Bowing to pressure from city homeowners, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke today said he will introduce legislation before the City Council on Monday that would limit the increase in property assessments -- the taxable portion of a home's value -- to 4 percent a year.
In making his decision, Schmoke rejected the recommendation of his Finance Department, which urged capping assessment increases at 10 percent annually, the maximum allowed under a state law passed during the 1990 General Assembly.
Going with a 4 percent rather than a 10 percent cap will cost the city $2.5 million in lost revenue next fiscal year, officials said.
"The amount of loss is not going to be that great, but the positive signal it is sending to middle-class homeowners is significant," Schmoke said.
He said the revenue loss would be compensated for through ongoing "belt-tightening" and an expected increase in state aid.
The mayor's decision to support a 4 percent cap came at the urging of council members -- who were prepared to support a council-initiated 4 percent cap -- and the Baltimore City Homeowners' Coalition for Fair Property Taxes.
"I think this is really a super move on the part of the mayor," said David B. Rudow, head of the taxpayers' group. "In the long run, the city just has to be competitive with surrounding counties."
Last spring, Baltimore County adopted a 4 percent cap on assessment increases, a move that city officials said played a major part in Schmoke's decision.
Without it, "the gap between subdivisions would just accelerate," Council President Mary Pat Clarke said.