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Berliner says “NO” to cuts in education while Leggett mulls options

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MoCo LogoROCKVILLE — No program is safe from cuts as the County seeks to mitigate the effects of a projected budget shortfall next fiscal year, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said.

Last week Leggett announced that the County officials were anticipating a large unexpected budget shortfall, and asked that each County agency consider cutting two percent of their budget.

The sudden shortfall caught County finance analysts and council members by surprise as they based their $5.4 billion budget for the fiscal year 2018 off of much greater revenue projections.

"For me, everything is on the table, and you try to work through the particular details," Leggett said of the coming budget cuts.

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In The Hole

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County scrambles to find a solution to unforeseen budget shortfall

MoCo LogoROCKVILLE — Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett directed County departments to make two percent cuts after the discovery of a $120 million budget shortfall.

The cuts are meant to make up for $95 million in projected income tax receipts that won’t be collected for the current fiscal year, combined with last year’s budget shortfall of $20 million, the total comes to roughly $120 million missing from the County’s budget, which Leggett noted is an unusual occurrence considering that the decrease in tax revenue comes as Montgomery County’s unemployment rate has simultaneously decreased.

“The traditional wisdom is when you have higher employment and a larger tax base you don’t normally see those kinds of shifts,” Leggett said. “What we’re doing is analyzing why you have a shortfall in the income tax.”

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“Fight for $15”

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Leggett signs county's new minimum wage law

4K5A4484County Executive Ike Leggett signs the new minimum wage law, flanked by Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner, CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres and County Council member Marc Elrich with fellow County Council members and other supporters. PHOTO BY GLYNIS KAZANJIAN  The lengthy debate and amendment process leading to passage of Montgomery County’s new minimum wage ordinance should be an example for other Maryland jurisdictions looking to increase their own minimum wage rates, County Executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett said during a bill-signing ceremony on Monday.

“It establishes a foundation for the rest of Maryland and how we go forward,” he said during the ceremony, which was hosted by CASA de Maryland, an advocacy group that supports immigrants in job training and other services.

Leggett signed the bill while surrounded by supporters of the “Fight for $15” movement, representatives from labor unions, and various progressive groups as well as eight of the nine council members who passed the legislation.

Leggett’s spokesman, Patrick Lacefield, said that laborers and restaurant workers will benefit most from the new law because they lack collective bargaining representation.

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Elrich spearheads County’s minimum wage increase

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20171107 121455Marc Elrich stands with fellow Council members and community leaders in announcing the passing of the minimum wage increase legislation. PHOTO BY NEAL EARLEY  ROCKVILLE – The minimum wage in Montgomery County Council will soon begin a slow rise from its current level of $11.50 per hour to an eventual $15 an hour, ending a year filled with debate, endless amendments and compromise upon compromise among members of the Montgomery County Council, which voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve Bill 18-27.

The bill now heads to the desk of County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who in January vetoed a prior attempt by the Council to pass a minimum wage bill, but said in a statement Tuesday that he plans on signing the revised legislation.

“Based on the changes from the original bill, what the County Council approved today is close enough to the conditions I laid down for my support that I will sign the measure into law,” Leggett said.

Incremental change is the centerpiece of the bill, which will require employers to incrementally increase their minimum wage to $15 per hour over the course of the next six years.

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People are “Upset!”

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County examines council representation to add diversity

MoCo LogoA County commission chairperson has tasked the Montgomery County Charter Review Commission with changing the composition of the County’s nine Council districts after residents said they believe they are under-represented by At-Large Council members.

Montgomery County Charter Review Commission chairperson Paul Bessel said reducing or eliminating the at-large Council seats is among the options the commission is considering.

The chief complaint is that too many At-Large Council members live in one area, the City of Takoma Park, which is located in the south-eastern region of the County. Takoma Park borders Washington, D.C. and Prince George's County.

Bessel said people who primarily live in Gaithersburg, Germantown and Clarksburg - the fastest growing area in Montgomery County – said they believe their region of the County is not represented by at-large members.

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Soccer 4 Change provides a safe haven for vulnerable teens

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The happy chatter, mostly in Spanish, and the brightly-colored shirts mask the turmoil reeling within the 300 high school students who participate in Soccer 4 Change, Montgomery County Department of Recreation’s program for vulnerable young people.

The participants, who are touched by a world of drugs and violence, are learning “the value of teamwork, the value of working together and the value of setting goals,” said County Recreation Director Gabe Albornoz. “We are seeing kids that are engaged, coming out of their shells.”

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Dexter Manley joins MoCo officials at Gburg drug awareness event

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dexter manleyDexter Manley joined County officials in speaking at the drug awareness event Save A Life Montgomery at Covenant Life Church. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK  GAITHERSBURG — Dexter Manley did not come to Save A Life Montgomery to talk about all the quarterbacks he sacked or his two Super Bowl rings.

Instead, the former Washington Redskins defensive end once nicknamed “Secretary of Defense” spoke to parents and young people gathered at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg to speak about his personal story of drug abuse, 38 stays in rehab, and his shame at entering college “functionally illiterate.”

Speakers from the County’s police, schools and government, as well as the offices of the State’s Attorney’s and the governor were featured during a four-hour event highlighting the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, and how it can crush a person’s dreams.

“In Maryland, right now, we are losing an average of six lives a day,” Clay Stamp, Gov. Larry Hogan’s emergency management advisor, told the audience. “We have to raise the conversation. I meet with people every day who lost a loved one.”

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MoCo launches new suicide and drug abuse prevention campaign - ‘BTheOne’

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BTheOnePosters at bus shelters, public service announcements and a website marked the County’s new campaign to curb teen suicide and drug abuse.

The public education campaign, entitled “BTheOne,” launched Oct. 19.

“Suicide and substance abuse are not the answer,” County Executive Ike Leggett said during the brief opening event. “Far too many teens believe it is, and the results are tragic.”

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County youth coordinator shows the way out of gangs

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Perhaps few know the County gang problems better than Luis Cardona.

Twenty-six years ago, the now Youth Street Outreach coordinator for Montgomery County was lying down in a parking lot covered in his own blood with five bullet wounds in the chest, back and arms, where he prayed to God for forgiveness.

Cardona said doctors at District of Columbia General Hospital told him it was a “miracle” he survived. The shooting was a target assignation for Cardona, who at the time was a member of the Latin Kings gang, and he made the mistake of beating up a rival gang member after a night of drinking.

“Gang life is a long-term way of committing suicide,” Cardona said.

It was not the first time Cardona had been shot, and was one in a series of events that led to Cardona’s gradual shift away from gang life. Cardona, 50, survived and made his way out of gang life to become one of Montgomery County’s leading voices for change. Cardona, a former gang member, now spends trying to steer kids from going down the path he took when he was young.

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County will not pay for flawed study

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Montgomery County won’t be paying the bill on the faulty study it commissioned on the minimum wage legislation.

After an executive from PFM Consulting admitted his firm made a mathematical error in a County-commissioned study which altered the estimated results of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, County Executive Ike Leggett decided not to pay him for the costs.

“This was not well done and not worthy of the work that they do,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-1).

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