House Ways and Means Committee Holds Local Aid Briefing

The House Ways and Means Committee heard from local officials and the Department of Legislative Services on February 2 during its annual local aid briefing.  Testifying for MACo were the Association’s President and Prince George’s Councilmember Ingrid Turner, Secretary and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, Queen Anne’s County Commission President Steve Arentz, and Executive Director Michael Sanderson.  The committee also heard from representatives from the Maryland Municipal League.

The Department of Legislative Services presented first, providing an overview of State Aid to Local Governments.  The lengthy document provides in-depth information of funding trends  by area of local government –  public schools, libraries, community colleges, local health, and county/municipal.  It also provided an analysis of the proposed FY 2013 budget and its effects on local governments.

Additional handouts provided by DLS, but not discussed in detail included, the Overview of Maryland Local Governments: Finances and Demographic Information and County Revenue Outlook Fiscal 2012.

MACo’s representatives discussed county finances, the teacher pension shift, school accountability, and maintenance of effort.  Panelists expressed concern with accommodating additional costs related to pensions in light of significant funding reductions and growing budgets.  They also disputed that shifting teacher pensions to the counties will incentivize locals to consider the impact of salary decisions on retirement benefits.

County governments have no control over the setting of teacher salaries, and do not even have a seat at the table to negotiate benefits and terms. This responsibility lies solely with the boards of education.  Shifting retirement costs to the county does not provide an incentive for boards of education to hold the line on salaries, any more than current law requires school budget proposals to reflect any fiscal consideration or balance.  School boards are free to negotiate and propose any budget they deem suitable, and the county is to work within the narrow confines of the state’s funding requirements and its own other service needs to arrive at a balanced budget.

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