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Rosenwald, Md.
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Posted at 11:53 AM ET, 11/16/2011

A deep dive into Gaithersburg’s surprising finances

My colleague Victor Zapana — a young, talented reporter — has my favorite story in this morning’s paper: a look at how the city of Gaithersburg is living debt-free. And not just recently either. For four decades!

I can’t think of a single person or entity I’m familiar with that doesn’t have some sort of debt. I am typically reminded of my own debts after emptying my mailbox.

What’s so striking about Victor’s story is how easy it all sounds. Just
The Gaithersburg Labor Day parade. (James M Thresher - TWP)
don’t spend what you don’t have! I went Googling around for more insight into how Gaithersburg perfected this fiscal miracle, and I turned up the city’s annual report, which makes for fascinating reading.

There are lots of tables and charts -- just like the annual financial report of a company -- and then there is this sentence, right in black-and-white, near a chart looking at the city’s lack of debt: “The City of Gaithersburg is a strong proponent of the “pay-as-you-go” methodology, and proud of the fact that the City has no outstanding debt obligations.”

There are lots of interesting tidbits in the report. In a time when many cities -- and the federal government -- are cutting back on special programs and events, Gaithersburg is adding events that improve the quality of life in the city. Just recently, according to the report, Gaithersburg launched a book festival.

The key sentence in the report about the festival is this: “Significant efforts to recruit sponsors and partners have helped keep the City’s financial investment in the program to a minimum.”

The folks in Gaithersburg sure are good penny pinchers. Now, about Washington...Oh, never mind.

By  |  11:53 AM ET, 11/16/2011

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