Monday, March 24, 2014

Public Safety Update

Below is a crime update from Captain David Falcinelli, Commander of the 2nd Police District serving the communities of Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, North Bethesda, and Potomac.

While we continue to be fortunate in the 2nd District and the County with generally decreasing crime rates, the past year has had some significant events which I wanted to bring to your attention, as many closures have been made.

On November 25, 2013, homeowners behind the Wildwood Shopping Center were victims of an armed home invasion. Videos of the suspects were obtained at a nearby business immediately after the event and shared with the public soon after. One of two suspects was identified as Gary J. Lee Thomas of Upper Marlboro. Detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest and he was recently arrested in D.C. on an unrelated charge. He will be transported to Montgomery County for service of that warrant after his release from DC custody. The second suspect is still unknown.

On March 13, 2014, a resident of Chevy Chase had her car taken at gunpoint. Two days later, this car was involved in a pursuit by U.S. Park Police officers in DC where shots were fired. One of these occupants, David Joel Sutton of DC, was determined to be responsible for the original carjacking and warrants are now on file for him which will be served upon his release from US Park Police custody.

Just last week, two suspects broke into a residence in Chevy Chase. After police were alerted, the suspects were spotted nearby and one was arrested after a lengthy foot pursuit. The suspect that was captured has been identified as Michael Keith Muschette of DC. The investigation into the identification of the second suspect is continuing.

All of these suspects live outside of Montgomery County but chose to commit their crimes here. I cannot stress enough that you know your neighbors and your neighborhoods better than anyone else, and you must be our eyes and our ears. If you see someone not familiar to your neighborhood acting in a suspicious manner, please make note of a description of the person and/or any associated vehicle and call our non-emergency number 301-279-8000. Your phone call may help us prevent a crime from occurring and/or discourage these criminals from coming back to Montgomery County. As we move into Spring and hopefully warmer temperatures, there will most likely be more criminal activity especially with suspects breaking into cars.  Call us immediately and we will respond as soon as possible to investigate. Please remember to lock your cars and remove any items of value or those that appear to be of value (such as a laptop case).  Do not leave spare keys on or inside your vehicles.

On a traffic safety note, officers from the 2nd District are conducting aggressive enforcement of cell phone and texting laws. Traffic officers issued 31 tickets in under one hour today and will continue to do enforcement operations to make our roads safer. One crash on a major artery during rush hour makes life miserable for the rest of us using that road. Is that text or call really that important to risk your life and the lives of other drivers? Remember – it is against the law for a driver to use their hands to use a handheld telephone while the motor vehicle is in motion. HANDS FREE AT ALL TIMES WHEN THE CAR IS IN MOTION. Contrary to popular belief, holding a phone in your hand and using the speakerphone is a violation if the car is in motion. READING/WRITING/SENDING texts or other electronic messages is against the law while the car is in the travelled portion of the roadway regardless of whether it is in motion or stopped. Please share this information with your children as I will be asking officers to step up enforcement operations near our schools also.

Thanks for doing your part to keep our neighborhoods, roads and families safe. Please call me if you have any concerns.

Captain David Falcinelli
Commander – 2nd District

Monday, March 17, 2014

Leggett Budget Boosts Schools, More Police, Job Creation, No Prop. Tax Increase

Leggett’s FY15 Budget Boosts School Funding to Record Levels, Puts More Police Officers on the Beat and Expands Job Creation Efforts; Focuses on Seniors and Youth and Reduces Property Tax Rate

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today announced his recommended $4.97 billion operating budget for fiscal year (FY) 2015, that begins July 1, and includes a tax-supported County government budget of $1.478 billion. The budget funds education beyond what is required by the State Maintenance of Effort Level law to meet future needs created by the skyrocketing number of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students, puts more police on the beat and reduces the County’s property tax rate.

