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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Montgomery County Council approves $4.8 billion budget

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County,Budgets and Deficits

Montgomery County taxpayers will begin paying higher property taxes on July 1 as the County Council approved a $4.8 billion budget on Thursday that includes multimillion-dollar pay raises for members of three county labor unions.

The county will spend about $34 million for pay increases ranging from 7 to 10 percent in fiscal 2014 for the county's firefighters, police and employee unions.

Taxpayers will pay 1.8 cents more per $100 of assessed value on their houses, to $1.01, with the average homeowner paying an average $80 more a year.

However, they will receive some money back next year thanks to a reduction in the county's energy tax. The council voted last week to approve a 10 percent reduction of the 2010 energy tax increase, which will save residents $11.5 million.

The only member of the council to vote against any items in the budget was Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville. Andrews, who is running for county executive, has been opposed to county employee raises, calling them excessive and unsustainable. He also disagrees with raising property taxes.

The county has received both praise and criticism for some of the items included in the budget. Many residents wrote to the council in favor of lowering the energy tax, saying the levy is especially burdensome for businesses that use a lot of energy.

Chad Mangum, vice president of Bell Flowers in Silver Spring, said his small business will benefit from paying less in taxes.

"I hope you will continue to take steps to make Montgomery County more inviting to businesses looking for a home near Washington, D.C.," he said.

But others wrote in, concerned about the higher property taxes, especially since the county was backing such large employee compensation packages.

"In the current economic climate, such large increases cannot be justified," wrote Neal Teplitz, of Bethesda. "Many county residents, myself included, have lost jobs in the economic downturn. No one is entitled to a raise at this time."

One business owner said if County Executive Ike Leggett continues to raise property taxes, he will consider moving out.

"I have lived in Montgomery County since 1972, and have watched taxes go up, up, up," said county resident Rick Murdock. "When I retire in a few years, I won't consider staying in Montgomery County if you increase taxes again."

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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