Budget Director speaks about ballot initiative to dramatically cut City property taxes

Bob Cenname, the City Budget Director, spoke on WYPR's Midday with Tom Hall on August 1, 2022 about a ballot initiative that would set the City's property tax rate in the City charter, reducing it from 2.248% to 1.25% over six years. BBMR estimates that this action would equate to $455 million in reduced revenue for the City budget. Even under a phased approach over six years, this would require a $75.9 million budget cut each year for six consecutive years.

The City’s real property tax rate is $2.248 per $100 of assessed value.  This rate is often compared to other county’s rates, but this is not an apples-to-apples comparison, for two reasons:

  • First, all owner-occupied residential properties in the City receive the Targeted Homeowners Tax Credit. This tax credit is unique to Baltimore City and was specifically designed to reduce the tax burden on City homeowners. This is often referred to as the “20 Cents by 2020 Program.” That credit is still in effect today and reduces the effective property tax rate by 20 cents from $2.24 to $2.04. 
  • Second, Baltimore is one of the few jurisdictions in Maryland that pays for Solid Waste costs in its General Fund. Other jurisdictions charge a separate fee for trash collection services. If Baltimore were to shift all of the General Fund Solid Waste costs to a separate fee-based service, the property tax rate would decline another 21 cents, from $2.04 to $1.83.

So, for residential owner-occupied properties in Baltimore City, a better rate for comparison is $1.83 per $100 of assessed value. This is still higher than other Maryland counties, but not nearly as bad as the “double the tax rate” headline that is often used to criticize the City.

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