From the County Council Office of Valerie Ervin

Dear Resident, 

 

Today, the County Council passed the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget that honors the Council's legacy of making education a priority, develops innovative programs, enhances multi-modal transportation options, reduces the energy tax, recognizes the hard work of our employees and protects those in need. 

 

As recommended by the Education Committee, which I chair, the Council fully funded the Montgomery County Board of Education's operating budget request of more than $2.2 billion, with a slight reduction in state aid, while staying within the funding level mandated by the State's maintenance of effort law.  We also added resources to the capital budget to improve the learning environment in the classroom by adding funding for facility planning and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. 

 

We provided nearly $280 million to support Montgomery College, which is the largest community college in the state and has undergraduate enrollment that surpasses the University of Maryland, College Park. I was proud to work with College President Dr. DeRionne Pollard to ensure that we held the line on tuition increases and enhanced funding for Achieving Collegiate Excellence, which provides academic coaches, mentors and supports for high school students, who are members of minority groups, living in low-income or single-parent households, first-generation college students, or those who are homeless or in need of special education.

 

I am excited that I was able to work with the County's non-profit partners to develop the Food Recovery Initiative, which is the first, county-wide effort in the nation to help feed those who are living with the increasing problem of food insecurity.  The purpose of this program, which I spearheaded on the Council, is to recover food that would otherwise go to waste and provide it to our non-profit partners who work every day to fight hunger.  This initiative is a win-win because it will not only help our area non-profit organizations, but it will reduce the amount of food that ends up in our waste stream.  Recent estimates show that 19 percent of the County's waste stream is made up of food, and for the non-residential sector alone this equals more than 48,000 tons.     

 

This budget also takes a comprehensive approach to supporting multi-modal transportation options.  Since 2008, I have been at the forefront of the County's plan to bring a bikeshare program to Montgomery County.  My staff and I have been working with the County's Department of Transportation, the Pedestrian, Bicycle & Traffic Safety Committee, bicycle advocates and residents to create an interconnected system of trails including the Metropolitan Branch Trail.  It is essential that we construct safe connections for walkers and cyclists to and from work and for recreation activities that help connect the County to the greater Washington DC Metropolitan Area. 

 

I am delighted that we had the resources available this year to provide our employees with a salary increase after years of furloughs and other cost saving measures.  Government is truly for the people by the people and our dedicated workforce often goes above and beyond for our residents. 

 

We were also able to reduce the energy tax by 10 percent this year.  The hope is that this rate reduction, combined with the 10 percent cut last year, will provide some relief to our residents and businesses.  

 

Finally, working with my Council colleagues, I was able to expand resources for the Working Parents Assistance Program, which provides child care benefits for working families; the Working Families Income Supplement, which provides a local tax credit for those who qualify for the State's Earned Income Credit; and a variety of health care services for our most needy residents.  We were also able to increase funding for our non-profit providers at three percent above the level recommended. 

 

We are fortunate to live in Montgomery County, a place where residents can raise their children with an eye toward the future, a place where jobs are plentiful and meaningful, a place that is safe and secure, and a place where those who are sick, homeless, unemployed or struggling to make a living know that they are not forgotten.  This budget holds to that vision.  Thanks to Council President Nancy Navarro for her leadership and to the numerous residents who contacted me and participated in the budget process this year.    

 

 

All the best, 

Valerie Ervin  

Valerie Ervin

 

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Highlights of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget
 

The County Council heard from residents through public hearings, town hall meetings, phone conversations, emails and meetings to help us determine our budget priorities.  Below are some essential budget items and services the Council was able to fund in the final operating budget.  This includes increases for the following:

  • Food Recovery Initiative, which is the first county-wide effort in the nation to help feed those who are living with food insecurity issues by distributing food that would otherwise be wasted to non-profit providers who fight hunger;  
  • Montgomery College's Achieving Collegiate Excellence, which provides academic coaches, mentors and support to high school students, who are members of minority groups, living in low-income or single-parent households, first-generation college students, or those who are homeless or in need of special education; 
  • Working Parents Assistance Program, which provides enhanced child care subsidies and eliminates the waiting list for assistance;
  • Inspector General's Office, increased funding to investigate Silver Spring Transit Center;
  • Expanded health services for various non-profit providers;
  • Extended hours and increased materials for libraries;
  • Silver Spring Civic Building Community Access Program, which provides reduced rates for community use;
  • County's first farmers market Double Dollars Program to increase access to healthy foods for low-income residents;
  • American Film Institute operating support;
  • Bikeway/bike lane marking and bike trail maintenance;
  • Tree pruning and removal;
  • Truancy Court, which will be expanded to one additional school;
  • Working Families Income Supplement, which will fund 85 percent of the State's Earned Income Credit;
  • Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy, to reduce the waiting list for adult literacy services; and
  • Long Branch Athletic Association. 
For a full list of reconciliation items, please click here

 

