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Mayor’s tax-reform mantra: ‘Nothing is off the table’

Work group to study Baltimore's tax structure

Alissa Gulin//Daily Record Business Writer//November 12, 2014

Mayor’s tax-reform mantra: ‘Nothing is off the table’

Work group to study Baltimore's tax structure

By Alissa Gulin

//Daily Record Business Writer

//November 12, 2014

Nothing is off the table.

That’s what Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told reporters Wednesday in announcing a new working group on changing Baltimore’s tax structure.

The phrase was repeated countless times by Rawlings-Blake and two city finance officials, who explained that the new Baltimore Tax Policy Review Group will thoroughly evaluate whether and how to alter current taxes and fees.

The 20-member group consists of business leaders, bankers, developers, nonprofit leaders and other professionals. The goal, Rawlings-Blake said, is to determine how Baltimore can become more competitive with surrounding cities and counties without sacrificing a strong financial footing.

The group will look for areas where the city could find “possible additional tax relief,” Rawlings-Blake said.

The most obvious tax to be examined is the property tax. Baltimore’s rate is set at $2.13 per $100 of assessed value — twice as high as the rate in surrounding jurisdictions.

Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday that she “does not intend” to raise property taxes, and reiterated her goal of chipping 20 cents off the rate by year 2020.

Other taxes will also be examined by the Tax Policy Review Group, which is scheduled to meet three times before issuing final recommendations “early next year,” Rawlings-Blake said.

The city will examine its taxes on parking, hotels, telecommunications and beverage bottles, among others, officials said. The group will also evaluate whether it makes sense to implement a commuter tax, which would enable Baltimore to capitalize on the 80,000 people who work in the city but live elsewhere.

The work group will recap the recommendations made by a blue ribbon commission in 2008.

Rawlings-Blake acknowledged that some people will be skeptical about the efficacy of another task force. But, she said, cities must grapple with many complex issues, so it makes sense to tap the expertise of local professionals.

She said she knows that Baltimore’s tax structure can be an obstacle to achieving her oft-stated goal of attracting an additional 10,000 families to the city.

“We have to constantly ask ourselves,” she said, “‘Are we doing everything possible to compete for those 10,000 families?’”


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