In elections, taxes are often a hot-button issue and that’s no different in the current Rockville Mayor and Council campaign. Taxes are are the largest source of government revenue and directly affect most residents and businesses, but they aren’t the only source. For Rockville, those sources include fees, permits, fines, licenses, investments, and overhead. As you can see in the chart from the City’s FY2016 adopted budget, property taxes contribute 51 percent and “Other Gov’t” (which consists of highway user taxes and income taxes) is 25 percent.
Property taxes not only represent the largest share of general fund revenues at $38 million but they are also expected to grow more than 5 percent in 2016 compared to last year. That’s not because of increased rates, but increased property values. Although I always grumble when I receive my property tax bill, I’m slightly mollified by knowing that the value of my house has also increased (and that I’m helping pay for those things I value in my community, such as roads, parks, police, libraries, schools, etc. etc.). In chatting with others in the community, they also grumble about property taxes but place most of the blame on the City of Rockville, but it should actually be aimed at Continue reading →
Choice Hotels International, Inc., headquartered in Rockville, celebrated the grand opening of its new Cambria Hotel & Suites on Monday night in downtown Rockville. Choice Hotels is one of the world’s largest lodging companies, with more than 6,300 hotels franchised in more than 35 countries and territories and 613 hotels in development, including Ascend Hotel, Comfort Inn, Clarion, Econo Lodge, and Rodeway Inn. The celebration included speeches by City of Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton; Steve Joyce, President and CEO of Choice Hotels; Michael Murphy, Senior Vice President of Upscale Brands at Choice Hotels; and Marc Dubick, President of Duball, LLC, as well as entertainment featuring clowns, jugglers, and an aerialist.
Built by Duball, LLC with institutional capital partner CIM Group, and operated by Crescent Hotels & Resorts, Cambria Hotel & Suites stands at 1 Helen Heneghan Way (recently named for a former beloved City Clerk) between the Regal Theater and the headquarters of Choice Hotels International. The 140-room hotel spans eight floors of the 15-story west tower, the first of two towers in the mixed-use high-rise complex. A parking garage is built into the building’s structure, giving guests a convenient place for parking and allowing all rooms to enjoy an exterior view. In addition to the Cambria Hotel, the complex will also be Continue reading →
Montgomery County is proposing to add a new Children’s Resource Center (CRC) for the school district on the former Broome Middle School campus on Twinbrook Parkway in Rockville. There have been a series of public meetings about the project and the County held its fourth and last meeting on January 25, 2014. They presented four conceptual designs for the front elevations for review and comment. About a dozen residents attended along with City Councilmember Beryl Feinberg and the chief of staff of County Councilmember Andrews.
Basically, the building consists of two blocks of different sizes joined by a tower. The designs show different “skins” of a varying mix of materials and colors. It’s not supposed to complement the existing Broome School because that’s slated for demolition and the replacement school hasn’t been designed, so I’m assuming the design of the CRC will set the pace for the new middle school. The Gazette reported that the county believed that, “the people at the meeting seemed to prefer Scheme 2” but having attended the meeting, that’s a gross overstatement. My sense is that we were still gathering information and had lots of questions. There didn’t seem to be a preference for what we liked but rather what we didn’t like. No one was enthusiastic about Continue reading →
I often hear Rockville residents grumble about property taxes and they often blame the city for taking an unfair share of their hard-earned income. Although property taxes in the City of Rockville have held steady for the last few years, they’ve risen in Montgomery County. From 2007 to 2012, the County Council has increased the tax rate each year–but hardly anyone in Rockville has noticed and put the blame in the right place. In 2007, the property tax rate was 62 cents for every $100 in assessed value, today it’s 72 cents–a 15 percent increase over five years. Businesses were similarly affected through personal property taxes (which is assessed on inventory, manufacturing equipment, etc.), rising from $1.57 to $1.81, a 16 percent increase over five years. No changes at the State of Maryland–it does not assess property taxes.