FY 2014 Operating Budget

  • Fully funds the Board of Education's operating budget request of $2.2 billion for Montgomery County Public Schools, with a slight reduction in state aid, while staying within the funding level mandated by the State's maintenance of effort law;
  • Reduces the energy tax for residences and businesses by 10 percent;
  • Fully funds the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission operating budget request;
  • Funds 99 percent of Montgomery College's tax supported budget;
  • Supplements programs for seniors and positive youth development, as well as those that protect our most vulnerable residents;
  • Provides for two full Fire & Rescue Service recruit classes, which will have 55 and 53 recruits in January and July 2014;
  • Allocates more than $5 million for Fire & Rescue Services apparatus replacement;
  • Implementation of 2nd year of the police-staffing plan, which adds 35 sworn police officers and five civilian positions;
  • Adds six additional school resource officers (SRO), including a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Montgomery County Public Schools;
  • Continues to restore library funding and the expansion of operating hours;
  • Launches the County's bikeshare program;
  • Funds engineering, enforcement and education efforts to increase pedestrian safety for residents;
  • Replaces paper permits in the residential parking permit program with a virtual license plate system, which allows residents to purchase and renew permits online; and
  • Supports good government by funding the Ethics Commission, Office of Legislative Oversight and the Inspector General.

FY 2013-18 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) Amendments

  • Additional funding for MCPS for facility planning and heating ventilation and air conditioning;
  • Additional funding for road resurfacing;
  • New streetlights along New Hampshire Avenue between Blick Drive and Randolph Road in Colesville;
  • Initial funding for a Colesville, New Hampshire Avenue Corridor improvement project between Hollywood Boulevard and Randolph Road;
  • Public-private partnership to replace the current Progress Place service center with a new facility;
  • Cost share for a road improvement (Ripley Street between Georgia and Dixon Avenues) in the Ripley District in Silver Spring; and
  • Opens the relocated Third District Police station in White Oak, replacing the outdated and undersized 50 year-old facility in Silver Spring.

Get Out and Ride: National Bike Month

 

With increased interest in healthy, sustainable and economic transportation options, it is not surprising that, from 2000 to 2011, the number of bicycle commuters in the U.S. grew by more than 47 percent.  On May 14, I joined the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and Montgomery Bicycle Advocates to celebrate this large increase in ridership in the region and commemorate May as National Bike Month. 

 

Bike Month celebrates the bicycle and the many reasons we ride.  May is full of opportunities to get out on your bike. Bike to School Day was on May 8, and I participated in Bike to Work Day on May 17.  With the coming implementation of bikeshare in the County, an initiative I have spearheaded since 2008, I am also focused on the need for roadway improvements and biking/walking paths in our community.  I am happy to report that the Metropolitan Branch Trail is in its final stages of completion.  I remain committed to making our County safer and friendlier for bicyclists and pedestrians.  

 

You can check out my ride here: http://youtu.be/OXQ2EyR6DBs 

American Winter Screening/Discussion: 

Combating Poverty as a Community

 

In the richest country on earth, millions of families have been left in the cold. 

 

  

On May 29, over 200 community members will join me at the AFI Silver Theatre for a free screening of American Winter, a powerful documentary film about families that follows the personal stories of families struggling in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. 

 

The program will also feature a community discussion with some of the many foot soldiers in the war on poverty serving our community.   

 

Unfortunately, we have reached capacity for the theater, but you may add your name to the wait list here

 

Event cosponsored by: A Wider Circle, CASA De Maryland,  Food Recovery Network, Gandhi Brigade, Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County, IMPACT Silver Spring, InterFaith Works, Jews United for Justice, Manna Food Center, Maryland Hunger Solutions, Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO, Mid-Atlantic Laborers' Cooperation Trust of LiUna, Montgomery County Young Democrats, Nourish Now, Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland, Progressive Maryland, Progressive Neighbors, Raise Maryland, SEIU Maryland and DC State Council,  SEIU 1199, SEIU 32BJ,  SEIU Local 500, and United Way of the National Capital Area.

Community Greening: Tree Planting in Long Branch

 

Through my service on the Chesapeake Bay Trust, I know how important trees are not only to the environment but also to our community's quality of life.  On May 4, I participated in the "Community Greening" tree planting event in Long Branch.  The project was funded with a $5,000 grant awarded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT), an Annapolis-based, grant-making organization, and a $2,000 grant from the Patagonia Georgetown store.  

 

I want to especially thank Caren Madsen of Conservation Montgomery for her hard work on this project.  It was great to see so many students from local high schools helping to make this project successful.  I also want to thank Safe Silver Spring, LEAD Environment, Maryland Multi-Cultural Youth Center, Department of Parks, and the many volunteers for the great work they did to help reforest Long Branch and improve the health of the stream valley.

County Pilots Advertising in Parking Garages
 

As a result of meetings with the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce, I asked the County to pursue advertising in our parking garages to help add revenue to the Parking Lot Districts (PLD).  The hope is that this additional revenue will enhance the fund balance of the PLDs and help avoid parking rate increases or extended enforcement hours.  

  

As of May 2012, the County Department of Transportation's (DOT) Division of Parking Management will begin a six-month pilot project to test ad-based marketing opportunities in County parking garages. DOT estimates that advertisements will be posted in the garages by early June.

