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Supporters, Foes Focus on MoCo Tax Amendment

Montgomery County voters will be asked Nov. 4 to decide whether to amend the county's charter to make it more difficult for the nine-member council to exceed the limit on property tax revenue. Real estate broker Robin Ficker's proposal would increase from seven to nine the number of votes required to surpass the cap that ties increases to roughly the rate of inflation.

Here is Ann E. Marimow's coverage.

By Anne Bartlett  |  October 6, 2008; 9:05 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Marimow , Montgomery County  
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A few weeks ago, I challenged Council President Mike Knapp to a debate on Question B. He has voted four times to exceed the charter property tax limit---in FY2003, FY2004, FY2005 and this year by $118 million, or more than all the years since 1990 put together. He hasn't even given me the courtesy of a reply.

So let me extend that challenge to the other members of the council. Is there any member of the council who accepts my challenge to debate Question B on property taxes? This year we got a 14% increase and next year with the so-called "deficits" in ever larger county and state budgets you are planning to give us a 15% to 20% increase in property tax bills.

I am sure that the scaredy cats on the council will be too afraid to accept this challenge. No they are busy lining up hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to put out untrue statements about Question B just as they did in 2004.

In they 2004 they mailed a statement to every home that limiting property tax increases (not property taxes, property tax increases---the charter limit allows for increases up to the CPI) would cause the loss of 8 libraries, 1000 teachers, and 100 police. They lied. The next year, they stuck to the charter limit and hired 100 teachers and 32 police and didn't close any library. This year they will say 911 service will be cut if they can't give us the biggest property tax increase in 21 years next year.

This year we have had as 14% property tax increase, a 10% energy tax increase, a 20% sales tax increase, up to a 52.6% state income tax increase of which the 16% of Marylanders who live in Montgomery County will pay over 60% of the state's total, a 20% car tax increase, a 18% corporate tax increase, up to a 75% electricity bill increase, the largest water bill increase in 15 years, the largest Metro fare increase in several years, all while we have $4 gas, $4 milk and tanking 401k's. The market is down 200 more points today.

Senator Obama has said he will give 95% of Americans a tax break. Senator Obama would boo every council member and the county executive for their actions to tax us out of a recession. Senator Obama would boo the failure of the county executive and 9 council members to debate Question B in public while they work sneakily to defeat it and feather the nests of their cronies. Vote FOR Question B! Save Our Homes!

Posted by: Robin Ficker Broker Robin Realty | October 6, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Good to hear from you again, Robin. Keep fighting the good fight. I'm a total liberal and have a child in the very-expensive MoCo school system and yet, I support Robin's proposal.

If the council wants to exceed its budget cap and spend more money, all of them should have to put their names on the line with a vote. No hiding.

Posted by: Josey23 | October 6, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

P.S. I really can't quibble with Ann Marimow's article. I thought it was fair. However, why did the editors put it on page C8? Sometimes I think that if Post editors ran the business end of the paper, the price would be $10 a copy at the stand. They write daily about slots--another article on page C1 today.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY VOTERS ARE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT PROPERTY TAXES THAN SLOTS. Very few play slots. However, hundreds of thousands of homeowners have been thrown under the bus by the executive and council who are focused solely on winning a majority of the 10% of voters who vote in their party's primary elections. I have met many homeowners whose property tax bills went up $1000 this year. And as a real estate broker, I know that most homes are already overtaxed because they are assessed higher than the homes on the same street are selling for.

Save Our Homes! Vote for B!

Also take a look at Question A which seeks to repeal overwhelmingly-approved-by-the-voters prohibitions on sewage sludge trenching and garbage dumps in residential zones. They won't trench sewage sludge you say? They have done it before. No Judge has ruled that this charter prohibition is improper. The Council did not seek a declaratory judgment that it was unconstitutional. They want to repeal it because they want the option to trench sludge while the WSSC is financially broke. And their contract with West Virginia for garbage runs out in 2012. They want a new garbage dump in Montgomery County. Remember that county elected officials wanted to put a garbage dump where the Avenel Golf Course is today. I am not making this up. Tiger Woods would give these people a spanking. Vote AGAINST A! Save Our Homes!