“This operating budget devotes record spending to MCPS,” said Leggett. “As a teacher, a grandparent with kids in our public schools and one for whom education was the ticket out of abject poverty, there is nothing more important than a good, quality education. That is why this operating budget provides an unprecedented County contribution of $1.5 billion for MCPS, 99.3 percent of the Board of Education’s request and $26 million over the State-required Maintenance of Effort level. I am adding at least $11 million in the existing MCPS fund balance to this total to raise the increase to $37 million. For Montgomery College, I am recommending a County contribution of $110.6 million, an 11 percent increase over last year and $11 million over Maintenance of Effort.”

Leggett’s budget adds 23 more Police officers and expands Positive Youth Development programs, services critical to the growing senior population and funding for life sciences and cybersecurity.

“My commitment to prudent fiscal policies has restored the County’s economic health, allowing us to focus current available revenue on the priorities that are so essential to the needs of our growing community,” said Leggett. “My recommended budget increases resources for business growth and job creation, public safety, health and human services, libraries and other services that are so important to maintaining our strength and further enhancing our future quality of life.”

The budget includes:

A total of $4,970,806,004 for Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College, County Government and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC);

Recommended tax-supported expenditures of $4,335,880,302;

Holding the line on property taxes at the Charter limit with a drop in the property tax rate from $1.01 per $100 of assessed value to 99.6 cents so that the average homeowner will pay $17 less this year;

A property tax credit of $692 for each owner-occupied residence to limit the burden on homeowners;

Reductions in all County taxes, as a share of personal income, from an average of 4.41 percent in FY07 to a projected 4.0 percent in FY15 – a 10 percent decrease;

Full funding of the County’s Retiree Health Benefits at $105.1 million;

A 5.2 percent increase in tax-supported funding for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission;

County financial reserves at the policy level of $379.9 million, the highest in the County’s history;

PAYGO in the Capital Improvements Program at 10 percent of current revenue to match bond funding in the capital budget, consistent with fiscal policy;

No increase in the Water Quality Protection Charge or solid waste charges for County residents; and

A Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission budget that would increase water and sewer rates by six percent in FY15 in accordance with the Commission’s recently approved budget.

“During my administration, all County taxes, as a share of personal income, have gone down by 10 percent, from an average of 4.41 percent in FY07 to a projected 4.0 percent in FY15,” said Leggett.

Below are budget highlights:


The budget increases County spending for Leggett’s priorities, with education at the top of the list. To meet the challenge of skyrocketing school enrollments, Leggett’s FY15 recommended operating budget includes a record-high of $2.164 billion for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), an increase of $79.8 million – or 3.8 percent. The unprecedented County contribution is $1.502 billion, $26 million over the Maintenance of Effort requirement of the State of Maryland and 99.3 percent of the Board of Education request – a 3.8 percent increase.

The recommendation for Montgomery College totals $237.3 million, an $8.9 million increase of 3.9 percent. The County contribution is $110.6 million, which is $11 million over Maintenance of Effort and an 11 percent increase over last year.

The budget also increases English adult literacy programs by 10 percent.

Public Safety

Leggett’s approach to public safety continues to show results, with a nine percent decrease in total crime from 2012 to 2013, part of a seven-year trend that reduced serious crime by 33 percent and all crimes by 26 percent. For the Police Department, Leggett proposed a five percent, $11 million increase that will add 23 sworn officers and two forensic scientists, and double the number of School Resource Officers assigned to County high schools. This expansion is part of Leggett’s multi-year plan to add 120 new officers and 23 Police civilian employees -- for a total of 143. The recommended budget adds a Wheaton patrol unit and a Germantown Central Business District unit.

The Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service (MCFRS), career and volunteer, continue to make substantial improvements in protecting the lives and property of County residents, significantly reducing, in the last seven years, both ambulance and fire response times in all parts of the County. Civilian fire deaths have fallen from 13 in 2009 to two in 2012 and three in 2013. Because most of those fatalities were older residents, Leggett’s budget strengthens ongoing outreach to seniors who are most at risk for fire deaths. In total, he is recommending $224.3 million for the Fire and Rescue Services, an increase of 3.4 percent.

