The original version of this article has been corrected. An explanation of the correction can be found at the bottom.
The Rockville City Council's approval of the city budget on Monday budget came with a preliminary vote, and a twist.
Moments before the final budget vote, the council voted 3-2 not to discuss the budget any further.
Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio and Councilwoman Bridget Donnell Newton, who at a final budget work session earlier this month , voted against adopting the budget without further discussion.
The council began reviewing and working out details of the budget in October. The spending plan for fiscal 2012, which begins July 1, includes a and a $72.3 million five-year capital plan.
The council approved the budget on a 3-2 vote that saw Marcuccio and Councilman Piotr Gajewski—unlikely allies in most budget-related votes—each vote against the spending plan.
Gajewski, who will announce on June 11 whether he will challenge Marcuccio in November’s mayoral election, said in an interview after Monday's vote that the mayor should’ve made it known sooner that she did not intend to vote for the proposed budget and should have then proposed cuts.
He called Marcuccio’s timing a “transparently blatant political move.”
“She calculated, probably correctly, that if I voted against the budget she can’t afford to vote for the budget given that we may be facing off,” Gajewski said. “But that’s certainly no way to lead and no way to legislate.”
Marcuccio, during a May 9 meeting, proposed reducing the tax rate to 28.9 cents per $100 of assessed value, but found no support for the proposal from the council.
Asked after Monday’s vote why she voted against the budget, Marcuccio said: “Because we raised taxes. I’m not in favor of raising taxes.”
Staff projected that reducing the tax rate by three-tenths of a cent would have left the city to make up $338,000 in the budget, Marcuccio said, adding that she never saw how that number was calculated.
“I never saw calculations, but I certainly was told by email as well as verbally,” she said.
The approved budget does not include a $100 income tax offset credit for homeowners, which has been in place for the past four years at a cost to the city of about $1.54 million per year.
Gajewski said throughout the budget process that stripping the $100 credit from the budget would amount to a tax increase that he would not support. , saying that he would not vote for a budget that used tax hikes to prop up the financially struggling course.
Marcuccio, who favored spending the $630,000 in general funds to support RedGate, proposed a “bait and switch game,” Gajewski said.
In a preliminary vote, Marcuccio supported eliminating the $100 credit. The reduction in the tax rate that she proposed would return $12 to “the average taxpayer”—someone with a home assessed at $400,000, Gajewski said.
“She’s basically saying ‘I’m going to take your $100 and I’m going to give you back $12 instead. And, by the way, when I get your $100, I’m going to redistribute some of that money to the business community,’” Gajewski said.
The operating budget is a $2.3 million, or 2.2 percent, increase over the current operating budget.
It holds the residential and commercial property tax at 29.2 cents per $100 of assessed value for fiscal 2012, which begins July 1.
The capital plan budget increases by $3.3 million from fiscal 2011 to support 51 projects. The projects include replacing the Edmonston Drive bridge over the CSX/Metrorail tracks, repairs to the Rockville Swim and Fitness Center and improvements to RedGate Golf Course recommended by .
Newton said in an interview after the budget vote that she would have liked to discuss whether there was anything that could be done to reduce the tax rate.
“I would’ve like to have had the amount that that would’ve cost the city,” Newton said of the cut that Marcuccio proposed. “It’s never been clear. The only number that’s been clear is the $1.5 million that it would cost to give the tax credit, which—point of fact—I wouldn’t have supported. I think an overall tax credit is regressive.”
She said she felt that the council on Monday should not have rushed to vote on the budget, the final details of which were worked out during a May 9 work session.
Newton said she did not receive a spreadsheet reflecting changes made during the work session until Monday afternoon when she emailed city staff requesting it.
“I just feel that if somebody feels they need to have more edification or time to deliberate, then that’s important—especially in a body that’s adopting a $66 million [general fund] budget which we didn’t see the final spreadsheet until this afternoon and there were changes to it that weren’t clearly delineated,” she said.
Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated the amount of the approved operating and capital budgets and the number of capital projects included. Rockville Patch regrets the errors.