The Montgomery County Council has cut the country's property tax rate by 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Property taxes for most homeowners will probably rise, however, because of increased assessments.
The action Tuesday completed steps necessary to fund the $516.6 million county budget adopted last month.
The county property tax rate, excluding the fire tax, will be $3.32 per $100 of assessed valuation. But while the property tax fell an average of 3 cents, assessments this year rose an average of about 10 per cent.
That means a person who owns a home valued at $60,000 would pay about $1,000 in property taxes this year, about $100 more than last year.
Most of the decrease in the property tax is because the county is receiving $1.1 million more in income tax revenues than had been budgeted. The county will also gain about $250,000 from a real property tax recapture law passed this week.
Under that legislation, when property is sold, the county will gain property taxes based on the actual salel price of the property. The first $8,000 of the difference between the assessment and 45 per cent of the selling price would be exempted.
A council survey indicated that 31 per cent of homes sold in the county-would be subject to the tax. Most of the homes subject to the tax are expected to sell for more than $70,000.
Similar legislation passed the council last year but was not enacted because the council failed to override a veto by Executive James P. Gleason. Gleason has said he is considering vetoing the legislation again this year but since it passed the council 5-2, it appears to have the five votes necessary for an override.
The council rejected by a vote of 4-3 legislation that would have raised the county telephone tax and fuel-energy tax by 50 per cent and lowered the property tax by a total of 7 cents.
Council members Neal Potter, Norman Christeller and Esther Gelman voted in favor of the telephone tax and fuel-energy tax measures, arguing they would take some of the tax burden from homeowners.
The other four council members argued, however, that the burden the taxes would place on the poor would not be offset by the small decrease in property tax rates.
Speaking against the energy tax proposal, council president John Menke said, "Many people will not see or remember at all a 1 per cent reduction in the property tax (that enactment of the increased energy tax would allow), but they will remember a 50 per cent increased in the energy tax. I think this will contribute unnecessarily to the atmosphere of frustration that taxpayers already have."
With the fire tax included, the overall change in the tax rate levied by the council will range from an average decreased of between 1.8 cents and 0.3 cents in the current rate for most of the county.
One area experiencing a slight tax rate increase is that serviced by the Gaithersburg Fire Department, because the fire tax has increased 6 cents above the current rate. The increase is due to the opening of a new fire station.
Here are some sample tax rate decreases - including property and fire - for different areas of the county; Damascus, 2 cents; Silver Spring, 1.5 cents; Kensington Wheaton, 1 cent; suburban districts, from 0.5 to 1.5 cents; Rockville, Sandy Spring, from about 0.5 cents to 1.5 cents; Barnesville, Poolesville, Laytonsville, Burtonsville, 0.5 cents; the rest of the upper county, 1.5 cents.