WASHINGTON (WMAL) – Three years ago the Montgomery County Council approved a nearly 9% property tax increase, which was the biggest in seven years. Former Republican county executive candidate and long-time gadfly Robin Ficker is trying to make sure that never happens again. He is hoping to get a charter amendment on the 2020 ballot that would prohibit the council from raising taxes above the rate of inflation.
Current rules allow the council to raise taxes above the rate of inflation if every member votes in favor of it. Ficker’s amendment wouldn’t allow the council to raise taxes above the rate of inflation under any circumstances.
“Elected officials in Montgomery County have already shown they have a unanimous desire to increase taxes greatly, and they’re gonna do it again,” Ficker said.
County Executive Marc Elrich’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020 does not include any tax increases.
“Anybody waiting for me to drop the tax increase bomb, you will be sorely disappointed,” Elrich said in March when he presented his budget proposal.
Despite that, Ficker believes Elrich is making tax increases inevitable in the future by dipping into pension funds to balance his budget. Elrich’s proposal includes a decrease in the amount the county contributes to a fund for retirees. This cut is something council president Nancy Navarro said the council will look at carefully.
In order to get the charter amendment on the ballot, Ficker will need to collect the signatures of 10,000 county residents by August of 2020. He didn’t give an exact number but said so far he has a few thousand, and he expects to get 10,000 by the deadline.
“I’m sure it will pass because people are tired in Montgomery County of being used as an ATM,” Ficker said.
Ficker may have reason to be optimistic. This ballot measure seems to be an extension of one he got on the 2008 ballot that passed. It required the council to cast a unanimous vote to raise property taxes above the rate of inflation.
Another ballot measure he got on the 2016 ballot to impose term limits on the Montgomery County executive and council members also passed with 69% of the vote.
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