If you live in Montgomery County, there are local ballot questions that you’ll want to pay special attention to because they could affect affordable housing funding and policies. These ballot initiatives will have serious implications for the work we do to provide affordable housing in Montgomery County.
Questions A and B concern property taxes and how much revenue the County can collect. Current law caps the amount of property tax revenue that the County can collect each year. Question A would switch the basis of the cap from property tax revenues to the property tax rate. This approach is in line with how most jurisdictions curb excessive increases in property taxes. In contrast, Question B would eliminate the current ability of the County Council to increase property taxes beyond the rate of inflation if the Council unanimously agrees it is necessary. This could cause problems.
Tying property taxes to inflation alone will not allow the County to maintain the services that we currently enjoy, let alone pay for new or increased services.
Artificially limiting property tax revenue will impede the County’s ability to respond to urgent needs or crises, such as affordable housing or the Coronavirus. Affordable housing projects depend on local funding to help leverage a much greater investment of private funds and state and federal funds. If there is less revenue available to the county, it will have a direct impact on our collective ability to use county dollars to tap into these outside funds and therefore hurt our ability to preserve and expand affordable housing in the county. MHP joins other members of the Montgomery County nonprofit community in encouraging our supporters and proponents of affordable housing to vote FOR A and AGAINST B.
There are also two questions on November’s ballot that would change the composition of the Council and also impact affordable housing. These questions respond to population growth in the county.
Question C would expand the County Council from 9 members to 11 members by increasing the number of district councilmembers from 5 to 7. The number of at-large members would remain at 4. Meanwhile, Question D would eliminate the 4 at-large seats on the Council and replace them with 4 new district councilmembers.
While seemingly well-intentioned, Question D would reduce voter representation because voters would only be represented by one councilmember instead of the current five, taking into account at-large representation. Question D could lead to increased parochialism on the Council and make it more difficult to construct affordable housing. It could create a scenario that pits neighborhoods and districts against each other when considering where affordable housing should be located. Too often, we have seen NIMBYism and parochialism stop good, quality affordable housing from being built. MHP urges voting FOR Question C and AGAINST Question D.
In summary, we recommend the following:
Questions A & C: FOR
Questions B & D: AGAINST
Of course, we recommend that everyone do their own research and weigh the pros and cons for themselves. The League of Women Voters has a handy nonpartisan voters’ guide for you to do just that.
Whatever your views, make a plan to vote if you haven’t already.