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FY18 Budget Recap

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OLO Report: Pre-K in Montgomery County and Other Jurisdictions

Since before running for elected office, I’ve been a childcare advocate, consumer, and practitioner. I used to run a licensed family childcare business at my previous home in Wheaton. A few years after starting this, I founded a nonprofit called Centro Familia to help train other family childcare providers about opening licensed family child care business out of their homes. The need for affordable, quality childcare and early education far outpaces the supply in the County, and this remains a challenge. There is plenty of evidence that suggests being ready for kindergarten determines the trajectory of a student’s educational career and socioeconomic success. The most strategic and effective interventions occur at the earliest possible moment in a child’s academic life.

This morning, the Montgomery County MD Council’s Education Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee will meet jointly to review the findings of the Office of Legislative Oversight’s (OLO) report Pre-K in Montgomery County and Other Jurisdictions. In February, OLO released this report on Pre-K programs, benefits, best-practices and estimated costs to expand Pre-K in the County.

The joint committee will meet in the Seventh Floor Conference Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville. This worksession is also televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM), which can be viewed on Cable Channels 996 (high definition) and 6 (standard definition) on Comcast; Channels 1056 (HD) and 6 (SD) on RCN; and Channel 30 on Verizon. It is also available live via streaming through the Council web site.

You can learn more about some of the County initiatives related to this topic below.
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Clean Elections in 2018

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Progressive Policies Enacted by the Montgomery County Council

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Hispanic Heritage Month Program (English)

HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH 2016

Council Strengthens Living Wage Law Enforcement

ROCKVILLE, Md., February 2, 2016—The Montgomery County Council today unanimously approved legislation to significantly strengthen the enforcement of the County’s Living Wage law. Montgomery County service contractors are required to pay their workers a living wage set annually based on the rate of inflation. Bill 43-15 addressed concerns that that some employers were making deductions to their workers’ paychecks without the consent of the worker.

Possible violations of the living wage law were first reported by The Washington Post in May 2015. In October, lead sponsors Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Marc Elrich introduced Bill 43-15. Councilmembers George Leventhal and Hans Riemer co-sponsored the bill.

The Post reported that approximately 140 governments nationwide have similar living wage laws to Montgomery County. That story can be found at http://tinyurl.com/gv765h3 .

The current living wage for employees working for contractors with Montgomery County is $14.35.

As approved, Bill 43-15 accomplishes the following:

  • Requires detailed payroll records to be submitted quarterly to the Office of Procurement and requires the County to retain those records for at least five years.
  • Establishes strong penalties, such as suspension and debarment, for a Living Wage law violation.
  • Requires the County to perform regular and random audits and allows the County to recover costs for performing an audit as a result of an enforcement action.
  • Prohibits an employer from making a deduction for any item necessary for an employee to perform the essential job function.
  • Allows the County to withhold payment to a contractor found in violation of the Living Wage law.
  • Removes the exemption in the Living Wage law for employees subject to collective bargaining agreements.

“I am pleased my colleagues unanimously supported this legislation to strengthen the County’s Living Wage law,” said Councilmember Navarro. “Montgomery County’s Living Wage law is designed to protect workers from abuses by employers and Bill 43-15 provides teeth to ensure the County can enforce it appropriately. Now, workers and the County will have recourse if an employer is not paying their employees fairly.”

Councilmember Elrich said: “In 2002, the Council passed a living wage bill with the clear intent to provide employees with a living wage. It is unfortunate that certain unscrupulous business owners managed to subvert the intent of the law, to the detriment of their employees. As amended today, the law now has clear reporting requirements and distinct penalties for not paying employees on County contracts a living wage. I am proud to stand with Councilmember Navarro and my colleagues in sending this clear message that the County will protect contractor employees’ right to earn a living wage.”

County Executive Ike Leggett will have 10 days to approve the bill after he receives it from the Council. The bill will take effect 91 days after it is signed by the County Executive.

 

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Montgomery County Retains AAA Bond Rating

County Among Best in Nation for Fiscal Responsibility

County Executive Ike Leggett today announced that Montgomery County has maintained its Triple-A bond rating for 2015 from three Wall Street bond rating agencies.

Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s all affirmed the “AAA” rating – the highest achievable — for the County. They all termed the outlook for Montgomery County as “stable.”

The Triple-A bond rating enables Montgomery County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The rating also serves as a benchmark for numerous other financial transactions, ensuring the lowest possible costs in those areas as well.