Why blame the City and not the County? I suspect it’s because residents assume that 100 percent of their property taxes goes to the city in which they live. Actually, each jurisdiction sets its own rates and you’ll see it split out in writing on your annual property tax bill. If you live in Rockville, for every $100 in the assessed value of your property, you pay 72 cents to the county and 29 cents to the city. Today, the median sales price for a house is Rockville is $416,000, so the total annual property tax bill would be $4,227–$3,012 for the county and $1,215 for the city. Montgomery County receives more than twice as much money from you as the City of Rockville–do you feel you get the same proportion of value in return?
It is has been proposed that a person’s recognition that they pay property taxes is directly related to their level of civic engagement (e.g., voting, writing city council, speaking up at public hearings). In other words, a homeowner knows they pay property taxes because they receive an annual bill, so they’re aware that they’re taxpayers and have a say about government. That’s not true about renters, condo owners, or resthome residents, whose property taxes are rolled into their monthly fees or dues, so they’re not as apt to think they’re tax payers and have a stake in government. What do you think?
Tax rates for the last ten years are available from the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation.
It’s been a month since the powerful thunderstorm–a derecho to be specific–knocked out power to most of Rockville and the Mid-Atlantic. But let’s call a spade a spade–it was a massive power outage, a blackout, during the hottest days of summer. Most lost power for days, some for a week. As we discovered, if you lose the internet, you’re back in 1979; if you lose electricity, you’re back in 1879. Anger boiled over in the days that followed, but now it seems nearly forgotten. Before our memories fade, what did we learn? Here’s my list, culled from talking with neighbors, reading the newspapers, and scanning the listservs:
1. Pepco doesn’t know your power is out unless you tell them. Don’t assume they have some fancy computer system that notifies them automatically that you’ve lost power, assume that your neighbor has called, assume it’ll fix itself, or assume that they’re busy and you don’t want to trouble them (poor dears!). Call them at 877-737-2662. Write this number down and put it on your fridge–another power outage will occur and you’ll want this handy. Many people said they called but Pepco thought their power had been restored, so call daily to ensure they have the correct information. David Greene noted that he used his mobile phone to, “monitor the Pepco outage map, and they marked our power as restored several times during the week when it was not actually restored. I called them many times to get us back on their map.”
2. Pepco prioritizes work based on the number of outages. That makes sense–first tackle the jobs that will benefit the most people–if they have the correct information. But if you and your neighbors don’t call Pepco, they will assume everything is okay (see #1 above). You might want to visit your neighbors and check to see if they’ve called.
3. If you have FIOS, your “landline” phone won’t work. How disappointing to have the latest technology and discover it’s useless in a power outage. My FIOS system came with a battery backup, but Continue reading →
When people about taxes and city services, you often hear:
- Our taxes are too high. Why can’t the Mayor and Council lower the tax rate?
- We pay a lot in taxes. We deserve to have trash picked up twice a week. Why haven’t they fixed my sidewalk?
- Our taxes are fine, but why does the money always get spent on the west side of town?
and so on. I’ve never heard anyone say their taxes are too low.
Taxes are certainly one of those topics that will bring nearly any citizen to a frenzy so I try to avoid it whenever possible except to say that Continue reading →
The controversial Victory Court, a senior housing complex, achieved a major victory at the August 12 Planning Commission meeting. The property is bounded by Maryland, Fleet, and Monroe streets on the western edge of downtown in a Mixed Use Transitional (MXT) Zone, which permits such uses as a single family home, live/work unit, child care center, hospital, church, bar, pet grooming, clothing store, restaurant, and a medical office. “Housing for senior adults” is allowed only as a special exception. With sixteen conditions, the Planning Commission agreed that this land could be used for senior housing. Although the applicant crossed an important threshold, they have other hurdles to face, including approval from agencies outside of Rockville. Last month the project was reviewed by the Historic District Commission (it is adjacent to an Historic District on Fleet Street) and now moves to the Board of Appeals.
The room was packed with supporters on both sides of the issue and when I arrived, the parking lot was full and I Continue reading →