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MoCo Asks About Bag Tax Changes, Donations To Schools

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 3/29/2013, 11:00am  ET

EngageMontgomery screenshotThrough its engageMontgomery website, Montgomery County is asking residents to chime in on two issues that might inspire some form of County Council legislation in the next year.

County Councilmembers last week were very open with their distaste for certain aspects of the county’s roughly year-old bag tax, a 5-cent tax to consumers per plastic or paper bag used in all grocery store and retail purchases. While all agree the tax is important for grocery stores, Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) and others argued the tax hurts certain retail businesses.

Councilman Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) said the use of re-useable bags, which the tax is meant to encourage, leads to racial profiling because shopkeepers are wary of customers who use the bags to lift goods.

On Thursday, engageMontgomery added a bag tax prompt to the website: If the carryout bag fee law is modified, what are your suggestions to change it, or should it be kept as it is now?

So far, only user RichardH24 has responded and he says to keep the tax the way it is: “The five cents seems to make people use fewer bags. Leaving it alone makes sense to me. The level of accepted waste and trash is astonishing.”

The other question added yesterday deals with a recent debate sparked by the Council’s Education Committee on the fairness of allowing private donations to certain public schools through booster clubs. Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) recently argued that allowing schools in wealthier areas to raise money for improvements to athletic fields or classrooms is unfair to schools in poorer areas.

EngageMontgomery asks: “Recently, public schools have purchased scoreboards and artificial turf using funds from booster clubs and private sources. Is this acceptable, and if so, what amenities should public schools be able to provide using private funds?”

Like the bag tax issue, no legislation has yet been proposed on public school donations.