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Rawlings-Blake wants to reduce property tax rate by 20 cents

Rawlings-Blake wants to reduce property tax rate by 20 cents

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A plan to reduce Baltimore’s homeowner property tax rate by 20 cents per $100 of assessed value by 2020 was unveiled by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Wednesday.

The plan would use revenue from a yet-to-be-constructed slots parlor in the city to make up for the tax rate decrease.

Lowering the city’s tax rate is a central issue in the race for the next mayor.

The city’s residential property tax — $2.268 per $100 of assessed value — is the highest in the state. By comparison, Baltimore County’s rate is $1.10 per $100 of assessed value.

Rawlings-Blake is seeking election to the office she moved into early 2010 after the resignation of Sheila Dixon following a corruption conviction. She faces five other Democratic challengers for the Sept. 13 primary.

Three of those challengers, State Sen. Catherine Pugh, former city Planning Director Otis Rolley and former Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors Executive Vice President Joseph T. “Jody” Landers III, have made reducing the city’s property tax rate a lead campaign theme.

Landers has a plan that would reduce the city’s property tax rate by up to 35 percent over the next four years through a three-prong strategy that includes moving many of the city’s vacant housing back onto the tax rolls. Pugh said she would form a committee of leading local academic, community and business leaders to study how to reduce the rate. Rolley is proposing to reduce the city’s property tax rate by 50 percent over the next 10 years — a plan that has no details on the candidate’s website.

Another Democratic challenger, Wilton Wilson, said the property tax rate should “lower by 8.3 percent” in part by selling some of the city-owned vacant houses for $1 each and returning them to the tax rolls. And Frank M. Conaway Sr. had no specific plan to reduce the city’s property tax rate detailed on his campaign website.

The mayor’s plan would create a homeowner’s tax credit program to be funded with revenues from gaming “and by responsibly reducing city spending over several years,” a news release said.

The tax credit program would have to be approved by the state legislature and the City Council. City homeowners who qualify for the current Homestead Property Tax credit would also qualify for the new tax credit, the plan states. The plan also calls for an annual contribution of 90 percent of city revenues generated from slots proceeds to the tax credit program.

“Providing property tax relief for city homeowners is an important priority that will help to attract and retain families in Baltimore,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.

“During this difficult economic period, it makes sense to target the city’s limited resources for property tax relief directly to homeowners first to have a bigger impact for families,” she added “It also makes sense to be fiscally-responsible and protect funding for core services, especially public safety.”

On Wednesday, the deadline for proposals for the new city casino license was pushed back to Sept. 23 from July 28.

The date was changed to allow state officials opportunity to study questions raised about the slots project and to respond to a federal lawsuit by the Baltimore City Entertainment Group, whose development plan for the casino was rejected and is now suing alleging reverse discrimination in the bid requirements.

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