Credit: Em Espey

Hundreds of Montgomery County educators, police officers, firefighters, school staff and others are expected to attend a rally Thursday night in front of the County Council’s office in support of the recently proposed 10-cent property tax hike to fund schools, according to organizers.

“Everything we’re proud of in Montgomery County, including our prosperity, is driven in large measure by the fact that we invest in excellent public services,” Montgomery County Education Association President Jennifer Martin said. “I believe most residents can connect the dots and recognize the value of this to them personally.”

The rally is being led by six local unions representing teachers, police officers, government administrators, firefighters and service and commercial workers. It’s expected to begin at 6 p.m. in front of the County Council’s office building in downtown Rockville ahead of a 7 p.m. public hearing on the budget.

County Executive Marc Elrich’s proposed $6.8 billion operating budget has been the subject of community debate, mostly due to the tax increase that officials say would be used to generate revenue for Montgomery County Public Schools.

The recent series of public budget hearings have seen high community attendance, with dozens of residents packing into the County Council chambers this week to discuss the tax increase. The proposed budget projects a $145 million structural deficit in the following year, according to county officials, and some councilmembers have expressed concern about the implications.

Board member Avi Adler for the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR) testified Tuesday against the tax increase, saying: “We hope that instead of raising the cost of owning a home, the council will instead look at ways to break down the barriers to homeownership in our county.”

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When reached for comment about Thursday night’s rally, GCAAR spokesperson Nick Baker said the organization had nothing additional to add beyond the testimony members had already submitted.

Martin said she was “perplexed” by the realtor group’s opposition to the tax increase, given “how much we know property values are driven by the reputation of our schools.” She said county officials should be careful not to focus too much attention on “the noisy naysayers.”

“I really hope the council will listen to the reasonable voices who are saying we need this investment,” she said. “We’re hoping for a big turnout tonight.”

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