Marc Elrich's Secret Tax Hike
Rockville, MD -- Since 2008, the "Ficker Amendment" to the County Charter has protected property owners in Montgomery County from all but unanimous property tax hikes by the County Council.
But yesterday, County Executive Marc Elrich was caught by County Finance Department staff secretly – and illegally – attempting to circumvent this and raise property taxes county-wide by $5.2M. Using creative accounting, Mr. Elrich’s budget inflated prior tax revenue by including hypothetical taxes on properties while still under construction that were neither owed nor paid. Yesterday, the County Council admitted, when voting against this, that using this method to inflate the budget cap would likely be overturned if challenged in court by a taxpayer, and would force the County to repay the additional revenue.Speaking on behalf of Mr. Elrich, Budget Director Richard Madaleno, defended the move, stating that Mr. Elrich had intended to present his plan to the public at the March 16th Legislative Breakfast, which was cancelled. However, he admitted that it appeared nowhere in Mr. Elrich’s 831-page proposed budget.
Last month, the Montgomery County Republican Party drew attention to Mr. Elrich’s other proposed property tax hike (to offset revenue lost due to COVID-19), and the County Council’s procedural moves to facilitate it. Our failure to give the County Council the benefit of the doubt offended some, but this sneaky and illegal scheme by Mr. Elrich shows that we are correct to be alert and to encourage the public to hold our elected officials accountable. We will continue to do so.