciation. Unfortunately, I am afraid that this is where my agreement with your actions ends.
I am deeply dissapointed at the actions of the council in regard to the budget. As should have been expected after years of spending with abandon and irrational increases that were disproportional to any sustainable income stream, the council was faced with a significant budget deficit. This was blamed on the slowing economy when in fact the council is the only one who should be held responsible and now should pay the piper. Well, I was just kidding, as in fact the residents are the one who in the opinion of the council have to pay. With an irony that somehow escapes the council the solution of a budget crunch that is "caused by hardship in the economy" is to put even more hardship on the county residents by increasing their property taxes. No need to insult our intelligence by saying the tax rates are not changed, because increasing the cap on yearly collections -breaking the county charter in the process, but hey, who is counting-the result is a more than 13% increase in the property tax bill.
How did we get here? Well its not so complicated, by agreeing to just about any spending proposal. The council has been a never ending source of "worthy" programs that desperately needed funding. A program here, a program there, after all who can argue with more funding for schools? The fact that we need to consider how much is enough should not bother us because there is never enough. The council should have listened to my son's Social Sciences teacher who in a lesson explained that "needs" are unlimited but "resources" are not. This is exactly the job of the council, to have the power of restraint and only spend cautiously and only the money we actually have. In my opinion you should receive an F at this test.
You ask at the end of your entry on May 16, how would we have balanced the budget. Well for starters I would have never increased the budget a cent more that the revenues. Now, its kind of late and the medicine is harder to take but in fact still very easy to understand. The budget needs to be cut until it equals the money we actually have-no dumping on resident by taxes and fees increases. It will be my pleasure to come back to discuss more specific budget issues another time.
Thank you.

J. Mahoney said...

I would like to echo the other comments about the usefulness and your leadership by having this log.

To be brief. It is beyond me how all county residents will be required to take a hit/ or more PC "sacrifice" while county employees get a really nice deal and maintain their increases. Property taxes are going up (no matter how it is explained), gas prices are at $4 a gallon, the cost of everything is increasing. And on top of that, the revenue base is drying up due to the struggling economy. Yet, the county council members couldn’t show the intestinal fortitude to at the very least, extend the level of “sacrifice” across the board.

Rather, the county succumbed to political pressure by the big unions. I can’t commend that. It is shameful leadership