For a little while now (one year) I have been following the city council’s website. It provides listings of all agendas dealt with by the city council and provides summaries of what goes down legislatively. Additionally, you can subscribe to the council president’s newsletter and they’ll email you the agendas. Pretty handy! This time around, council president Stephanie Rawlings Blake made note of the impending freeze on the property tax cut and actually made some good statements with regard to the city’s future.
I’m posting the address in full because it hasn’t been updated on the council website yet:
The budget season is upon us. This week the Board of Estimates approved the Mayor’s proposed budget and property tax rate for Fiscal Year 2009, and they will be introduced at Monday’s City Council meeting. The originally proposed budget released in March included a promise to lower the City’s property tax rate by 2 cents per $100 of assessed value. Since then, the Administration has determined that this 2-cent reduction would be too costly for the City, so the property tax cut was removed from the new budget proposal.
On one hand, I’m pleased that this revised budget included funding for several youth programs that are vital to the future of our City, such as community schools and Experience Corps, a program that puts retirees into the schools to mentor the students and to assist the teachers. I applaud the restoration of this funding, and I am working hard with City agencies to identify the funding for more youth programs. But I firmly believe that the City can find a way to do both—fund youth programs and maintain the property tax relief promised to our citizens.
Click on graph for larger version
Baltimore’s property tax rate is twice as high as the average rate in surrounding counties and a disproportionate burden to homeowners, quite literally hitting us where we live. What’s more, many Baltimore homeowners are paying property taxes on assessed values that are much higher than they are able to sell their home for in the current market. Add this to rising prices for gas, food and health care, and you’ll quickly find a formula that is pricing too many working families out of their homes, or out of the City.
The bottom line is that Baltimore simply must have a more comprehensive plan for property tax reduction. While maintaining the current rate will more comfortably allow the City to continue its level of services over the short-term, I am concerned about what it will cost us over the long haul if we choose to continue this tremendous disincentive to homeownership in Baltimore. We need to send a signal to our current homeowners and prospective newcomers to Baltimore that we are serious about property tax relief. In January the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Taxes and Fees issued a report detailing a number of recommendations to increase revenues in order to lower Baltimore’s property tax burden. The panel’s report was released for public comment with great fanfare, and a public meeting was held at Poly. Certainly, many of these recommendations will take time to implement, but it is troubling for the City, only months after this report, to rescind its one commitment to property tax relief for its citizens.
Reducing the tax burden on families, just like improving public safety and public schools, is a fundamental priority for our city. At Monday night’s Council meeting 12th District Councilman Bernard “Jack” Young, chair of the Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee, will announce the budget hearing schedule, and these public hearings will be posted on our website Tuesday morning. In tough economic times, we must work together to protect our priorities in order to make progress towards a future with better schools, safer neighborhoods, and less taxes. I’ve made a commitment and I’m determined to work with the Mayor and Council to find a way to protect this vision for the future of Baltimore as part of our budget process. If you would like to share your comments and questions about the budget with the City Council, I encourage you to attend Taxpayers’ Night on Tuesday, May 13 in the City Council Chambers.
President, Baltimore City Council
So getting more retail into downtown, yeah. Let’s do that. Parking garage? Great.
Furthermore the agenda for Monday’s city council meeting can be found here, a few items of interest include:
$5,000,000 for school construction and renovation
$2,400,000 for new parking meters (jesus fucking christ)
FOR the purpose of accommodating new technology in the immobilization of
vehicles by increasing the “booting fee” and modifying certain limiting references;
correcting, clarifying, and conforming related language; and generally relating to
vehicle immobilization and the rights of vehicle owners.
Creation of the Non-violent Conflict Resolution Curriculum for city schools, requiring kids to take a class on how not to beat the shit out of each other and their teachers, woweee!
Gateway South is being officially named and rezoned. Expect development pretty soon.