“What is remarkable about this is that Montgomery County has continued to receive a Triple-A bond rating from all three bond rating agencies even during these past few years when other jurisdictions – including the federal government – were seeing downgrades and despite federal shutdowns, budget sequestrations and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” said Leggett.

“Our ability to maintain our coveted Triple-A rating affirms my approach to putting the County’s fiscal house in order and reducing unsustainable increases in County spending, while investing in making government more effective and creating opportunities for the growth of good jobs in the future.

“We have significantly boosted our reserves, closed more than $3 billion in budget gaps, made tough choices on spending, and saved millions for taxpayers with changes in County health and retirement benefits. Our unemployment rate is the lowest in the state of Maryland and among the lowest in the nation. Montgomery County has weathered the downturn and the investments we made during the toughest of times are enabling us to create more jobs and opportunity.”

The bond rating agencies underlined the County’s successful approach.

“Montgomery County has a sophisticated management team that uses conservative budgeting and has established debt and reserve policies that have resulted in healthy reserve and liquidity levels,” wrote Fitch. “Montgomery County continues to exhibit a very impressive economic profile.”

“The AAA rating reflects the County’s sizable, strong and diverse tax base, affluent demographics, and manageable debt burden,” said Moody’s Investor’s Services. “The rating also incorporates the county’s healthy reserve position, which has grown in recent years as a result of the implementation of various new fiscal policies and a multi-year plan to restore the county’s financial flexibility.

“Several large projects are underway in the county and will add further to the tax and jobs base over the near and medium term, including a substantial $1.5 billion in building construction in Fiscal Year 2015 alone.”

“The stable outlook reflects our view of Montgomery County’s very strong local economy and its demonstrated resilience to economic pressure due, in large part, to its very strong management conditions,” said Standard & Poor’s.

“The reconfirmation of the County’s AAA rating reflects the strong commitment of the Council and Executive to sound financial management,” said Council President George Leventhal. “The County has held a AAA rating since 1973.  This is an outstanding achievement, but it is what we expect of Montgomery County.  It is further evidence that we have jointly created a government that works effectively for our one million residents.”

“I am pleased Montgomery County has retained its AAA Bond Rating. This accomplishment is due in large part to the County Council and County Executive working collaboratively to put in place responsible fiscal policies,” said Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee chair Nancy Navarro. “During the Great Recession, the Council established a six-year Fiscal Plan, restructured County employee benefits, developed a policy to increase our reserves to 10% by 2020, and took the unprecedented step of re-basing the school system budget. These actions, taken together with approving fiscally responsible budgets and land use plans that promote economic development throughout the County, have set the stage to retain our high credit rating. This bond rating allows us to borrow money at low costs so we can invest in essential infrastructure projects.”

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Councilmember Navarro at Early Voting Press Conference

Improving the Procurement Process

This morning, the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee reviewed the recommendations of the  Procurement Policies and Regulations Task Force and the Minority Owned and Small Business Task Force. In October 2014, I proposed creating these task forces to review and evaluate Montgomery County’s procurement process. One of the complaints I hear from business owners of all sizes is that it is too difficult to do business with the County. People say the process takes too long, there is too much paperwork, and there isn’t enough communication with the Procurement staff.

The reason I supported creating two separate task forces is that the issues raised by business owners about procurement generally fall into two distinct categories. The first category focuses on process. The amount of time it takes to complete a request for proposals (RFP) or not having a formal debrief process after a contract is awarded were issues that could be solved by developing a new process for interacting with bidders. The charge of the Procurement Policies and Regulations Task Force was to holistically review the procurement process and recommend changes that would help businesses compete for contracts in Montgomery County.

The second category of concern raised by business owners was how small, minority, female and disabled-owned businesses can compete for County contracts. The County received a Disparity Study last year that showed minority, female and disabled-owned businesses were “underutilized” in County procurement. Small business owners have expressed a variety of concerns about the way the Local Small Business Reserve Program has been implemented. The Minority Owned and Small Business Task Force was responsible for reviewing programs specifically designed to help small, minority, female and disabled-owned businesses in qualifying for County contracts.

Although we are now receiving these reports, the Council did not wait to begin improving procurement. This past March, the Council unanimously approved Expedited Bill 7-15, which was proposed by the County Executive, to create a standalone Office of Procurement within the Executive Branch. In June, the Council appointed former Councilmember Cherri Branson to lead that new office. During the FY16 Budget process (and reaffirmed during the FY16 Budget Savings Plan), the Council added staff to the compliance section of the Office of Procurement.

You can find links to both Task Force reports here.