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Montgomery County Council looks to reduce energy tax

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Taxes,Montgomery County

Montgomery County taxpayers would save up to $11 million in energy taxes if a measure by the County Council to reduce the tax is approved.

Two proposed bills would reduce the 155 percent increase on energy taxes imposed on county residents in fiscal 2011. One introduced by Council President Nancy Navarro, D-Eastern County, would reduce the increase by 5 percent, while the other, introduced by Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville, would drop it by 10 percent.

The measures could save the average resident between $10 and $20 a year on an average $234 bill.

The County Council reduced the 155 percent increase on homeowners by 10 percent last year. Businesses pay more.

Navarro introduced the 5 percent decrease as a placeholder for the council to discuss how much the county should reduce the energy tax. In coming budget discussions, lawmakers could determine what they think is an appropriate amount.

But Andrews, who is planning to run for county executive, says the 10 percent cut is warranted. He said the $11.4 million lost from the reduced energy tax could easily be made up by cutting union contracts for county employees.

He specifically pointed out the two-year, 19.5 percent raises that county firefighters would receive under the contract deal that County Executive Ike Leggett reached with the union. He is proposing a drop in the raise from 19.5 percent to 12 or 13 percent.

He said his proposed pay raise would "still leave a reasonable pay increase [to county employees] who deserve one, but it is one that is both reasonable and sustainable."

When the energy tax was increased in fiscal 2011, the council voted to end the increase after two years. But Leggett decided instead to reduce it only 10 percent in fiscal 2013 and has proposed leaving it alone next fiscal year.

Leggett also proposed raising property taxes in his budget for fiscal 2014, which starts July 1. Homeowners would see an average monthly bill rising by $6.67 a month, or $80 a year.

County executive spokesman Patrick Lacefield pointed out that Andrews introduced a proposal to cut property taxes in 2004 by $21.6 million and replace them with an increase in energy taxes.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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