Tag Archives: Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee

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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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.


Affordable Health Insurance for County Contractors

In the fall of 2013, I began working to make sure the lowest income employees of Montgomery County’s contractors had access to affordable health insurance. In 2014, I introduced Bill 14-14, requiring County contractors to provide affordable health insurance to
health-insurancetheir employees.

Through the legislative process, the bill was amended (and passed in April 2015) to make some very important changes to help these employees obtain health insurance. First, the new law requires County contractors to allow Health and Human Services (HHS) employees to help their employees sign up for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during work hours. The Council added $30,000 to the budget this year for HHS staff that will focus on this target population. Next, Bill 14-14 requires all County contractors to submit payroll reports that include information on how many of their employees have health insurance and the premium split. This information will allow the County to better understand the universe of uninsured employees of County contractors so we can provide help to get them covered. Finally, the new law strengthens the Living Wage Law by requiring the County to keep these payroll/health insurance records on file for at least three years. This provision will enable employees to challenge employers in court if they believe they were paid less than the Living Wage. The Council added about $100,000 to the budget to enforce this section of the law.

While Bill 14-14 was a good first step, the work of making sure employees of County contractors have access to affordable health insurance is not over. That’s why I introduced Bill 5-15, which creates an incentive for businesses to provide insurance to their employees that seek to do business with the County. The bill creates a preference (to be determined for each contract) for businesses that offer health insurance to their employees. Today, the Council approved Bill 5-15 by a vote of 7-1.

I want to thank my colleagues for their support of these initiatives over the past two years. Bill 14-14 and Bill 5-15 will ensure more of our lowest-paid workers have access to affordable health insurance.


Montgomery County’s Innovative Interactive Fiscal Plan Wins Awards from PTI, NACo

Online ‘Budget Tool’ Allows Users to Input

Alternative Revenue and Expenditures, Shows How They

Would Impact County’s Six-Year Budget Projections


ROCKVILLE, Md., June 9, 2015—Montgomery County’s Interactive Fiscal Plan, which features an innovative web-based “budget tool” that enables users to input alternative revenue and expenditure assumptions in the County’s six-year budget projections and see the potential impact, has been awarded a 2015 Achievement Award from the Public Technology Institute (PTI) and a Civic Education and Public Information Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo).

The Interactive Fiscal Plan tool, which was a combined project of the Office of Legislative Oversight and the County Council’s Information Technology staff, was launched in December 2014. Like an online mortgage calculator—which many people have become familiar with in recent years—the budget tool allows users inside government and from the public to experiment with figures of their choosing. This exercise helps users to better understand how structural changes in the County’s six-year budget projections can be impacted by significant changes in revenue or expenditures. The plan can be accessed

The project was inspired by the Council’s request for development of a method to measure the effect of structural budget changes. Led by its Government Operations and Fiscal Policy (GO) Committee, the Council wanted the interactive budget tool to help users better understand how recurring revenue and expenditure patterns influence the ability to achieve balanced budgets in future years.

“My committee has prioritized open government and the innovative use of data,” said Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee Chair Nancy Navarro. “I am incredibly proud of the outstanding work of the Office of Legislative Oversight for this recognition. The Interactive Fiscal Plan is about ensuring our residents not only receive excellent services from the County, but also understand how the decisions policymakers have to grapple with impact those services. I look forward to working with my GO Committee colleagues in seeking out new ways we can create the most transparent and effective government in the nation.”

Each year, the Council approves a six-year fiscal plan. The plan includes operating budget revenue and expenditure estimates for the upcoming six fiscal years based on projections prepared by the County’s Department of Finance and Office of Management and Budget. The Interactive Fiscal Plan measures the effect of inputting alternative revenue and expenditure assumptions. The budget tool calculates the cumulative six-year effect of adjusting the assumed average annual rate of change for major plan variables.

For example, if a user wants to assume more funding should go to a particular agency or program, the budget tool shows that the plan is unbalanced until the user determines from where an equal amount of funds should be decreased. A user could insert numbers showing projected revenue to the County being greater or lesser than the plan indicates—and would then show how the overall projections would be impacted by those assumptions.

“The Interactive Fiscal Plan is a great example of how technology can make government more transparent and user friendly,” said Councilmember Hans Riemer, the Council’s lead member for digital government. “Since the Council passed my Open Data Law in 2012, Montgomery County government has made great strides in making our data easily available and providing it in useful formats that people can understand. Stay tuned for many more developments as we continue to find new ways to use and present data to engage and educate our residents.”

The budget tool helps bring reality and accountability to the budget process. There are constant demands for increased funding in areas important to certain agencies or groups, but those demands often are not accompanied by plans that would show the impact on other areas of the budget.

“We used the budget tool this spring when Interim Superintendent of Schools Larry Bowers, Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard and I conducted a series of forums around the County to explain the budget process to residents,” said Councilmember Craig Rice. “It quickly proved to be a great help in what we were trying to accomplish and it demonstrated how this could assist anyone who is interested in any aspect of the County operating budget.”

