County Residents Seek More Spending on Health Care, Other Issues
Leggett holds first budget forum at Bethesda-Chevy Chase center
County Executive Ike Leggett's first budget forum drew a crowd at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center on Monday night.
Residents’ budgetary concerns presented Monday night to County Executive Ike Leggett included a request for more funding for health care and increasing the rate at which defibrillators are bought for police cars.
And one organization, the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, told Leggett it wasn’t looking for more money for public schools, at least from the county.
About 90 people attended a budget forum hosted by Leggett at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center in Bethesda. Audience members told Leggett where they wanted Montgomery County funds to be directed for fiscal 2018, the 12-month financial year that begins July 1.
The Monday session was the first of two budget forums this month and among five that will be held before Leggett presents his proposed budget. The next will be Jan. 11 at the Eastern Montgomery Regional Services Center, 3300 Briggs Chaney Road, Silver Spring. It starts at 7 and ends at 8:30 p.m.
Some audience members wore buttons or held signs. A couple wore “Libraries Matter” buttons. Some members of UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO held signs, including ones that read “Fair Contract Now.”
County budget director Jennifer Hughes outlined the spending under the $5.3 billion fiscal 2017 budget, which includes about $2.3 billion for schools, $574 million for public safety and $388 million to pay off bonds that were issued for major construction projects.
MCCPTA President Paul Geller said his organization would not ask the county for more money for the next fiscal year, but would ask for Leggett’s help in securing more funding for county schools from Annapolis.
Steve Lieberman, chairman of the board of the Primary Care Coalition, asked Leggett to consider increasing funds for Montgomery Cares and Care for Kids, county programs that are included in about $15 million the county spends on health care for the uninsured.
“They are signs of our humanity,” Lieberman said. The coalition administers programs that increase access to health care.
Mike Mage, co-chairman of the Montgomery County chapter of the ACLU of Maryland, urged Leggett to budget for more automatic electronic defibrillators (AEDs) to be placed in county police cars.
Mage said the AEDs ultimately save the county money from settlements in lawsuits. County police have had to pay out settlements to families of individuals who died after being shot with stun guns, Mage said. With the AEDs, the police would be able to render aid immediately instead of waiting for paramedics to arrive, he said.
Mage said at the county’s current rate of purchase, 20 years would pass before every police care had an AED.
Leggett disagreed it would take 20 years and that there was a link between an individual’s death after the use of a stun gun and the police failing to have an AED in a cruiser.
Other individuals called for the county to spend more money on a range of services including finding homes for homeless seniors and assisting domestic violence victims.
One man objected to the money the county spends on Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard, particularly her salary and a luggage allowance. Because the college is overseen by a board of trustees, Leggett suggested the man take his questions to them.
Two men in the audience pressed Leggett to sign proposed legislation under consideration by the County Council that would increase the county’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Leggett said the council hadn’t completed its work on the bill, so he wouldn’t say whether he would sign it or not.