5-cent property tax cut given final council OK

June 21, 1994|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.

In a flurry of activity last night, the Baltimore City Council gave final approval to a nickel cut in the property tax rate and a strict nighttime curfew for children.

The council also approved legislation to set up a special benefits district in Charles Village and to prohibit the resale of tickets to Orioles and Colts games on streets and sidewalks around Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium.

And it approved by voice vote a resolution introduced by 4th District Democrat Lawrence A. Bell III to develop a "code of conduct" for elected and appointed officials. The resolution was prompted by the visit to a judge by five council members who successfully sought a postponement in the criminal trial of indicted city Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean.

Last night's session was to have been the last before the start of the council's annual three-month summer recess.

However, Council President Mary Pat Clarke called a special session of the council for Monday to attempt to override Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's vetoes of bills to allow city government's professional workers to unionize and to set up an office to regulate the privatization of municipal services.

The special session comes as council members expressed concern about letters sent last week to staff members at Patterson High School, asking them to apply to a private foundation that is tentatively scheduled to take over the operation of the school or to transfer to another school.

The approval of the cut in the property tax rate from $5.90 to $5.85 per $100 of assessed value, agreed on a month ago, was achieved without making significant cuts in the city's $2 billion annual budget. The cut means the owner of a median-priced $45,000 home will save $9.09 in tax bills to be sent out July 1 and that the city will get about $4 million less in revenue.

The cut was praised last night by Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Schmoke, who said they hope it will encourage people to move into the city. A year ago, the two clashed over the same nickel cut, with Ms. Clarke favoring tax reduction and Mr. Schmoke saying the city couldn't afford it.

"We're very pleased to see a program of tax reduction and spending reduction is in place," Mrs. Clarke said. "You have to start a major program of affordability by breaking ground," she said.

"We have given up on that $4 million revenue as an investment in our community," Mr. Schmoke added.

But the mayor tempered his new enthusiasm with a fiscal warning.

"Things aren't going to get easier for us," he said. "We are not growing in terms of revenues in the city at the same rate as other [jurisdictions]."

The curfew law, intended to protect children from drug-related violence, would require children under 17 to be off the streets by 11 p.m. during the week and midnight on weekends.

The Charles Village special benefits district, which authorizes the imposition of a supplemental tax to pay for private sanitation and police services, would be the first in the city in a residential area. A similar district is in operation in the downtown business district. Creation of the district requires the approval of the residents.

The prohibition of the resale of tickets around the city's two stadiums was sought by the Orioles as a way to reduce ticket-scalping, or selling tickets for more than face value, which is against city law. A resolution introduced by 1st District Democrat Nicholas C. D'Adamo asks the teams to designate an area at the stadiums where the tickets could be exchanged at face value. The resolution, which was referred to committee, is not binding.

Peter Marudas, the mayor's legislative aide, said Mr. Schmoke will sign the curfew, Charles Village special benefits and ticket-selling bills.

That's not what the mayor did to bills allowing high-ranking white-collar workers to unionize and amending the charter to set an office in the Department of Finance to make sure the city would save money before it contracted with a private company to provide municipal services.

In separate veto letters dated last Thursday, the mayor called the first bill an "unprecedented departure from established labor practices" and said the second would create "a new layer of unnecessary and potentially costly bureaucracy" and "impede the timely and innovative reorganization of city services."

said he already has formed a labor-management committee to ensure "that employee concerns are protected and respected."

Under the charter, the council must wait five days before it can attempt a veto override and thus could not take action last night. Hence, next week's special session.

Fifteen votes are necessary to override a veto. There are 19 council members.

"To say I'm disappointed would be an understatement," 2nd District Democrat Anthony J. Ambridge said of the mayor's vetoes. Noting that the council passed both bills overwhelmingly last month, he told his colleagues, "This is the time that you prove you think for yourself or you don't."

Meanwhile, 1st District Democrat John L. Cain introduced a bill to prohibit the school system from contracting out classroom instruction. Staffers at Patterson High, which is in his district, were sent letters last week telling them to apply to the Hyde Foundation or to seek transfers to other schools. Superintendent Walter G. Amprey has proposed that the Hyde Foundation run Patterson as a way to avoid a state takeover.

"Disrespect for Patterson is at the core of what is happening here," Mrs. Clarke said.

Also last night, 3rd District Democrat Martin O'Malley introduced legislation to provide property tax credits for new and renovated homes.

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