The Public Technology Institute actively supports local government executives and elected officials through research, education, executive-level consulting services and national recognition programs. It is the only technology organization created by and for cities and counties. At its Oct. 11-13 Local Government CIO Summit in Salt Lake City, PTI will recognize the Interactive Fiscal Plan, as well as Montgomery County’s initiatives regarding its GIS Web Portal, its Criminal Justice Case Management System, its Financial Transparency Suite and its Tax Assessment System.

The NACo Award will be presented on July 12 at NACo’s Annual Conference and Exposition in Mecklenburg County, N.C.

The Interactive Fiscal Plan was created through the efforts of Aron Trombka of the Office of Legislative Oversight; Michelle Parsons, Nic Berry and Namita Acharya of the Council’s IT office; Shan Balasubramanian and Veda Raman of the Department of Technology Services; and Rockville-based contractor Technology Digest Inc.

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Montgomery Procurement Task Force Seeks Input from Businesses Through Survey

Information Will Assist Council-Appointed Task Force in

Formulating Recommendations to Improve System

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 5, 2015—The Montgomery County Procurement and Regulations Task Force, which was appointed by the County Council in its efforts to improve the County’s procurement operations, is seeking input from users of the system. The survey seeks opinions about many aspects of the system, including the complexity of the solicitation process and the length of time it takes the County to respond to solicitations.

The task force is asking that responses to the brief online survey be completed by Tuesday, June 30. The survey can be found here.

Anyone experienced with the procurement system is invited to respond to the survey. The task force will use the survey as part of its study, and ensuing recommendations to the Council, on what works in the County’s current procurement and what needs improvement.

“Our task force has met with a variety of County officials from the County Executive to the County Council to employees in County departments,” said David Robbins, who chairs the seven-member task force. “But we need business community input to recommend meaningful reforms. This survey is focused on business community input, and asks open-ended questions to make sure we understand what is working and what improvements are needed.”

The task force is scheduled to have its recommendations to the Council by Sept. 15.

“The Procurement Policies and Regulations Task Force is doing an outstanding job ensuring the views of all stakeholders are represented in their deliberations,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro, who chairs the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee. “This survey will give voice to business owners who interact with the County’s procurement process on a regular basis. I look forward to seeing the results of the survey and the recommendations of the task force this fall.”

More information about the survey and the task force can be obtained by calling 240-777-7922.

The Council has also appointed another task force looking at how the minority/female/disabled (MFD) and local small business community is being served by the County procurement process. That task force also is scheduled to give a report and recommendations to the Council in September.

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Montgomery Council’s Government Operations Committee Recommends Funding for New County Public Campaign Finance System

Committee Recommended Today That Up to $2 Million Be Available for Landmark Program

ROCKVILLE, Md., April 16, 2015—The Montgomery County Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy (GO) Committee today unanimously recommended that the full Council consider adding up to $2 million to begin funding a new Public Election Fund that will allow candidates for County Council and County Executive to qualify for partial public financing for their campaigns.

 When the Council approved Bill 16-14 in September, it was the first measure of its type for County elective offices in the Washington Region and in the State of Maryland. The plan was to have partial funding added each year to the campaign fund to prepare for the next County election, which will be in 2018. However, County Executive Isiah Leggett, who signed the bill, did not include any money for the election fund in the Fiscal Year 2016 operating budget that he presented to the Council on March 16.

The Council is now reviewing all aspects of the recommended budget and is scheduled to approve the FY16 operating budget in late May. Today, the GO Committee, which is chaired by Nancy Navarro and includes Councilmembers Sidney Katz and Hans Riemer, in its review of the Public Election Fund, recommended that up to $2 million (in four increments of $500,000 each) be placed on the “reconciliation list” of items that the Council will consider for funding as part of its budget discussions.

“Public financing is proven to get people involved in elections who otherwise would not participate,” said Committee Chair Navarro. “With the dismal voter turnout in the 2014 gubernatorial election, it is critical that we do whatever we can to increase civic participation, voter turnout and fair elections.”

Since 2001, members of the Montgomery County Council have urged the Maryland General Assembly to provide the County with the authority to adopt campaign finance reforms. In 2013, the General Assembly enacted a bill that enables counties to provide for the option of public financing for county elective offices beginning with the 2015-18 election cycle. Participation by candidates would be voluntary.

“I think it is crucial that we make a down payment to the Public Financing Fund this year to prove that we are serious about making public financing work in Montgomery County and getting big money out of our politics,” said Councilmember Riemer.

Councilmember Katz said: “I believe that it was necessary to take the initial step of placing funds on the reconciliation list in order to ensure funding for this important endeavor.”

