First and foremost, I would like to welcome former Washington Post columnist Bob Levey on board as the editor of Katz Corner.
This is the third Montgomery County budget that I have been privileged to help shape. I am pleased that the Council was able to pass a budget that reflects our shared commitment to all our residents. It fully funds Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), helps bridge the budget gap for Montgomery College, addresses the infrastructure needs of our growing population and ensures that our public safety agencies have the personnel, equipment and training that are so vital to their mission.
The budget includes a two percent increase to the contract of eligible non-profit service providers. In addition, the Council continued to increase and improve a variety of early childhood programs. It added $2.2 million to support expansion of 10 MCPS Head Start classrooms to full-day programs. It also provided $342,000 for pre-kindergarten services for 40 students between the ages of 3 and 5.
As a member of the Public Safety Committee, I worked hard to restore funding to the Police Department for overnight coverage in two districts, and to add five patrol officers. The budget reflects funding for a 65-member recruit class in the Department of Fire Rescue Services. And the Circuit Court budget includes funding for mental health court expenses so that this highly effective and very successful problem-solving court can continue to operate. With increased funding, the State’s Attorney’s Office will be able to address its additional workload via body-worn cameras.
As the Chair of the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, I am particularly proud that the Council expanded the County Executive’s proposal to open a supervised visitation and exchange center. This much-needed service will be available this fall. It will help families going through difficult times by providing a comfortable place where parents and children can interact safely.
We are able to do all of this while preserving our reserves and assisting our non-profits. Nor did we raise taxes. The budget reflects a property tax rate of $1.0013 per $100 of assessed value, which keeps the property tax rate within the County’s ‘Charter Limit.’ The rate is 2.51 cents below the current rate.
It is my pleasure to serve as your Councilmember. As always, thanks for reading, and please don’t hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns.
Sidney A. Katz
Councilmember, District 3
MC311 Customer Service Center is Montgomery County’s source for non-emergency government information and services. You can reach MC311 by calling 311 in the County or 240-777-0311 from anywhere, Monday-Friday 7 a.m. -7 p.m.
If you need translation assistance in order to better communicate with Montgomery County, the MC311 Customer Service Center offers a language interpretation service. More than 150 languages are available. After calling 311, press 1 for Spanish, or stay on the line to ask the next available customer service representative to conduct the call in the language of your choice.
For more information, please visit http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mc311/
About District 3
Located in central Montgomery County, District 3 includes Gaithersburg, Rockville, Washington Grove, Leisure World and parts of Aspen Hill, Derwood, North Potomac and Potomac.
District 3 is home to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Rock Creek Regional Park, part of Seneca Creek State Park, and the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center (Including Shady Grove Adventist Hospital).
Bisected by I-270 and Route 355, District 3 is served by several MARC commuter rail and Metrorail stations.
According to the 2013 American Community Survey (ACS), there are about 198,051 residents in District 3 with 48% White, 12% Black or African American, 19% Asian, 17% Hispanic or Latino and 4% other. About 71% of the residents are above 25 years of age. Thirty-nine percent speak a language other than English at home. Twenty-one percent of the population has a graduate or professional degree. Thirty-six percent of the population works in Montgomery County, 40% works in Maryland outside of Montgomery County and 12% works outside of Maryland. Average household income is about $119,000. There are about 79,154 residential housing units in District 3, with about 60% owner-occupied and 40% renter-occupied. Twenty-five percent of households have income of $150,000 or more. Eighteen percent of households have income of less than $40,000. Seven percent of the population is below the poverty level.
Improvements for Landlord/Tenant Relations
One of my most important jobs is to help ensure that Montgomery County residents have great living conditions. To that end, the Montgomery County Council recently passed legislation aimed at improving relations between landlords and tenants. We refer to it as Bill 19-15.
This law requires more frequent inspections of rental units by our housing code enforcement team, and beefed-up repercussions if a landlord fails to remedy violations. The law also requires that tenants be provided with a summary of their rights and responsibilities under a lease, written in plain language. Landlords must give enhanced notice if they will not be renewing a lease, and a list of reasons why a tenant may terminate his or her lease has been expanded.
The Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) has a dedicated landlord-tenant relations team that helps renters navigate these issues. DHCA accepts anonymous complaints and intervenes when there are disputes between parties. More information on all of its services can be found on its comprehensive website, https://montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA/housing/landlordtenant/, or by calling 311.
The new requirements under Bill 19-15 apply to all rental units located in unincorporated areas of Montgomery County. The cities of Gaithersburg and Rockville have their own landlord-tenant departments. For assistance within the city limits of Gaithersburg, please call Neighborhood Services at 301-258-6340. Within the city limits of Rockville, please call Landlord Tenant Affairs at 240-314-8320.
Senior Tax Deferral
I was one of the lead sponsors of Bill 10-16, Taxation–Residential Real Property Tax Deferral–Senior Citizens. This bill provides for a residential real property tax deferral for residents who are at least 65 years old and have a gross annual income of $80,000 or less. This legislation modifies the current county deferral program to allow eligible seniors to defer the annual INCREASE in their residential real property taxes without incurring any interest. This amount can be deferred for as long as the homeowner qualifies and chooses to do so while still owning his or her home.
Bus Depot Update
As the student population in Montgomery County continues to grow, there is a need for more buses to provide transportation. This creates a need for more locations where buses can be parked and maintained. In the past couple of years, the school system has explored various sites to host bus depots. Some potential sites were met with opposition from nearby residents.
The County Executive and MCPS are looking to resolve these issues by developing a systematic countywide solution. The Carver and Westmore sites are no longer being considered for bus depots. All other possible sites are on hold until a countywide solution has been developed.
I will continue to monitor the bus depot situation and will keep the community informed as more information is made available to me.
IRS Impersonation Scams
Since 2013, 4,600 Americans have fallen victim to IRS impersonation scams, which have cost them more than $23 million. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other government agencies are warning the public that these scams continue to be a major issue.
When they call, scammers will claim to be IRS officials and threaten to arrest, deport or revoke licenses for bogus unpaid tax bills unless taxpayers provide payment through debit card, wire transfer or gift cards.
During back-to-school seasons, callers will pose as IRS agents and demand payment of such non-existent taxes as the “Federal Student Tax.” If a student or parent does not comply with the demand, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police, or face expulsion from school.
According to the IRS website, the IRS will NEVER:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
- Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount the agency says you owe. You will also be advised ofyour rights as a taxpayer.
- Threaten to notify local police, immigration officers or other law enforcement personnel to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
If you believe you were the target of an IRS scam call asking for money:
- Please write down the incoming phone number of the incoming scam call.
- Do not engage the caller and hang up.
- Please contact Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection at 240-777-3636 or at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/OCP/consumer/filing_complaints.html.
- Please contact the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 or at https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml.
- You may also wish to contact the FTC using the FTC Complaint Assistant at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.
We Want Your Input!
Public participation is vital to government. The Montgomery County Council regularly holds public hearings on proposed legislation and policy changes, and we want to hear from you.
The Council conducts its public hearings in the County Council’s hearing room on the third floor of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville. Anyone may sign up to testify by signing up on line (the Council no longer accepts signups over the phone).
To see the full calendar of upcoming hearings — and to sign up to testify — click here.
Please Subscribe to Katz Corner!
Katz Corner is an electronic newsletter published by the office of Councilmember Sidney A. Katz. To subscribe, visit http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/Katz You can also follow Councilmember Katz on Twitter at @MC_Council_Katz, or on Facebook by “Liking” the Facebook page for Councilmember Sidney Katz.
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