What the City Needs Is a Good $5 Tax CutYour editorial on...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 18, 1993

What the City Needs Is a Good $5 Tax Cut

Your editorial on July 1 advocating that Mayor Kurt Schmoke and the Baltimore City Council should not waste any time in coming up with a plan to lower the Baltimore City property tax rate is at least a nickel short and a week late.

The Baltimore City Council had indeed exercised the option to reduce the property tax rate by five cents for fiscal year 1994 and then reneged when faced with the mayor's veto.

The need to reduce Baltimore City's exorbitant property tax rate remains critical, even if the reduction is five cents. It is interesting to note that if the tax rate is reduced five cents per year, in 57 years the city would reach parity with Baltimore County.

In many ways Baltimore City stands at a critical crossroads. And the Baltimore City real property tax rate for the next several fiscal years will be a crucial component in determining the direction that the city takes.

No one denies the fact that Baltimore City has problems. All large urban areas in the United States have problems.

However, at present and unlike most other American urban centers, Baltimore has assets which can still be developed.

Baltimore will not remain in such an advantageous position for long and, in fact, there are already real estate-relevant indicators that imply that Baltimore City's window of opportunity is closing rapidly.

Baltimore City's high real property tax rate has considerable impact on these indicators, chief of which is comparative home sales statistics.

According to Central Maryland Multiple Listing Service, home sales in Baltimore City for the past two years have lagged significantly behind home sales in Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

In 1992, 3,965 homes sold in Baltimore City, compared to 3,906 sales in 1991, a 1.5 percent increase. That seems positive until one examines the home sales percentage changes (1991 to 1992) in the Central Maryland region:

Baltimore County, +11 percent; Carroll County, +29 percent; Harford County, +11 percent; Howard County, +6 percent.

Furthermore, in 1991 home sales in Baltimore City decreased by 16 percent. Most other Central Maryland counties also experienced a decrease but Baltimore City's was the greatest:

Baltimore County, -5 percent; Harford County, -8 percent; Howard County, -7 percent.

These comparative home sales statistics parallel the broader disturbing demographic facts supplied by the 1990 Census.

Between 1980 and 1990 thousands of Baltimore City residents moved out of the city not to be replaced by new residents and taxpayers.

Taken together with the more current home sales statistics, the 1990 Census data describes a Baltimore City that is increasingly perceived as an undesirable place to live, while the city actually has better residential real estate values.

Home sale prices in Baltimore City for the month of May 1993 were on average $64,000 less than the surrounding counties. Again, the city's high real property tax rate (approximately double the rate for other Central Maryland jurisdictions) is a major reason for this continued perception of Baltimore City as undesirable.

What is the answer? Incentives, not disincentives. Baltimore City has too many amenities to list them all; nevertheless, the perception remains that the city is not affordable.

This perception must be changed and changed quickly by truly statesmanlike leadership to produce more publicly perceived incentives, chief of which is a lower property tax rate. No one can say this will be easy to do but the time to begin is now.

To paraphrase former Vice President Thomas Marshall, "What Baltimore City needs is a good five dollar tax cut."

Fletcher R. Hall

Baltimore

The writer is the executive vice president, Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

Salvation Army Aid

Your article on organizations accepting donations to help victims of the Midwestern floods neglected to mention the Salvation Army.

The army has several emergency disaster units on the scene helping to feed, clothe and shelter flood victims, as well as filling sandbags and pumping water out of basements.

Donations may be sent to: The Salvation Army, Baltimore Area Command, 2602 Huntingdon Avenue, Baltimore, Md. 21218.

Maj. Frank Gordon

Baltimore

L The writer is the Salvation Army's Baltimore area commander.

AH; Callous Cartoon

With sadness I write to express my profound disappointment in your newspaper's recent publication of an editorial cartoon that depicted a Catholic priest leering at four altar boys.

While readers often benefit from cartoons that add insight and humor to complicated subjects, some issues simply do not lend themselves to satirical treatment.

Such is the case with the sexual abuse of children. Whatever the intentions of the cartoonist and your paper, the unfortunate effect is to belittle the significance of the problem of child sexual abuse, no doubt causing further pain to the victims and their families.

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