Montgomery County Ballot Questions ― On Property Taxes, Council Makeup — Explained

A seal at the entrance of the Montgomery County executive office building. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Although Election Day isn’t until Nov. 3, many Marylanders will be voting early or submitting their ballots by mail for the upcoming General Election. In many of the state’s largest jurisdictions, voters will be met with lengthy ballots and multiple local initiatives to consider.

In Montgomery County, there are four ballot issues to be decided by voters.

If you’re still trying to request a mail-in ballot, or want to know how to register to vote, you can check out our guide for voters here.

If you want to find out where to drop off your ballot, or where you can vote in-person this November, you can take a look at our interactive voting center maps here.

Want to see a sample ballot for your county? The State Board of Elections has a list of every approved ballot for the November election on its website.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the ballot questions in Montgomery County:

Question A

This initiative, placed on the ballot by a vote of the County Council, would put a cap on the property tax rate instead of the total property tax revenue the county can receive ― and most significantly, would replace the current property tax revenue limit.

Advocates for this amendment, who include County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D) and all nine members of the Council, say it would allow revenue to grow as the county grows, so that county services can keep pace with the increased needs that a growing population demands. Revenues would grow based on growth in the assessable tax base, while property tax rates would remain the same as this year. Any future increase in tax rates would require an affirmative vote by all councilmembers, as is currently required to raise the revenue limit.

Question B

It wouldn’t be an election cycle in Montgomery County without a ballot initiative advanced by Robin Ficker, the anti-tax gadfly whose win-loss record isn’t sterling, but who has still had enormous influence in the county with his successful ballot measures limiting the county’s ability to raise taxes and imposing term limits on elected county officials.

His ballot initiative this year, Question B, has attracted the opposition of most county political leaders, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, and a raft of progressive organizations. If passed, it would lock in the current cap on inflation-based property tax receipts.

Question C

This is one of two ballot initiatives that seek to remake the County Council, which currently has five members who are elected by district and four who are elected countywide. Many residents believe the current system places too much power in downcounty communities, where the bulk of Democratic turnout is.

Question C, put on the ballot by the council itself, would keep the four at-large council seats, but would add two more districts, bringing the overall number of council members to 11. The argument for this measure is that the county has grown so swiftly since the current council alignment was put in place in the 1980s, that it has become increasingly harder for council members to be responsive to their constituents. But several powerful groups and leaders in the county like having some representatives on the council who are asked to have a broader perspective then those representing geographic districts.

Question D

This measure, put on the ballot by citizen activists and civic groups, would take away the at-large representation on the council and would create nine council districts. This would lead to fairer representation on the council, the advocates for this measure argue.

But opponents counter that the proposed amendment would significantly reduce county residents’ representation and create more parochialism on the council. While the question was brought to the ballot by a bipartisan group ― and an organization supporting it has received some funding from unions and real estate developers ― it is now being promoted by the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, while the Democratic Central Committee opposes it.

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Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.