TIME FOR VETO OVERRIDE

Question: Amend Section 208 of the county charter to provide that the County Council may override the county executive's veto of legislation only within 60 days after receiving the executive's veto message, and require the executive to return a vetoed bill to the council within three days after vetoing it.

Explanation: Currently, the council is required to deliver legislation to the executive within three days of enactment and the executive has 10 days to approve or dissapprove it. The charter does not stipulate a timetable for the executive to return vetoed legislation to the council, nor a timetable for the council to override an executive veto. The County Council is considered a continuing body and a newly elected council may act on legislation enacted by a preceding council.

The amendment would require the executive to send legislation back to the council within three days of a veto. The council would have up to 60 days to override the veto.

A vote "FOR" would assure prompt return of vetoed legislation to the council for possible further action. Montgomery County is the only one of the six Maryland counties with our form of government that does not have a time limit to override a veto. This amendment would put one into effect.

A vote "AGAINST" would leave the charter as it now is with no timetable for return of vetoed legislation to the council nor for council override.

ISSUANCE OF COUNTY DEBT

Question: Amend Section 312 of the county charter to repeal the requirement that county bonds must be repaid on a specific payment schedule.

Explanation: At present the charter stipulates that bonds must be repaid over a 30-year period in annual installments, no one of which may be less than 50 percent of any other installment.

The amendment proposes that all language regarding repayment schedule would be removed, leaving in only the requirement that bonds must be repaid within 30 years.

A vote "FOR" would enable the county to take advantage of changes in the bond market that have added new forms of debt and modified the terms under which debt is issued. The amendment would give the county flexibility to operate in today's market.

A vote "AGAINST" would retain language reflecting the form of debt and terms of repayment applicable in 1948, when the original charter was written. The county would not be able to use some of the newer debt structures.

COMPETITIVE PROCUREMENT

Question: Amend Section 314 of the county charter to authorize the County Council to provide by law for competitive procurement (rather than competitive bidding) on purchases and contracts over amounts set by law, and to require the competitive procurement of certain professional services.

Explanation: Currently, most contracts are awarded on the basis of competitive bidding in which price is the determining factor, although the low bidder must demonstrate that it is a reasonable contractor. Certain categories of professional services are customarily negotiated rather than awarded by competitive bidding.

The amendment proposes that the word "procurement" would replace "bidding" and reference to professional services would be deleted in order to give the county greater flexibility in awarding contracts.

A vote "FOR" would enable the county to use selection criteria such as experience and technical competence in addition to price in awarding contracts for certain critical goods and services.

A vote "AGAINST" would keep low bid as the primary consideration for contracted goods and services even though other considerations may be equally as important.

REPEAL OF OUTDATED PROVISIONS

Question: Amend Section 114 of the county charter to delete an outdated provision that prohibits a referendum on legislation refunding county obligations originally issued before 1948; repeal Section 3 of the schedule of transitional provisions of the county charter to delete an outdated transitional provision relating to the members and regulations of the Personnel Board.

Explanation: At present, Section 114 gives voters the right to petition county legislation to referendum. There is a list of exemptions, one of which is legislation refunding bonds originally issued prior to the adoption of the 1948 charter.

Section 3 deals with the transition from the old Personnel Board to the newly created Merit System Protection Board. It allowed members of the old Board to continue their terms as members of the new Board. It also allowed regulations governing the old board to remain in effect until there were new ones.

The amendment proposes that all mention of Personnel Board members and regulations governing it would be deleted.

A vote "FOR" would remove language no longer needed. All bonds issued before 1948 have been retired. The terms of all members of the Personnel Board sitting in 1980 have long since expired. New regulations have been adopted.

A vote "AGAINST" would retain meaningless provisions in the charter.

COMPILATION OF COUNTY CODE

Question: Amend sections 503 and 504 of the county charter to permit the annual compilation of the county code on other than a fiscal year basis; to further define the documents that must be published in the code; and to repeal the requirement that the council legalize the code every 10 years.

Explanation: Currently, Section 503 requires that as soon as practical after June 30 each year, the county attorney must pull together and publish all legislation, rules and regulations adopted or approved by the council or county executive during the previous fiscal year. Section 504 requires that at least once every 10 years, the county attorney must compile all the laws of the county, and the charter, and that the council must readopt them by legislation and see that they are published.

The amendment proposes the language tying the compilation to the fiscal year would be deleted, wording would be changed so that the council "may" legalize the code, not "shall", and reference to rules would be deleted.

A vote "FOR" would allow more flexibility in the method by which laws are codified and compiled. The council could legalize the updated county code, if for any reason they felt it necessary, but would not be required to do so. Deleting the word "rules" would make the charter reflect current practice.

A vote "AGAINST" would retain the present procedure.

APPROVAL OF BUDGET: TAX LEVIES

Question: Amend Section 305 of the county charter to: require the approval of seven council members for any real property tax levy that will produce more revenue than the previous year's real property tax levy plus an amount equal to the previous year's rate of inflation. This does not apply to revenue from certain types of property or any development district tax used to fund capital improvement projects; direct the County Council to adopt annual spending affordability guidelines, and require the approval of seven council members for any capital or operating budget that exceeds these guidelines; and clarify existing language.

