ROCKVILLE, Md., December 6, 2010—Montgomery County’s 17th County will meet officially for the first time on Tuesday, Dec. 7, and will begin with election of new officers for one-year terms. The new Council, which was elected in November, was sworn in at inauguration ceremonies today at Rockville High School. The Council’s morning session will include an extensive discussion of a report that will be released at the session by the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight. The report is the second part of a report on “Achieving a Structurally Balanced Budget in Montgomery County.” Part I of the report was discussed on Nov. 23. It identified the driving forces behind the County’s continuing budget problems. Part II of the report presents options that could be considered to address the problems.
The Council’s general session will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The meeting and today’s public hearings will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and also will be available via streaming through the County Web site at www.montgomerycountymd.gov. The meeting will be rebroadcast on CCM at 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10.
The 17th Council includes returning Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Valerie Ervin, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Nancy Navarro. Craig Rice and Hans Riemer are beginning their first terms. The OLO report on “Options for Long-Term Fiscal Balance” is scheduled to be discussed at 10:30 a.m. It will include a variety of options that the Council could consider adopting to address the structural budget challenge that has led to problems in achieving a balanced operating budget in recent years and that will lead to additional problems in future years.
At 1:30 p.m., the Council will conduct six public hearings. One of the hearings concerns Expedited Bill 57-10 that involves the interest arbitration method of resolving disputes over the terms and conditions of a new collective bargaining agreement. Under current County law, the arbitrator makes an award after considering six factors, including the County’s ability to pay as one of the six. The law does not require the arbitrator to place greater weight on any one of the factors and does not require the arbitrator to consider all six of the factors. Bill 57-10, whose chief sponsor is Councilmember Valerie Ervin, would require the arbitrator to evaluate and give the highest priority to the County’s ability to pay for economic provisions before considering the other five factors.
There have been 17 impasses with County employee unions resolved by interest arbitration since 1988. Arbitrators have rules in favor of the union positions 12 times and in favor of the County position four times. In another case, the County agreed to the union position after the arbitration hearing. At 3 p.m. in the Seventh Floor Hearing Room, Bill 57-10 will be discussed by the Council’s new Government Operations and Fiscal Policy (GO) Committee. Nancy Navarro is chair of the committee, which includes Councilmembers Ervin and Hans Riemer.