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CHALLENGING TRENDS

We’re incredibly fortunate to live in Montgomery County. It's home to some of the most talented people and diverse communities in the country and has always been a wonderful place to live and raise a family.

But I’m concerned our county is not as dynamic, affordable, and sustainable as it should be. We should be taking advantage of our tremendous resources to create the best schools in the country, attract quality career opportunities for everybody, and have a quality of life second to none. We don’t have to settle anymore. We can raise the bar. We can do better.

 

That's why I’m running for Montgomery County Executive. Over the course of our campaign, I’ll be detailing more about my vision for how we'll reverse these trends and take on the challenges that are holding Montgomery County back:

REVERSE LAGGING JOB AND BUSINESS GROWTH

 

With our highly-educated population and proximity to major federal institutions, Montgomery County should be leading the region in job creation and a destination for new businesses. Instead, we're lagging behind.


Why we must do better: Our residents deserve access to quality jobs and career opportunities right here in Montgomery County. The annual county revenue impact of the county’s economic underperformance is $37 million, according to a June 2021 report from Harpswell Strategies. That total is about the cost of the county’s library system. From 2007-2019, the cumulative revenue impact is between $250 million and $275 million, about the cost of two new high schools.

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Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Montgomery County lost more than 20,000 jobs from 2007 to 2020 while the rest of the region added more than 90,000 jobs.

 

That’s a four-percent decline in the number of jobs in Montgomery County. In the same timeframe, the region’s overall job base grew by three percent. Four large jurisdictions in the region – Loudoun, Prince William, Arlington and Howard counties – each grew by at least 10 percent and 14,000 jobs:

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Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of business establishments in Montgomery County has decreased. Montgomery County lost 669 business establishments between 2007 and 2020 while the region gained almost 25,000 establishments. Four large jurisdictions in the region – the District of Columbia and Loudoun, Fairfax, and Prince William counties – added more than 2,000 establishments each:

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Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

INVEST IN EDUCATION AND SCHOOLS

 

County funding per-pupil has slipped and school capacity issues continue. In 2007, three MCPS high schools were ranked among the top 100 high schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report. In 2021, no MCPS high schools were ranked in the top 100.


Why we must do better: Ensuring 100 percent of MCPS students are college- or career-ready is a moral and economic imperative. All of our young people and their families deserve access to high-quality education and our public school system is our most important asset.

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Sources: Montgomery County Council, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. County appropriation per pupil adjusted for inflation and expressed in 2021 dollars.

County funding for MCPS per pupil has decreased, even when adjusting past-year county MCPS appropriations for inflation. In fiscal year 2021, the county appropriation for MCPS was $10,922 per pupil, less than the high of $13,825 in fiscal year 2009 and $11,045 in fiscal year 2001.

Since fiscal year 2009, the county’s local appropriation to MCPS has grown by 16 percent. Its spending on all other county agencies has increased by 40 percent.

Meanwhile, the county has not been able to keep up with school capacity needs, with 453 relocatable classrooms needed for MCPS this year:

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Source: MCPS.

MAKE MONTGOMERY COUNTY AFFORDABLE

 

It has become increasingly expensive to buy or rent a home in Montgomery County. This is because not enough new housing units are being built to keep up with increasing demand. The county has grown by an average of 9,000 residents a year since 2010, according to U.S. Census data, while creating only around 2,700 new housing units a year, according to the Montgomery County Planning Department. This makes it more expensive for residents to remain in our county and limits new people from joining our communities, preventing us from being as dynamic and vibrant as we should be.


Why we must do better: Our community should be a welcoming one, where young people can afford to live, settle down, and raise a family. Retired residents should be able to afford to stay in the communities where they have contributed so much.

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Sources: 1990-2010 Census, 2019 American Community Survey, 1-year estimates, U.S. Census Bureau. Montgomery County Planning Department.

The home ownership rate among those 35 and younger in Montgomery County has dropped from 46 percent in 1990 to 30.1 percent in 2019. The rates have also declined from 70 percent to 55 percent for those age 35 to 44 and from 79.9 percent to 68.7 percent for those age 45 to 54.

 

Renting has become more expensive, with advertised rents growing by 50 percent to $1.80 per square foot between 2000 and 2017, according to the Montgomery County Planning Department. The median gross rent in Montgomery County has grown from $1,479 per month in 2005 to $1,788 in 2019, according to the Census, a 21-percent increase.


