The organized opposition to TRIM, the tax-cutting ballot referendum in Montgomery County, yesterday denounced as "misleading" and "grossly overstated" Republican county executive candidate Richmond M. Keeney's announcement detailing the budget cuts he pleged to make if TRIM passes.
Norman Christeller, cochairman of the Fair Share coalition called Keeney's plan a "clever statement" that "directs attention away from the fact" that TRIM will mean "major reductions in services."
On Saturday, Keeney endorsed TRIM and announced a plan for implementing the $47 million in budget reductions TRIM would force on the county government.
Even without TRIM, Christeller emphasized, the citizens will face "reductions" in services because of a $21 million budget deficit that must be eliminated next year.
"Worst still," Christeller said, "he has implicitly endorsed the fallacious notion promoted by the sponsors of (TRIM) that these reductions will all be passed on as reductions in the property tax burden. Many of the expenditures he would reduce are funded by state and federal funds which will disappear with the expenditures, resulting in no reduction or very little reduction in the property tax."
TRIM, or ballot Question E, would roll back property tax rates to $2.25 per 100 assessed value - a minimum rate cut of 35 cents - and severely restrict the county council's ability to raise new taxes in the future.
Keeney's opponent, Demoratic State Sen. Charles W. Gilchrist, has steadfastly opposed TRIM, but said he would attempt to "level off" government growth.
Christellera, a former County Council member, criticized Keeney's plan for its "double, triple and quadrupel-counting" and "glaring inconsistencies."
He noted, for example, that Keeney intends to impose a hiring freeze to save $9 million and cut another $4.5 million through a 5 percent yearly attrition in employment. But, contended Chisteller, "if you don't fill the current vacancies then there won't be any turnover in those positions next year on which to save through 'attrition.'
He also contended that the $3 million Keeney said he would save by charging tution to foreign students residing in the county violates Mary-land law requiring the county to provide free public education for all residents.
Christeller said it is "fallacious" for Keeney to assume he can reduce employes travel costs by $1 million. Fewer employes will mean greater individual workloads and consequently more travel around the county for employes who drive during their jobs, he said.
Keeney has said he would make no reductions affecting the school classroom. But his $6.1 million in "systemwide reductions" in the school system, Christeller noted, includes pupil personnel workers, instructional materials, books, equipment, teacher specialists and custodial service. "Let's not fool ourselves," Christeller said.