Taxpayers and homeless urge help in city budget

May 01, 1991|By Ginger Thompson

Taxpayers and homeless people gathered at War Memorial Plaza last night to demand relief from the Baltimore Board of Estimates as the board works on the city's $1.8 billion budget for fiscal year 1992.

Members of the Baltimore City Homeowners Coalition for Fair Property Taxes showed up en masse at the board's annual Taxpayers Night, waving signs that read "Reduce Your Waste Line" and "Help Us Stay."

They criticized Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke for not providing for a decrease in property taxes -- currently $5.95 per $100 of assessed value.

"There must be some ways to cut spending so that you can give us all or most of our 10-cent reduction in property taxes," said Kimberly A. Berger, president of homeowners coalition.

While the homeowners said they were grateful for Mayor Schmoke's 4 percent cap on an increase in property assessments, they said they were disappointed that he was not able to deliver a projected 10-cent tax rate decrease and insisted that he continue to look for ways to trim the city bureaucracy.

"If I could leave Baltimore City, I would," said Cora Gentry, a Govans resident.

"We have terrible schools, and there are streets in my neighborhood where the street sweepers never go," she said. "Garbage just seems to grow out of people's yards. It's so bad."

Dozens of homeless men and women also sought relief, imploring the mayor for funds to support jobs and the use of abandoned houses to shelter the homeless.

"The homeless problem is totally ridiculous," said James Barnes, who said he had been homeless in the past.

"A lot of these people are not bums," Mr. Barnes said. "They are just like everyone else in this room, but they lost their jobs and then their homes."

Looking out over the group of homeowners, he added, "You all complain about taxes, but try sleeping on the street."

Mayor Schmoke was impressed by what he called the "dichotomy of the turnout."

"We had the homeowners seeking a relief on property taxes, and then we had the homeless people asking for more services," said Mr. Schmoke. "But the only way to give the homeless more services is through taxes."

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke said, "It looks like the homeowners want us to do a Jane Fonda on the city budget. So we have to do our best and work up a sweat to trim the waste line."

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