Explanation: At present the executive must submit a capital and an operating budget to the council each year. The council may increase, decrease, add or delete any appropriation item in the budgets. By May 15 of each year the council must have approved the budgets and appropriated the necessary funds. It takes a vote of 6 of 9 council members (a super majority) for the operating budget to exceed the previous year's budget plus inflation. Bi-county agency budgets are excluded from this requirement. By June 15, the council must determine the tax rate needed to fund the approved budget.

The amendment proposes that each year the council would have to determine how much the County could afford to spend in the following fiscal year and adopt guidelines within this amount for the capital and operating budgets. Either budget could exceed the guidelines only if seven of nine council members (a super super majority) voted for it.

Total property tax revenue would be limited to the preceding year's level plus 100 percent of the inflation rate. There would be a number of exceptions: for new construction, for recently rezoned land, for reassessment because of a change in state law, or for a change in use. The limit would not apply to development district taxes used to fund capital projects. It would take seven of nine council votes to exceed the limit.

A vote "FOR" would make the council determine each year, before budgets were prepared, just how much the county could afford to spend in the following fiscal year. It would also limit increases in taxes on most property, but not all, to 100 percent of the rate of inflation. The spending affordability level and the amount of the tax could be exceeded, but only by a vote of seven of nine members.

A vote "AGAINST" would leave unchanged the authority the council now has to determine the total capital and operating budgets, and thus the amount that can be spent; to add, delete, increase or decrease any item in the budgets; and to set the property tax rate.

PROPERTY TAX RATE LIMIT

Question: Amend Section 305 of the county charter to allow Montgomery County to collect more revenue from real and personal property taxes than was collected for fiscal year 1988 only if the county tax rates on real and personal property do not exceed the rates set for the year 1988.

Explanation: At present the executive must submit a capital and an operating budget to the council each year. The council may increase, decrease, add or delete any appropriation item in the budgets. By May 15 of each year the council must have approved the budgets and appropriated the necessary funds. It takes a vote of 6 of 9 council members (a super majority) for the operating budget to exceed the previous year's budget plus inflation. Bicounty agency budgets are excluded from this requirement. By June 15, the council must determine the tax rate needed to fund the approved budget.

The amendment proposes that the property tax rate would be limited henceforth to no more than the rate established for fiscal year 1988, which was $3.08.

A vote "FOR" would mean that the property tax rate could never go over the 1988 level regardless of changing circumstances and needs. 1988 is the reference year because the petition drive began then.

A vote "AGAINST" would mean that the council would continue to set the tax rate each year at a level the council determines as necessary to fund the council-approved projects.

COUNTY EXPENDITURES FOR STATE PROJECTS

Question: Add Section 311C to the county charter to provide that county funds must not be expended or authorized to construct any road project, school project, or capital improvement project which state law requires the state to construct, unless state law allows otherwise.

Explanation: Currently, the state is the primary source of funds for building numbered roads in the county. State funds are distributed by formula to the counties for school construction. Montgomery County's share is supposed to average about 40 percent from the state. Several state-funded road projects have been postponed by the state and school construction money has not been available as anticipated. To relieve unacceptable conditions during the past few years, the county has used county funds to build some very badly needed roads and schools, hoping for future reimbursement from the state.

The amendment would prevent the use of county funds for any state-funded capital projects (e.g., roads, schools, jails).

A vote "FOR" would mean that the county could no longer provide needed public facilities that were planned for in both the state and county budgets if the state's share of the cost were not available. A delay by the state would mean a delay for the whole project.

A vote "AGAINST" would mean that when need is very great, the county could choose to use county funds for schools, roads and other cost-shared capital projects.

REAL PROPERTY TAX YIELDS AND OPERATING BUDGET LIMITS

Question: Amend Section 305 of the county charter to require the approval of seven council members for: Real property tax levy that will produce more revenue than the previous year's real property tax levy plus an amount equal to 75 percent of the previous year's rate of inflation. This does not apply to revenue from newly constructed property or property that has changed in use; and any aggregate operating budget for which more than 37 percent would be funded by tax levies on real and personal property (except in the first fiscal year after this amendment takes effect, the limit is 40 percent).

Explanation: At present the executive must submit a capital and an operating budget to the council each year. The council may increase, decrease, add or delete any appropriation item in the budgets. By May 15 of each year the council must have approved the budgets and appropriated the necessary funds. It takes a vote of 6 of 9 council members (a super majority) for the operating budget to exceed the previous year's budget plus inflation. Bicounty agency budgets are excluded from this requirement. By June 15, the council must determine the tax rate needed to fund the approved budget.

The amendment would cap property tax revenue at the preceding year's level plus 75 percent of the inflation rate. Property not previously assessed or property that had undergone a change in use would be exempt from the limit. The amendment would also limit total property tax revenue to no more than 37 percent of the operating budget.

A vote "FOR" would limit increases in property tax on most property to 75 percent of the inflation rate. At the same time, the amendment would reduce the amount of the operating budget derived from property taxes to below the current level, from 42 percent in fiscal year 1990 to 40 percent in the first year this amendment is in effect to 37 percent thereafter.

A vote "AGAINST" would leave in place the present system for determining property taxes, allowing circumstances and need to dictate what percent of total revenue should come from what source.

(Explanations provided by the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County)