NEWS SPLASH: The pool is saved

PHOTO: A rally to save the pool, July 16.

BY BILL BROWN

The Piney Branch Pool will not be closed.

The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a budget trimming plan July 28 that no longer includes cutting $145,000 in operating funds to Takoma Park’s Piney Branch Pool. The indoor pool is located at Piney Branch Elementary School on Maple Avenue.

The pool is locally popular. It is used by the school, community groups and residents. It offers lessons, open swimming sessions, master-class sessions and scuba and kayak lessons. Summer camps rent time there. The Montgomery Blair High School swim team practices there. Aquatic Stars holds lessons there. Piney Branch Elementary School uses the pool as part of its physical education program.

Residents organized a petition, gathering almost 500 signatures. They called and wrote letters and e-mails to the county council. They enlisted local politicians to the cause. And they held a July 16 rally at the pool where they held up a protest banner.

It was the second such effort – the second such threat – this year. Piney Branch Pool funding was saved from the chopping block during the regular spring budget process, also.

Following the intense lobbying by local residents and politicians, the council restored funding to the pool as well as other programs. Also restored were funds to provide homeless veteran’s housing and support, salary supplements for workers who help the developmentally disabled, child care, youth programming services at Wheaton High School, library materials and additional hours at two libraries, Montgomery College scholarship awards and Hyattstown and Kensington fire and rescue service operations.

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Takoma Park city councilmember Terry Seamens (in blue shirt) observes the pool, July 16. Photo by Bill Brown.

The county cut its already-passed budget because the US Supreme Court took away a revenue source in May. The court ruled that making residents residents pay full taxes on money earned and taxed in other states was illegal double-taxation.

The state does give partial credit for taxes paid in other states – but not on the portion of state income tax that goes to the counties.

So, the counties have been the hardest hit. Montgomery County felt forced to take the unusual step of re-opening it’s already-passed budget to find cuts.

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Master Swimmers Denis Borum, Anna Zelinsky and Holly Hukill (swimming) in the Piney Branch Elementary School pool in April – when the community protested the original funding cuts. Photo by Bill Brown.

Montgomery County says it is facing an estimated $150 million revenue reduction this year. Some of that is because of the court ruling. The rest is due to the county’s underestimation of how much income tax county residents would pay this year.

The budget trimming plan just passed by the county council cuts $54 million.

The county says it has an unprecedented $383 million in reserve funds – money the county holds in reserve for unforeseen or large expenses. The county says that these reserves will be needed to make up the double-taxation losses in 2017. The recent $54 million trim is meant to help the county meet those losses also. Even so, the county says further cuts may be required next year as well.

Piney Branch Pool fans should keep their protest banner handy.