Property tax increase proposed as part of Montgomery Co. budget

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is proposing a $6.8 billion budget that fully funds the public schools’ request for an increase of $296 million. That would put the operating budget for Montgomery County Public Schools at $3.2 billion.

In order to do that, Montgomery County residents could have to dig deeper in their pockets. Elrich proposes an increase of .1% in the county property tax rate.

Screenshot of Montgomery County Maryland's proposed operating budget for the county's fiscal year 2024.
Graphic of Montgomery County’s proposed budget. (Courtesy Montgomery County Office of Management and Budget)


At a news conference announcing his proposed operating budget, Elrich said, “There is a correlation between not spending money on education and results. If we want the best in this county, then we have to be willing to pay what it takes to get the best.”

Elrich said the recent results on the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program tests underscore the need to funnel more financial support to schools. He cited the data that showed only 31% of students tested proficient in math, and just 53% were proficient in English.

Elrich invited MCPS Superintendent Monifa McKnight to speak, and she said, “Now is not the time to gamble. It’s not.” McKnight described the last few years, dominated by coping with COVID-19 as “not the merriest” but “we have learned a lot.”

McKnight said while recovery from COVID-19 and its effects has been challenging, “Since the beginning of this year when our children have been in person with the staff, we’re already seeing our data results trending in a positive direction.”

During a Q&A, McKnight was asked to clarify the data, and said that information would be shared at a board of education meeting on March 28.

In an email after the budget announcement, school spokesperson Jessica Baxter forwarded charts from a Jan. 23 briefing showing, for example, an increase in student enrollment and “slight gains” in literacy for third graders.

Montgomery College would see $345 million in the FY24 budget, and President Jermaine F. Williams issued a statement saying, “Equitable access requires affordable tuition, and with the county’s support, the College has kept tuition the same since FY20. The College’s FY24 budget envisions only a 1.4% tuition increase of $2/$4/$6 for in-county, in-state, and out-of-state tuition, respectively.”

Under Elrich’s plan, $709 million would go toward public safety, and police Chief Marcus Jones spoke about the investment in his department, including the recent $20,000 signing bonus for new recruits. Before that action was taken, Jones said, “We were receiving probably one to four applications per day. Since we have advertised this bonus, we are now receiving anywhere from 10 to 15 applications per day.”

The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce opposes the proposal to raise property taxes. In a statement, Gigi Godwin, President and CEO of the chamber, wrote, “There are so many challenges that our businesses and residents currently face including inflation, housing costs, and the difficulty employers are having in attracting and retaining talent because of our high cost of living.”

Godwin said the proposal seems “tone deaf” and “out of step with the issues.”

The $6.8 billion budget is subject to the approval of the 11-member Montgomery County Council. In a statement released after Wednesday’s briefing, Council President Evan Glass said, “The Council will provide thorough oversight to ensure taxpayer investments are used prudently. We must balance the needs of today with those of tomorrow, which include supporting our schools, our teachers, our first responders, our health care professionals and other front line workers.”

Public hearings on the operating budget are scheduled for April 11.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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