MoCo exec Ike Leggett hit the county council with a proposed $3.8 billion operating budget Monday morning, along with predictions of further penny pinching in the future.
“The conditions we face today are unprecedented,” Leggett told reporters in Rockville. Even if his budget passes with flying colors, the county still has to deal with a $200 million shortfall next fiscal year, he warned.
“There is no gold at the end of this rainbow,” Leggett said. “We’ve got some tough choices to make.”
That includes a possible increase to the property tax, though any increase would have what Leggett described as a “progressive impact”. For median-priced homes of $343,200, homeowners would pay an extra $138 annually — a 6.2 percent increase, according to a press statement. Homes assessed at $500,000 would cost homeowners an additional $383 — an 11-percent hike. However, homes assessed at $220,000 would cost $56 less (a 4.7 percent decrease) in annual property taxes.
“This was the last avenue for me,” Leggett said of the property-tax increase. “Given the state of the times, it was something that was necessary for us to do.”
And then there’s that ambulance fee, which Leggett chose to toss at the county council. That tab would go directly to health-insurance companies but not to uninsured patients. If approved, it could raise $6 million for fire and rescue services in the first six months, the press statement predicts.
However, it’s not clear whether Leggett would hit District residents or their insurance companies with a bill. Silver Spring’s EMS unit, along with one in Bethesda, extend their services to District residents who live in nearby neighborhoods.
Silver Spring’s citizens advisory board previously objected to the idea of an ambulance fee, arguing that it would dissuade lower-income or uninsured residents from dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency.
On the upside, the county’s housing initiative fund could get boosted to $54 million, with a revolving fund of up to $100 million, Leggett described. The county would use that piece of change to acquire or maintain affordable housing, though an executive task force recently suggested the prevention of condo conversions over new home construction.
Photo: MoCo exec Ike Leggett on Monday dished the 2009 operating budget at a press conference in Rockville. Courtesy of the county’s website.