Economic Development

Leggett has made creating Montgomery County’s jobs of the future one of his top priorities and over the past two years of economic recovery, Montgomery County jobs are up three percent. His FY15 recommended operating budget includes funding to repurpose the William Hanna Innovation Center to become the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. It increases Life Sciences and Incubator support by $400,000 and increases by $500,000 County funding for BioHealth Innovation, the public-private partnership to enhance the commercialization of critical research conducted in the County. This budget also increases County support for the successful Local Small Business Reserve Program and for the American Film Institute.

Under Leggett’s administration, Montgomery County was the first local jurisdiction in the nation to establish a Biotech Tax Credit that provides incentives for investment in biotech firms. This year the program provided $500,000 to eligible companies. A new local Cybersecurity Tax Credit is designed to similarly stimulate investments in County-based firms, and Leggett’s budget proposal includes $500,000 for incentives in FY15.


To restore some of the deepest cuts made during the recession, Leggett began rebuilding the Department of Public Libraries budget over the last two years by restoring some hours, materials and staffing. Two renovated libraries in Gaithersburg and Olney were reopened and, this fall, the new Silver Spring Library will open.

The FY15 recommended budget includes $37.2 million, a 6.7 percent increase from FY14 and a 30 percent increase since FY12. The budget increases hours by five percent at the following 11 branches: Davis, Marilyn J. Praisner, Potomac, Aspen Hill, Chevy Chase, Damascus, White Oak, Kensington Park, Little Falls, Long Branch and Twinbrook.

Positive Youth Development

From 2007 to 2012, Leggett’s Positive Youth Development Initiative has helped reduce gang-related crimes by almost 50 percent by providing positive after-school opportunities for at-risk youth, intervention to keep young people out of gangs and resources to prevent and stop gang activity. Leggett’s budget proposes adding to the Watkins Mill Cluster an ‘Excel Beyond the Bell’ middle school and a High School Sports Academy. For the successful Linkages to Learning program that addresses the comprehensive needs of at-risk students and their families, the budget adds a site at South Lake Elementary School in the Kennedy Cluster and expands the program to the Watkins Mill Cluster.

Senior Initiatives

In addition to more resources dedicated to senior fire safety, Leggett’s budget further expands his commitment to make Montgomery County a “community for a lifetime” by restoring operating hours reduced during the economic crisis at three County senior centers. Also included are increases for adult protective services, adult foster and day care, a senior ombudsman and caregiving services. Modifications to the Call ‘N’ Ride program income eligibility guidelines will expand the program to an additional 900 residents. Funding for Ride On’s Kids and Seniors Ride Free programs are also recommended to increase.

Affordable Housing

Leggett’s recommended budget brings the County’s total investment in affordable housing during the last eight years to more than $320 million, creating, acquiring or preserving more than 9,000 units of affordable housing in the County and leveraging a $1 billion investment in housing development and rehabilitation.

This year’s proposal increases the general fund contribution to the Housing Initiative Fund by 10 percent over last year’s level. Resources were also provided for direct rental assistance to 1,925 households in FY14 and 2,069 in FY15, an increase of 7.5 percent. Funding in this budget continues workshops and individual counseling efforts to reduce foreclosures.

Health and Human Services

Leggett believes that the level of care for a community’s most vulnerable residents is the best indicator of the quality of that community. Significant additional resources are provided in the FY15 recommended budget for a variety of public health, behavioral health and other critical safety net services. These include replacing federal shortfalls in the community services block and emergency solutions grants; greater funding for the developmental disability supplement and nurse monitoring services for more than 2,000 senior and disabled clients; raising the adult foster care reimbursement rate; adding funds for adult protective services, adult day care, caregiver support, the long-term care ombudsman program, abused persons program and behavioral health programs; and greater funding to increase collaboration to close the academic achievement gap, serve at-risk students and enhance welcome centers.

Community Grants

To meet the challenges of a growing and more diverse population, Leggett believes that a County government partnership with community organizations is vital in leveraging resources and strengthening outreach. In the FY15 budget, Leggett is recommending an increase in community grants of $975,000, for a total of $5.9 million, which includes $1.6 million for Council community grants.

