County Executive Marc Elrich (seated at table) signs a bill that addresses tax duplication issues between county government and municipalities within Montgomery County. Credit: Photo By Steve Bohnel

County Executive Marc Elrich on Monday signed into law a solution to a nettlesome issue that government officials say has lingered for decades: tax duplication.

The bill Elrich signed increases the amount of money the county reimburses local governments for various services —police coverage, road work, parks maintenance — from $10.1 million to $20.5 million for fiscal year 2022.

The County Council unanimously approved the change earlier this year.

Under tax duplication, residents in a municipality pay taxes both to their local and county governments, despite only receiving services from their municipality. Officials have argued for years that they are owed more money from the county government, including last year.  

The solution worked out in the legislation will work in phases — the county will reimburse 80% of the funding this fiscal year, 90% in fiscal year 2024 and 100% in fiscal year 2025.

During a press conference Monday, Elrich was joined by some County Council members and local municipal officials, who all said the issue goes back decades, as numerous elected officials grappled with how much municipalities should be reimbursed for providing essential services.

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Chief Administrative Officer Rich Madaleno and others said that officials were making progress on reaching a deal in 2020 — but then the coronavirus pandemic began, delaying the passing of a bill.

Monique Ashton, a Rockville City Council member, helped lead discussions as president of the county’s chapter of Maryland Municipal League.

In an interview, Ashton said Rockville residents are double-paying for things like road maintenance, even though the city handles the “lion’s share” of roads within its limits. Rockville officials don’t get money to do that work, she added.

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More than 50 road segments don’t have a sidewalk on either side, and crash could be prevented with the funding in the bill, Ashton said. The city’s police department has over 60 officers, but the county has provided no reimbursement for those police services, she said. 

“This funding is really about finally having the resources that our residents have paid taxes on, to do the right thing and to provide those services,” Ashton said.  

In fiscal year 2023, Rockville is getting $6.8 million in reimbursements, she said. That increases to $8 million in fiscal year 2025. 

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Each municipality will get money based on how many miles of road its maintain, the number of police officers and calls for service it has, and a few other factors, she said.

Madaleno and other officials said during Monday’s news briefing that the bill is technical because there was a line-by-line review of 911 call data and other metrics. 

Ashton said tax duplication is an important one, referring to the Boston Tea Party, when American colonists dumped 342 chests of British-imported tea into Boston Harbor to challenge the representation the colonies faced with Britain.

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“The biggest issues in our country have been how we manage taxes and how fiscally responsible we are,” Ashton said. “So this is, at our core, the very essence of what government should be doing.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com