Denis Backs Tax Relief

Denis Backs Tax Relief

Proposes delaying Montrose Parkway.

County Councilmember Howard Denis (R-1) announced a proposal Monday that would provide $5.6 million of tax relief by delaying construction of the Montrose Parkway in North Bethesda for one year.

“I tried to be specific. It’s very easy to make general statements and to give speeches with a lot of slogans in them,” said Denis, who represents Potomac, Bethesda and Chevy Chase. “The difficult part is when you try to get down to the actual budget items and to try to identify specific cuts.”

Under the Denis proposal, construction for the western portion of the 1.8 mile road — which will parallel Montrose between East Jefferson Street and Tower Oaks Boulevard — would start in June of next year rather than September of this year, as currently planned. Construction would be completed in 2010.

The county-funded project is tied to a state-funded interchange at Montrose Road and Rockville Pike, which is not scheduled to be completed until 2012. Denis called upon the state to accelerate its construction schedule to coincide with the county’s and stressed that the delaying the county portion makes sense because traffic will only improve when both projects are complete. Denis said that it was “vital” that the two projects be synchronized.

According to Denis, the $5.4 million savings would be the result of a domino effect. Delaying the project would free up Transportation Impact Tax Funding and general obligation bond money that could be redirected to another project, reducing the need for pay-as-you-go dollars already assigned in the FY06 Capital Improvements Program budget.

Denis fielded questions about rising property assessments and efforts to reach the so-called Charter limit on property taxes. Since 1990, the County Council has been limited to a tax yield equal to the previous year’s yield plus any increase in the rate of inflation and the cost of new construction. The council may override that limit with a vote by seven of nine councilmembers. A question brought to the November, 2004 ballot by perennial Republican candidate Robin Ficker would have taken away that power. It failed.

“I didn’t support the Ficker Amendment,” “I read the ads that he puts in the Washington Post Montgomery Weekly section every week and I don’t agree with the approach that he’s taken here. And I would caution people that try to replicate Fickerism in dealing with this budget,” Denis said. “The people of MC get it. And they do see a connection between the taxes that we pay and the services we receive.”

He added, “Clearly we have to do something about the assessments.”