Montgomery Democratic executive candidates debate budget issues at Silver Spring forum -- Gazette.Net


Democratic county executive candidates sparred over budgetary issues at a forum Sunday in Silver Spring.

Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg said the county government should not fund the public school system above the amount required by state funding minimums, as a way to control county spending.

Current County Executive Isiah Leggett said staying at so-called maintenance of effort for any extended period of time would be a “recipe for disaster” by lowering the quality of the county’s school system.

Former county executive Douglas M. Duncan criticized the law for providing disincentives for counties to fund more than the required amount because they’ll have to provide at least the new amount from the next year and in future years.

The Womans Democratic Club of Montgomery County hosted the forum. Republican candidate Jim Shalleck of Montgomery Village was not at the debate, and said he had not been invited to participate.

Leggett’s proposed fiscal 2015 operating budget provides funding for schools at about $26 million above the maintenance of effort level.

Leggett said he would love to see the law changed, but funding schools only at the basic level until it is wouldn’t provide the school system’s current students with the resources they need, Leggett said.

Andrews said while education is an important service that the county provides, so are libraries, fire, police and other items that get crowded out of the budget by education spending.

Duncan promised as executive to work with the county’s delegation to the General Assembly, the County Council and the school board to change the law so it rewards counties for providing increased funding.

Duncan continued his attacks on Leggett for the troubled Silver Spring Transit Center project, asking when the facility will open, what it will cost and if it will be safe.

He accused Leggett of forming a secret committee to prepare a report on the long-delayed project in downtown Silver Spring.

The comment drew a heated response from Leggett, who repeated his answer from earlier events that the facility will open when it is determined to be safe.

“All this talk about some secret commission. What are you talking about?” Leggett asked.

Andrews also reprised one of his favorite lines about the transit center, pointing out that both Duncan and Leggett have had opportunities to get the facility open as county executive and have failed to do so.

He said perhaps Duncan could get some information on when the transit center will open from the project’s general contractor Foulger-Pratt, who had done some consulting work for Duncan.

Duncan used the forum to promote his “Leadership In Action” plan.

The plan includes policy proposals on a variety of issues, including education, job creation, infrastructure and the environment.