Bill 16-14 established a Public Election Fund. To qualify for public financing, a candidate would have to:

  • File a Notice of Intent prior to collecting qualifying contributions
  • Establish a publicly funded campaign account
  • Only accept contributions from an individual of between $5 and $150
  • Refuse to accept a contribution from any group or organization, including a political action committee, a corporation, a labor organization or a State or local central action committee of a political party
  • Collect a qualifying number of contributions from County residents: 500 for County Executive candidates, 250 for at-large Council candidates and 125 for district Council candidates
  • Meet qualifying dollar thresholds of $40,000 for County Executive, $20,000 for at-large Councilmember and $10,000 for district Councilmember
  • Limits are indexed to inflation
  • Only contributions from County residents are eligible for matching funds.

The plan provides strong incentives for candidates to seek out many small individual contributors. Matching public dollars for County Executive candidates would be $6 for each dollar of the first $50 of a qualifying contribution received from a County resident, $4 for each dollar for the second $50 and $2 for each remaining dollar received up to the maximum contribution. Matching dollars for County Council candidates would be $4 for each dollar of the first $50 received from a County resident, $3 for each dollar for the second $50 and $2 for each remaining dollar received up to the maximum contribution.

The maximum limit on public funds per candidate for either the primary election or the general election will be $750,000 for a County Executive candidate, $250,000 for a Council at-large candidate and $125,000 for a district Council candidate. Matching dollars would not be distributed for self/spouse contributions or to candidates running unopposed.

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Government Operations Committee Recommends Approval of FY 2015-2020 County Fiscal Plan

Tough Decisions by the County Council Have Strengthened Recovery Effort

Tough decisions by the 17th Montgomery County Council at the height of the Great Recession are paying dividends, according to the County’s FY15-20 Fiscal Plan, approved by the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee this morning. While some other jurisdictions in the Washington Metropolitan Region continue struggling to balance their budgets – raising taxes, reducing services, and cutting teaching positions – Montgomery County is moving in the opposite direction.

The six-year fiscal plan is based on the FY 2015 budget approved by the Council May 22.  The budget fully funds the Board of Education’s request for Montgomery County Public Schools, increases the number of police officers, and provides additional support for safety net and other critical services that were cut during the recession, including libraries, parks, and transportation.  The average County homeowner will see an $18 reduction in their property tax bill. The Council also reduced the 2010 energy tax increase by 7 percent, bringing the total reduction over the last three years to 27 percent. Overall, Montgomery County’s tax burden on residents has decreased in each of the last three years.

At the same time, the budget includes reserves at historic levels – $379 million, or 8.4 percent of adjusted governmental revenues – to guard against a future downturn. The fiscal plan shows that the County is ahead of schedule in reaching its policy goal of 10 percent reserves by 2020.

“This strong fiscal plan reflects the hard decisions the Council made over the last four years to deal with the Great Recession,” said Government Operations Committee Chair Nancy Navarro.  “Those decisions have enabled the County to weather the worst fiscal conditions since the Great Depression, preserve our AAA bond rating, and slowly restore the services that mean so much to our residents.”

The Council is scheduled to vote on the plan on June 17.

For details on the fiscal plan, see http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/Resources/Files/agenda/cm/2014/140612/20140612_GO3.pdf.

Montgomery County Retains AAA Bond Rating From All 3 Rating Agencies

Montgomery County Retains AAA Bond Rating From All 3 Rating Agencies 

Council President Nancy Navarro:

Tough Choices, Smart Growth, and Long-Term Fiscal Planning Keys to Success


ROCKVILLE, Md., October 28, 2013—Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro today hailed the decision by all three bond rating agencies—Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s—to reconfirm the County’s AAA bond rating.

During the Great Recession, the Council took extraordinary steps to strengthen Montgomery County’s fiscal health. Starting in 2010, the Council approved a balanced six-year fiscal plan that ensures the County develops a long-term strategic approach to budgeting. The Council also made structural changes that have enabled Montgomery County to bounce back faster than most jurisdictions nationwide.

The AAA bond rating allows Montgomery County to issue bonds for its capital borrowing at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds.  The County’s pending issuance will refinance $295 million of bond anticipation notes and $27.7 million of long-term debt.

Montgomery County is only one of 38 counties (out of 3,140) in the nation to receive a AAA rating from all three rating agencies.

On Thursday, Oct. 17, and Friday, Oct. 18, Council President Navarro, County Executive Isiah Leggett and Council Vice President Craig Rice met with representatives from the three rating agencies in New York City.

“This decision by the rating agencies is a reflection of the hard work of this Council and the County Executive,” said Council President Navarro. “During the most challenging economic times, we developed a proactive strategy to put our fiscal house in order for the future.

“The land-use decisions the Council has made over the past few years—to invest in smart-growth opportunities and encourage redevelopment in all corners of the County—will create a strong tax base for years to come.

“Since I joined the Council, we have closed a cumulative $2.7 billion budget gap, slowed the rate of growth in expenditures and put our County on a sustainable fiscal path. As our economic recovery continues, this decision today by the rating agencies demonstrates that Montgomery County is moving in the right direction.”

Council President Navarro has chaired the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee (GO) since 2010.

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