 

The pilot period will help DOT evaluate business demand for the ads, revenue potential for the County, the types and sizes of displays that are attractive, and ways to ensure that garage signage continues to be clear and visible.  The four pilot garages are:

  • Garage 7, 8530 Cameron Street, Silver Spring;
  • Garage 61, 801 Ellsworth Drive, Silver Spring;
  • Garage 11, 7730 Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda; and
  • Garage 57, 4841 Bethesda Avenue, Bethesda.
For more information, click here
Have Your Pick During Farmers Market Season

   

Shopping at farmer's markets is one of my favorite weekend activities because they provide access to nutritious food, support local farmers and promote social interactions among neighbors.  As the weather gets warmer, I encourage you to check out the fresh food offered at one of the markets in your area.  For an updated list of farmers markets in the County, click here

Recognizing Neighbors Making a Difference in the Community

 

One of the best parts of my job is recognizing the unsung heroes living in our own community.  As a member of the awards selection committee for IMPACT Silver Spring, I enjoyed congratulating each of the award winners at the 2013 IMPACT Momentum Awards, which was held in the Silver Spring Civic Building.  

 

The award winners included: Agbegnigan Amouzou (Coach Fofo), founder and head coach of Elite Sports in Silver Spring; Ben Simon, co-founder and executive director of the Food Recovery Network; and the Opportunity Circle at the Fields Apartments and parent advocates of Flora M. Singer Elementary School students.  You can read more about them here

 

Our community is a great place to live, thanks in large part to these outstanding individuals, and others like them, who devote their lives to serving others.     

Exemplary Leadership at Montgomery College
 

On May 14, I was joined by Montgomery College President Dr. DeRionne Pollard and Vice President and Provost of the Germantown Campus Dr. Sanjay Ray, to honor one of their outstanding professors. Tammy Peery, Chair of the Germantown English and Women's and Gender Studies Departments as well as the Chair of the Faculty Council, was selected as a recipient of the Chair Academy's 2013 International Exemplary Leadership Award.  This award recognizes the recipient's "ability to advance academic and administrative leadership at his or her organization."  A seventh generation educator, Tammy arrived at Montgomery College in 1998 and has brought a positive and dynamic attitude to her department and the college as a whole.  

Honoring Everyday Heroes: Public Service Recognition and Teacher Appreciation

 

 

Montgomery County's public employees provide essential services and make remarkable contributions to our community. On May 7, I presented proclamations to thank those who work on behalf of our residents each and every day.
 

Public Service Recognition Week is all about remembering those whose service improves our quality of life. I was joined by Bill Cook, MCPS Department of Materials Management Operations Supervisor, who was Supporting Service Employee of the Year; Rex Thompson, an exemplary Ride On Bus Operator; and representatives from the Fire and Rescue Service and Police Department.

 

As Chair of the Council's Education Committee, I recognized National Teacher Appreciation Day on May 7 to honor educators and acknowledge the crucial role they play in making sure every student receives a quality education. Great teachers do more than just educate our children; they serve as role models and mentors, and give back to the community. I was joined by Anne Marie Foerster Luu from Luxmanor Elementary School who was International Teacher of the Year by the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages International Association and National Geographic Learning, as well as Phil Kaufman, vice president of the Board of Education.

 
  

 

Our County's excellent public schools are made up of teachers who work to open students' minds to ideas, knowledge and dreams. I want to thank all of our teachers and school support staff for their contributions in creating a strong, vibrant and educated community.   

Annual Road Maintenance Begins

 

The Department of Transportation is beginning several new road maintenance projects and street sweeping activities.  For a list of road resurfacing projects, click here.

  

You can check the street sweeping schedule here  

Truancy Court Program Shows Success
 
Truancy is an issue confronting communities throughout the nation. Research links truancy to higher drop-out rates, substance abuse and juvenile delinquency. In 2010, at my request, the Council's Office of Legislative Oversight compiled a report titled Truancy in Montgomery County. The report showed that that 984 MCPS students were classified as habitually truant, which is defined as unlawfully absent from school for 18 or more days in a semester or 36 or more days in a school year.

 

As a way to deal with this issue, I initiated the County's Truancy Court Program (TCP) in partnership with the University of Baltimore School of Law, the State's Attorney's Office for Montgomery County, and Montgomery County Public Schools. This program encourages habitually truant students to improve their school attendance by pairing students with a volunteer judge who meets with students for 10 weeks to determine why the student repeatedly misses school. This program is currently in place at Key Middle School in Silver Spring and Neelsville Middle School in Germantown. We secured funding in the budget, so we will be able to will expand this program to an additional school next year.

 

The analysis shows that the program succeeded in achieving the overarching goal of reducing truancy by reconnecting students and their families with school using a therapeutic and non-adversarial model. As a result, there was consistent and dramatic improvement in school attendance among the students participating.

 

TCP helps pull together all appropriate stakeholders and develop effective strategies for dealing with truancy. The results show that students, who may not otherwise listen to an adult, will often sit up and take notice when they appear before a judge. Behavioral changes, not punitive measures, are required to ensure that chronically truant students realize the importance of school attendance. I am confident that the program will continue to have a positive impact on the lives of these students.