Should Citizens Vote on the Budget?

I have appreciated the thorough and fair coverage by The Post during the past few months on Montgomery County's operating budget, in particular regarding school funding. It is my sincere wish that the next budget season will see team spirit between all parties involved, and that we won't have a school board vice president expressing a reluctance to shake hands with council members or the county executive because "the other hand {is} clamped over a gaping wound." Please note that the gaping wound constitutes almost a 9-percent budget increase.

Also, I hope Mark Simon, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, won't be taking Post reporter Zita Arocha's article or my statements out of context as he did in a letter to the editor {Letters to the Weekly, April 23}. I stand by my original comments that the voters are not eager for a dramatic tax increase -- this was based on trends and not the number of form letters addressed to the council. Shame on Mr. Simon for thinking that 481 letters mean 650,000 citizens overwhelmingly rejected budget restraints designed to minimize the tax increase.

Shame on Mr. Simon for not realizing that citizens also communicate with elected officials via mail at home, phone calls at the office and at home, and in person, individually and in meetings.

Nevertheless, union boss Simon does make his point loud and clear: he feels there is validity in budget decisions by plebiscite.

While I have never taught in a school system where voters decide school budget issues on the ballot, I am aware that the practice is widespread. For this reason, I have officially asked our county's Charter Review Commission to evaluate the merits of implementing such a system here in Montgomery County. If Mr. Simon wants citizens to vote on the budget, then it should be done objectively, scientifically and by all interested voters.

Meanwhile, since the general public does not yet vote on the budget, we expect that by having dialogue earlier in the process, all parties should be more sensitive to what the rest of the county government is coping with. Gone are the days when budget analysts operated in a vaccum, making a wish list without restraint or taking into consideration the negative ramifications to other county services. Gone, too, are the days when the county council rolled over and played dead when the board of education submitted its budget request.

Currently, we are spending $6,400 per pupil, and if this figure is to keep climbing, the council will have to know why and know many months in advance. These "get-togethers" should be informative dialogue to replace the yearly confrontations. ROSE CRENCA President, Montgomery County Council Rockville