About a dozen people in Pooleville heard from Philip M. Andrews on Monday about how he’d lead the county if elected executive.
Andrews, a county councilman of 16 years, is running for county executive in the June 24 Democratic primary against incumbent Isiah Leggett (D) and former County Executive Douglas Duncan.
The Democratic winner will face Republican Jim Shalleck in the Nov. 4 general election.
Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg talked at Poolesville Town Hall about conservative budgeting, creating an environment that promotes business and protecting the Agricultural Reserve.
Not accepting campaign funding from interest groups is also a major part of Andrews’ campaign.
Andrews has proposed a system by which the county would match funds raised by candidates if they agree to forgo donations from interest groups.
As council president in 2008 and 2009, at the beginning of the recession, Andrews said, he helped the county cut costs — such as through a county employee pay freeze that saved $125 million over two years.
“Budgets are about choices,” he said.
During his time on the council, Andrews said, he voted against tax hikes and public employee pay raises.
To support businesses, Andrews wants to cut the county energy tax rate. “It is too high and it is an inhibitor of economic development,” he said.
Andrews and Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) have proposed energy tax reductions of 7 percent for residential use and 4 percent for non-residential use in FY2014, resulting in $11.5 million dollars less in tax revenue, according to a work session packet for the council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee on May 1.
Rates vary by energy type, but in fiscal year 2014, beginning July 1, residents will be charged about 1 cent per kilowatt hour of electricity in taxes and businesses charged about 2 cents. After a major energy tax hike in 2010, the council has reduced energy tax rates over the last several years. Andrews would like to see those tax cuts hastened.
Andrews also discussed protecting the Agricultural Reserve and how residents urged him to educate other parts of the county about what the Agricultural Reserve is and why it’s an asset to the county.
Residents at the forum focused the conversation on schools, including replacing Poolesville High School on time — it is slated to get a new building in 2022 — and the question of how well county schools are preparing students for life after graduation.
The County Council approves an operating budget for county schools, but does not have control over how the money is spent, Andrews said. He encouraged residents to contact the county Board of Education.
He said he would like to expand career programs and internship and externship opportunities, especially for students who do not go to college.
Residents also were concerned about getting social services. Many felt the area is underserved because the population is less dense compared with other parts of the county. Seniors, in particular, need these services, Commissioner Valaree Dickerson said.