Posted by: Robin Ficker Broker Robin Realty | October 6, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

When Ficker's literature hit our neighborhood, instead of the reaction being "he's at it again," it has been "thank goodness he's at it again!" It has created quite a buzz. People are relieved and supportive of the measure.

Posted by: MarieG | October 6, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Sounds too much like the "TRIM" amendment in PG County in the '70s and '80s (or Proposition 13 in California). The result of this was a terrible decline of communnities.

The problem is that we are currently experiencing massive inflation...the U.S. dollar is losing its value. This inflation may actually get worse before it gets better. Without a STABLE currency, how can you reasonably expect a county budget to remain stable (it is based on what the currency will buy).

When those who enjoy the "good life" in MoCo start seeing their kids class sizes double, and noticing how police and public safety must eventually absorb cuts, minds may be changed. The problem is that if this Question B thing passes, our elected officials would have lost their flexibility to adjust the budget as needed.

No one likes their taxes raised, but everyone should ask themselves, "does freezing taxes trump everything else for me andmy family?". I sense that if the answer was yes, you would have moved to Virginia by now. I value the quality of life in MoCo more than an aritfically frozen taxation level.

I'd be in favor of more budget items in referendum form to let voters decide. The slots decision is a good example. Additionally, why is the $3,200,000,000 ICC toll road not on the chopping block? Has anyone heard any reasoning why we should be spending so much on a road none of us will ever drive on?

Posted by: Donny | October 6, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse


Me and the more than 3,000 Republicans, Democrats, Green Party members, Independants and Libertarians alike (33.44%) who voted for me in the May 13, 2008 County Council Special Election are behind you Robin!!!! Unheard of in a District where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 2.54 to 1. As you know, a cornerstone of my campaign, was not surpassing the Charter limit on property tax collection. Which has become a worthless promise, by tax and spend politicians.

Good Luck!
Mark D. Fennel
Former-Republican Nominee in May 13, 2008 County Council Special Election

Posted by: Mark D. Fennel | October 6, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Trim in P.G. puts a limit on the total amount of property tax revenue that can be collected. The County charter allows property tax revenue, not counting new construction, to increase as much as the CPI. The Council under B could still override in emergencies. But giving employees a 30% raise over three years is not an emergency. We have to live within our family budget. The council doesn't get it. The people in my neighborhood are voting for B.

Posted by: P.G. Red Herring | October 6, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Donny, you are in law enforcement. Do you think it is fraud for over 60% of Montgomery County police officers to retire on full disability while about 4% of thos in Fairfax and Howard Counties do?

Posted by: Is it fraud? | October 6, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

P.G.RH, thanks for explaining how B may be better than TRIM - it's an important detail. However, what would it take for the council to override (emergency)? And given the current financial meltdown and inflation, isn't an emergency override a virtual certainty?
Also, regarding someone's assertion that 60% of MoCo police retire on full disability, I'm not MoCo police, but that numebr sounds high and I question its validity.

First of all, a police force is fortunate if that many officers stay on force as a career. Many leave. Some are injured - others die. So, I would argue that police retirement (plans and benefits vary from county to county), are generally balanced and fair...and most folks over-estimate the pay.

Still State and Federal law enforcement are different plans entirely, but that 60% number does not sound real. Perhaps its a different number that you are thinkg of, like maybe 60% of officers that retire claimed some disability during their careers...I'd like to double-check that.

Posted by: Donny | October 6, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Big Tax Knapp will NEVER slow down his spending until he is made to do so. The same goes for Loco Leggett. I know how hard Robin has worked on this question, and he is doing so to benefit all of us. The tax and spend liberals in county government are bound and determined to tax us out of our homes. Even those of us who need to sell are finding no one wants to move into this horrible county, filled with home invasions, high crime and higher taxes. Not only should we pass Robin's question, but we should vote EVERYONE out of office on the council and executive level. How much longer will be bend over for those who view us only as an unending revenue source rather than citizens in our own county? Good Luck Robin!!!

Posted by: Citizen Payne | October 6, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

My husband of 2 years and I are being squeezed by the financial situation as are all other members of the Latino community. I am glad that someone has stepped up to slow county government spending because they are spending like there is no tomorrow and we have many years left.

Posted by: Angelina | October 7, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

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