Wednesday, January 27, 2016

County Funding Now! ... Budget Advocacy for Takoma Park Interests

It's time to speak out about Takoma Park priorities for Montgomery County budget funding!
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mdfriendofhillary/13492981055
County Executive Ike Leggett. Photo by Ed Kimmel

What are your city priorities? Me, I listed four of mine in a letter to County Executive Ike Leggett: 1) Paramedic coverage at the Takoma Park fire station; 2) Piney Branch Elementary School pool funding; 3) school capacity study funding; and 4) steps toward smooth implementation of the county's Healthy Lawns Bill.

Whether these are your county funding priorities or you have others, please do contact the county executive yourself. He is currently preparing his budget for FY17, the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2016. He needs to hear from you. I'll paste in my letter below, which you're free to adapt, or write your own. Do it soon. Mr. Leggett will present his operating budget to the Montgomery County Council by March 15. The council will then make adjustments and enact a budget in late spring.

City-County Budget Background

For those not in the know, I'll provide a bit of city-county budget background.

Takoma Park is a "full-service city"... almost. Montgomery County delivers essential services to Takoma Park residents and businesses. The county runs the public schools – education accounts for around half the annual county budget – and delivers fire & rescue services. The City takes care of the rest of the big stuff: police, public works, recreation, and more. The City does this quite effectively I'd say, for the $.585 (58.5 cent) current property-tax rate (per $100 assessed value). By contrast, Takoma Parkers pay Montgomery County property taxes at a $0.9962 (99.62 cent) current rate.

Fact #1: Fire Station 2, in Takoma Park, is one of only seven fire stations county-wide that lacks paramedic coverage. We deserve coverage and need it soon because pending Carroll Avenue bridge reconstruction, slated to start this year and to require bridge closure for at least 12 months, will cut off quick access to Washington Adventist Hospital from much of Takoma Park.

Fact #2: The Piney Branch Elementary School pool is immensely popular locally, for good reason: It's the only public swimming facility, used widely by school kids and seniors and everyone in between, in the southeast corner of the county. Yet each of the last several years Mr. Leggett has declined to fund the pool, and each year the county council restores operational funding.

Add in Fact #3: Elementary schools in our corner of the county are projected to be severely overcrowded in the coming years. The Board of Education has recommended Capital Improvements Program funding for a study to reopen a Silver Spring elementary school.

I cover Facts #2 & #3 in a December Voice item, School crunch threatens pool. And why is my fourth point a Takoma Park priority? Because Montgomery County's Heathy Lawns bill, banning non-essential, cosmetic use of synthetic chemical lawncare pesticides, was based on Takoma Park's 2013 Safe Grow Act.

On you on board with any or all of my four items? Use my text if you wish, or draft your own. But do write your own –

Letter to the County Executive

The Honorable Isiah Leggett
Montgomery County Executive
101 Monroe Street
Rockville, MD 20850
ocemail@montgomerycountymd.gov

Dear Mr. Leggett,

Please accept the following comment about a few funding priorities that I hope you will consider in formulating your FY17 Montgomery County budget proposal.

1. Paramedic coverage for Fire Station 2 in Takoma Park. You have stated plans to add paramedic staffing, in the coming years, at the seven uncovered county fire stations. Please make Fire Station 2 staffing a priority, for FY17 staffing.

2. Piney Branch ES pool operational and maintenance funding. Respectfully, I believe your understanding of the pool’s physical condition is incorrect. The pool is in good operating condition and can continue operating, pretty much as-is, for several years, until a direction is decided regarding school-capacity expansion.

This pool is heavily used by lower- and moderate-income community members, especially children, who have no practical access to a public swimming facility. Further, Takoma Park property owners pay far more in Recreational Tax than the county spends on recreation services in/for Takoma Park. The needed funding is approximately $160,000; prospects are that the County Council will add the funding if you do not include it. Could we please avoid the past two years’ funding game?

3. MCPS Capital Improvements Program funding to cover evaluation of reopening of Parkside ES to relieve school overcrowding in the southeast sector of the county, as recommended by the Board of Education.

4. Adequate funding for county transition to lawncare without the use of synthetic chemical pesticides, per Bill 52-14, the Healthy Lawns Bill. As you know, restrictions on county-owned property go into effect July 1, 2016. I hope you will also fund planning for public and professional-applicator education given that restrictions on private-property use go into effect on January 1, 2018

Thanks very much for considering this funding advocacy.

Sincerely,

Seth Grimes

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