The Montgomery County Transit Task Force recently released a 75 page report lending support for the creation of an Independent Transit Authority (ITA) and outlining possible taxing strategies to fund a bus rapid transit system in the county. The report describes four approaches, which mostly rely on new taxing strategies.
An article in the Bethesda Beat describes the four approaches.
One would use a countywide real property tax increase, with four “scenarios”…
Another scenario proposes combining a smaller property tax increase that would pay for construction costs with an excise tax on commercial tenants and commercial property owners that would pay for operating costs.
A third scenario would combine a property tax increase, the excise tax on commercial properties and a new 0.5 percent sales tax—which would require its own enabling legislation from the state legislature.
The fourth scenario would combine a countywide property tax increase with a real property tax specific to areas the RTS corridors will service, though the task force admitted “the effective tax burdens on both residential and commercial taxpayers within the corridor-based districts was simply too great.”
While the task force supported the creation of an ITA, it did recommend changes to the original proposal offered by County Executive Leggett and greater oversight.
First, it proposed that the ITA board should be made up of seven members, not five, and those members should serve staggered four-year terms after being nominated by the county executive and confirmed by the council.
Second, the council should require the ITA to submit a multi-year capital improvements program for approval.
Third, the transit authority shouldn’t be able to take property through the process of eminent domain until the acquisition was approved by the council through its budget approval process.
County Executive Leggett had previously introduced state legislation (HB 104) during the 2015 Session that would have authorized the County to create the ITA, but had the bill withdrawn after the proposal received significant criticism from the County Council and civic leaders. The Task Force was appointed to review the legislation and develop recommendations to address concerns that had been raised.
For more information, see prior articles posted on Conduit Street.