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MoCo Ballot Measure Opponents Get Ahead of the News

Opponents of a Montgomery County ballot measure that would make it more difficult to raise the limit on property tax revenue are poised to send out their first mailing to voters. But at least part of the message is premature.

The "No on Question B!" campaign tells voters to join a long list of opponents, including County Executive Isiah Leggett, County Council members, unions representing teachers, police and firefighters - and The Washington Post.

The trouble is, the Post has not yet weighed in on the measure, authored by anti-tax activist Robin Ficker.

Jon Gerson of the Montgomery County Education Association said the "No on Question B!" coalition had not yet sent the post card and anticipated dropping it in the mail on Friday.

"We have been carefully holding on to the copies. It's not out there," he said. "Obviously we would not drop a piece that does not have factual information."

Even so, Ficker managed to get his hands on a copy and immediately picked up on the erroneous message.

Tom Israel, also of the teachers' union, said the coalition was taking a gamble based on the Post's long history of opposing past versions of Ficker's measures and after an informal conversation with a Post editorial writer, who did not signal how the editorial board would come down on the issue.

Mystery solved. Ficker called after our original post to say that he picked up a copy of the post card at last night's debate on the issue at Page Elementary School.

In a follow-up conversation, Gerson explained that he had just learned that his group's president Bonnie Cullison had taken a few dozen post cards with her to the debate.

"Bonnie did go ahead and give them out, and that was my error," he said.

By Ann Marimow  |  October 29, 2008; 12:23 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Elections , Ann Marimow , Montgomery County  
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Come on opponents, please tell the truth for once. Your postcard was distributed by you last night at the debate on Question B at the Tamarack Triangle Citizens Association at Page Elementary. And someone has told me they got it in the mail today.

The mailing contains the same lies that were told in 2004. In 2004, opponents said that if the council had to stick to the limit in the county charter limiting property tax revenue increases that we would have to cut 1,000 teachers, 100 police and close 8 libraries. The next year the council stuck to the charter limit and ADDED 100 TEACHERS and 32 police and did not close a single library

Question B allows for a property tax increase every year---up to the CPI, not counting new construction. It also allows for an emergency override--like when the Lake Needwood Dam breaks for instance. But giving 1100 school administrators - 5.2 per school - who make over $100,000 a year for a school year of 8 1/2 months - a 30% raise over three years while we are in a recession is NOT an emergency.

No wonder Chris Core of WTOP has endorsed Question B!

Senator Obama is running ads where he says he will give 95% of American workers a tax cut. The good Senator would boo Montgomery County officials who are responsible in the past year for a 13.5% property tax increase, a 10% energy tax increase, a 20% sales tax increase, a 20% car tax increase, up to a 52.6% income tax increase, a 18% corporate tax increase, new school and transportation development taxes, the largest water bill increase in 15 years, the largest Metro fare increase in 5 years, up to a 75% increase in electricity bills, and speed camera fees all while we have $4 milk and gasoline and zeroing out 401k's heading into a recession or depression. Senator Obama knows that if he ran on the Montgomery County tax increase platform, he would not win even his home state of Illinois, let alone the Presidency.

Posted by: robinficker | October 29, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Mark D. Fennel was the Republican Nominee in the May 13 Special Election for County Council

Of course the Teacher's Union opposes Ficker's ballot question. Their 30% salary increases depend on continually jacking up property taxes. That's their job because they're a collective bargaining unit. Slamming the middle class with excessive taxes so they have to work overtime to pay their bills and come home to tired to read to their kids doesn't somehow square with education. I don't get it.

Last night at the debate, I asked, "I've lived in this county for 43 years, and went through the public school system in the 1970's. Over the past 10 years, per pupil spending has increased from $8,000 per pupil to $14,000 per pupil. How does our school system compare today to the 70's when I attended?" Guess what, no one answered my question. Because our school system has deteriorated and throwing money at problems don't make them go away. Education starts at home with parents instilling intellectual curiosity in their kids, and giving them the basic knowledge for success.


Mark D. Fennel

Posted by: mfennel1 | October 29, 2008 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Robin and Mark - way don't you just stop with the absurd comments!!
Mark- the cost per pupil has gone up becuase expenses (books, supplies, lights, heat, etc...) have gone up. The cost has gone up because the students need more - more support- more resources. Anyone with common sense would understand that. But I guess anyone who can't figure out that the reason republicans don't win council races are b/c they are out numbered 2 to 1 in MC and b/c the republican party can't nominate a person worth even considering....Fennel... wouldn't understand

Posted by: district4voter | October 29, 2008 10:36 PM | Report abuse

You know, I actually agree with you Mark and Robin, but really; don't assail the teachers here - they ARE middle class, and they'll be as affected by the charter tax limit as we are.

Posted by: reiflame1 | October 29, 2008 11:25 PM | Report abuse

This year's property tax increases, along with the many other state and local tax increases, are hurting real people in real ways. My property taxes went up 13% in a year that the value of my home plummeted.

Vote for B and show them that local homeowners are not the council's personal ATM machines.

Posted by: afpre42 | October 30, 2008 7:11 AM | Report abuse

If you like this year's property tax increase, you will love next year's. Mdeanwhile, the council merrily "forward-funds" state projects. They treat homeowners like an enemy interest group.

Posted by: jason14 | October 30, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Every county in the area is now paying the piper for shortsighted spending commitments made over the past 10+ years when the economy and the housing market were booming in a way that could never be sustained. The effect of the bubble bursting for the Counties is that they now have underfunded COUNTY mandates that are part of their 5-to-7-year budget planning cycles. Montgomery, PG, Fairfax, Howard, etc., are all facing significant services cuts and even employee furloughs as a result of the drop in recordation tax and other revenues that have not met projections for FY09 and beyond. The spending commitments that have been legislated and the cost of simply providing basic County services won't change overnight. Therefore, the Counties all are in a deficit mode right now.

That leaves three possible solutions - either drop services and lay off staff, raise more revenues through taxation (since no wealthy benefactor will likely step forward to donate the $251M for Montgomery this year), or borrow the money in the form of municipal bonds, which creates an even greater financial obligation for the Counties in the coming years. There is no way out of this that is without pain. We can thank the little piggy that partied until the storm came and built a house of straw for this state of affairs.

We have a big financial problem in MoCo now. All avenues of dealing with it should be considered. Unfortunately, as a homeowner in MoCo, I too will get hit with part of the bill for the mess that the liberal members of past Councils (some are still there today...) have created for us. That means I have less money to spend with my local County businesses, etc. Nobody wins. If we vote to limit property tax increases, the money will have to come from somewhere else, meaning other taxes. Either way, we lose.

Message to County Councilmembers - Please budget for the essentials like MCP, DFRS, MCPS (and make MCPS fully disclose their budgeting and records so we can see how much money they are wasting....are you listening Dr. Weast and Ms. Navarro...?), and transportation. Reduce or eliminate everything else that does not fit below 80% of the FY10 projected tax revenues at the existing rates. It's time to play defense.

Limiting property tax increases just changes the problem we have now, it doesn't fix anything. We'll still have to pay.

Once again, Ficker's solution is just lipstick on a pig.

Posted by: ThePragmatist | October 30, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Question B is a chance for voters to communicate that the council’s pattern of ignoring the charter’s limit on property taxes is unacceptable. A vote for it sends the message that the council must work harder to spend smarter—not an unfair expectation in that it’s something most of us are having to do these days.

Posted by: amyinsilverspring | October 30, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

When did maryland moment start holding comments for approval?

Posted by: robinficker | October 30, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

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