The full budget and highlights are available on the County’s website at: County Executive's Recommended Operating Budget for FY15.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Board requests funding for libraries, regional centers, & school resource officers.

The following is text of a February 28 letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett from the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board regarding the FY 15 County Operating Budget.

Dear Mr. Leggett: 

Thank you for this opportunity to present the views of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board (WMCCAB) in advance of the release of your recommended operating budget for fiscal year 2015 (FY2015).  We particularly appreciate you coming to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (BCCRSC) on January 13th to hear from the WMCCAB and members of the community regarding our budget priorities. 

The County is beginning to emerge from a difficult time in which our elected leaders have had to close a series of budget gaps caused, largely, by the troubled economic landscape.  This year’s estimated budget gap will be smaller than those of the past few years, but challenges remain as the needs are still great in many areas.  While we believe our government needs to be adequately staffed and support our public workforce, we urge caution and careful consideration as positions are added and as programs are restored to pre-recession levels.  The County does not want to inadvertently find itself in a situation in future years where it must eliminate positions or curtail services once again. 

We continue to encourage the County to look for more opportunities for existing programs to achieve greater efficiency and savings through shared investments by multiple agencies.  A multi-agency task force could be convened to identify such opportunities.  Other opportunities may exist within annual maintenance programs.  For example, the County Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection could look for opportunities to incorporate green infrastructure into annual street resurfacing and maintenance efforts.  Other communities have demonstrated that strategic investments in innovative green infrastructure techniques can produce improved water quality, pedestrian safety and neighborhood character within the existing budgets of current programs.         

Based on input from the community, the WMCCAB would also like to highlight the following specific issues that are important to the business, non-profit and residential communities within the area we represent.  We recognize the extraordinary challenge of balancing so many competing priorities. 

Public Libraries:   

We join you in celebrating the renovation of two libraries.  Further, we applaud your determination to continue to restore library funding, which is still below 2008 levels.  Increased operating funds are still required for (1) book purchases and (2) additional library hours.  Book purchases require new funding in two formats: while the circulation of traditional books has not diminished, e-book demand has skyrocketed.  Our libraries need the funds to meet these demands.   We also regularly hear requests for additional library hours for evenings and weekends.  Particularly in urbanized areas of the County, evening library hours can play a role in the “Nighttime Economy” and can allow for more use of library meeting rooms, etc.

Regional Services Centers (RSCs): 

The RSCs perform a valuable local governance service and must be maintained and strengthened in future operating budgets.  For many County residents, the RSCs are their connection to County government and the proof that government is available to them and responsive to their concerns.  The BCCRSC has been instrumental in coordinating public dialogue on the ongoing Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan and White Flint urban services; assisting emerging Senior Villages; and increasing educational and non-profit services for the public at the RSC.  Without adequate administrative support on site at the RSCs, time that RSC directors would otherwise spend on engaging with the community is spent on administrative tasks like building management and scheduling.  This “penny wise, pound foolish” approach limits the work that RSCs can do, a problem recently highlighted by the 2014 Committee Evaluation and Review Board recommendations.

School Resource Officers (SROs):  

WMCCAB has long advocated for the SRO program and it has become only more vital with the prevalence of school shootings nationwide.  We are pleased that you are considering a funding increase for this program and that funding was increased last year. The program has been effective in promoting safety and positive community relations at the high school level.  For the SRO program to work, the officer must have adequate time to focus on a school and become a trusted figure there.  This cannot happen if a single officer is responsible for numerous schools with thousands of students. 

Other Services:

We heard from the audience and from our membership at the January 13th meeting regarding the importance of senior services, services for the disabled, and Ride-On. All deserve your continued support. We also once again urge funding for the Planning Department as they take up planning efforts that impact western Montgomery County, including the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan, White Flint 2 Sector Plan, and a new Westbard Sector Plan.

We appreciate your consideration of these points as you craft your FY2015 budget request.  Thank you again for addressing WMCCAB and the community at our January 13th meeting. 


Jad Donohoe, Chair