Montgomery County Council votes for hike in property tax rate

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Taxes,Montgomery County

Property taxes are set to rise again in Montgomery County, after the County Council voted to support County Executive Ike Leggett's 1.8-cent increase per $100 of value.

The average homeowner, with property valued at $460,000, will see an increase of $80 a year.

This is the first time the rate has risen above $1 in the past 10 years.

Fiscal year property tax rates in Montgomery County (per $100)
2010 - 90 cents
2011 - 90 cents
2012 - 94 cents
2013 - 99 cents
2014 - $1.01

Council members debated Wednesday whether raising the tax was the right course for the county. Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville, proposed keeping the rate at the fiscal 2013 level -- 99 cents per $100 of a home's accessed value -- and reducing the $692 credit that homeowners are eligible to receive.

But Jacob Sesker, a senior legislative analyst with the county, warned that reducing the homeowner credit shifts the financial burden to families instead of commercial property owners.

County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said Leggett supports leaving the credit alone but increasing the tax, because the net increase to residents would be less than if Andrews' suggestion was adopted.

Andrews pointed out this was the third year in a row property taxes were rising, and now that property values were starting to slowly increase, the financial burden on residents is unfair.

"It does no favor to our residents to keep raising the property tax rate," he said. "Tax values rising are a real hardship on many of our residents."

Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large, pointed out homeowners don't care about what the actual rate is; they care about the check they write to pay their taxes. Elrich said he would support Leggett's property tax increase because while it would cost homeowners more than they pay now, it would cost them less than reducing their credit.

"It's about minimizing the dollars people pay as opposed to minimizing the rate people look at while they calculate how big of a check to write," he said.

Council members Nancy Floreen, D-at large, and Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, agreed with Andrews' idea and voted to support his alternative to raising the rate by reducing the credit to $578.

But the rest of council said it's about costs: What will cost taxpayers less?

"Under our approach ... the residents, most residents will pay less," said Councilman Hans Riemer, D-at large. "It's as simple as that."

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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