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Ficker Will Seek To Place Property Tax Limit Measure on 2020 Ballot

Republican says the goal is to promote fiscal responsibility in the county

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Robin Ficker delivers a box of signatures to the Montgomery County Executive Office Building in 2016 for his term limits county ballot initiative

File photo

Republican Robin Ficker says he won’t run for elected office again, but when the next election rolls around in 2020, he will attempt to get another charter amendment on the ballot. This one, he said, will prevent property tax hikes above the rate of inflation.

Ficker was in good spirits Wednesday afternoon, despite having lost the Montgomery County executive race the day before to Democrat Marc Elrich. Ficker received 57,489 votes to Elrich’s 225,900, according to the latest totals from the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

This weekend Ficker plans to start petitioning residents for signatures for the property tax limit measure. He must submit 10,000 valid signatures to the Montgomery County Board of Elections by Aug. 3, 2020 for the measure to appear on the November ballot.

“It [the referendum] will just say that they [the county council] won’t be able to raise the property tax revenue above the rate of inflation regardless of how the council votes,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

Asked why he planned to start his petition process so early, Ficker said he is excited by the prospect of sharing his idea with the public.

“I enjoy collecting signatures. I like meeting people. And the early bird gets the worm,” he said.

Ficker, a Boyds attorney, has successfully gotten two measures on the ballot that were passed by voters. In 2008, voters approved an initiative to require a unanimous nine-vote approval by the County Council on any property tax increase above the inflation rate.  (A charter amendment passed by voters Tuesday repealed Ficker’s 2008 referendum, requiring only a unanimous approval of the tax increase, regardless of how many council members are present.)

In 2016, county voters overwhelmingly approved a Ficker measure that limited council members and the county executive to no more than three consecutive terms.

Ficker said he hopes the passage of a property tax limit by the voters would send a message to politicians, including Elrich, that they must become less reliant on tax increases in the future. He said he likes Elrich personally, but that the incoming county executive needs “some lessons in fiscal responsibility.” Ficker said he worries about the county’s economic future.

“I don’t see the revenue coming. Amazon’s not coming. I don’t see his [Elrich’s] revenues increasing. I see his costs increasing,” Ficker said.

Ficker said upcoming capital projects like the completion of the Purple Line and the bus rapid transit that Elrich has proposed will need to be paid for, and Ficker said without an influx of new business, the projects will necessitate raising taxes.

“I think we’re in a very dangerous financial situation, and he’s [Elrich’s] going to have to deal with it. I’m hoping he’s not gonna raise taxes, but I don’t think he’s gonna listen to me,” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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