Meanwhile, more than 15 percent of older adult households in the county are severely cost burdened, meaning they spend more than half of their monthly incomes on housing costs. The rate of severely cost burdened increases with age - 20.9 percent for residents age 75 to 84 and 27.4 percent for residents age 85 and older.

PRACTICE FISCAL SUSTAINABLITY

 

Montgomery County raised property taxes and the recordation tax in 2016, has maxed out on the income tax, its energy tax is one of the highest in the region and its fees are second-highest in Maryland, trailing only Baltimore City. In 2021, the county used one-time federal government COVID relief funding to support increasing its budget by 2.3 percent despite just 0.8-percent growth in its tax revenues.


Why we must do better: This is unsustainable. In order to be able to afford the critical services we must provide to support the most vulnerable in our community, as well as the core government services we all expect and deserve, Montgomery County must be fiscally responsible, efficient, and understanding of the high cost of living we already face.

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Source: Montgomery County budgets, Excludes intergovernmental aid.

Annual growth in county government revenue, excluding state and federal aid, has averaged 2.4 percent per year since 2010, compared to 6.1 percent growth from 1998 to 2009 - even with two property tax increases and increases of the energy and recordation taxes.

This impacts all of us in real ways. Over the last four years, the county has had to cut its capital budget by 13 percent, meaning much-needed school and transportation  infrastructure has been delayed or completely taken out of the county’s six-year capital plan.

Meanwhile, Montgomery County regularly increases fees every year - such as the stormwater fee, parking rates, and the solid waste charge for recycling and trash collection. According to the State of Maryland, Montgomery County’s $872 in annual fees per capita are the second-highest behind Baltimore City:

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Source: Maryland Department of Legislative Services.

Debt service - the paying back of financing for past capital expenditures - has increased, applying more pressure to the county’s ability to fund our needs amid stagnant revenue growth.

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Source: Montgomery County comprehensive annual reports.

Montgomery County’s outstanding debt has nearly quadrupled since 1997 and now stands at $4.3 billion. In 2020, the debt totaled $4,044 for every resident. Every dollar of this must be repaid.

As a result, the county’s debt service contribution in its annual budgets has spiked to $449 million this year, up from $140 million in 1997. Montgomery County now spends more on debt service than it does on housing, recreation, technology services, libraries, permitting, environmental protection, building maintenance, the sheriff’s office, the state’s attorney’s office, finance, utilities, the Circuit Court, and the County Council combined:

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Source: Montgomery County comprehensive annual reports.

FOCUS ON CORE GOVERNMENT SERVICES

 

Street paving, sidewalk and tree maintenance, trash and recycling pick-up, and stormwater drain upkeep are some of the core government services that we all expect and deserve our county government to address, and to do well. Unfortunately, we have fallen behind.


Why we must do better: All residents deserve well-maintained schools, infrastructure, parks, and public facilities. This is an issue central to our quality of life and to proving the value of the county government that we all contribute to. We must be able to do the “small things” right if we want to successfully take on the major challenges before us.

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Source: The Eighth Report of the Montgomery County Infrastructure Maintenance Task Force.

In 2020, the Montgomery County Infrastructure Maintenance Task Force determined how much money should be budgeted annually to replace or fix key types of county infrastructure so that all of that infrastructure would last for its expected life span. This “Acceptable Annual Replacement Cost” compared to the actual funding in most years shows startling gaps that help to explain deteriorating roads, sidewalks, HVAC systems, storm drains and more.

 

The Task Force found the county would need to spend $49 million a year in road resurfacing, permanent patching, and road rehabilitation to successfully maintain all 4,324 lane-miles of neighborhood and rural roads it's responsible for. The county typically spends about $20 million a year for these efforts. 

 

Street Tree maintenance requires $18 million a year. The county is spending $2.2 million. Storm drains require $4 million a year to ensure all continue to work properly to prevent street flooding. The county is spending $1.2 million a year.

This pattern has led to significant wait times and backlogs to take care of this critical infrastructure in neighborhoods throughout Montgomery County - a $737 million backlog for residential and rural roads, a $233 million backlog in curb and gutter repairs, $187 million backlog in street tree pruning, and $82 million backlog in sidewalk repairs.