Schmoke will hold meetings on tax Mayor will ask community leaders to support increase

April 24, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

To shore up support for his proposed piggyback tax increase, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is taking his budget show on the road in meetings with nearly 800 community leaders this week.

Mr. Schmoke hopes that a direct appeal to neighborhood community association leaders will counter growing opposition from City Council members to his tax proposal.

The mayor's pleas might fall on deaf ears.

"I am basically against the piggyback tax," said Carmen F. Watson, president of Harlem Park Trust Inc. "I think we need to find another [funding] source."

Mrs. Watson is one of many community association leaders in the 6th Councilmanic District who received a letter this week from Mr. Schmoke. The 90-minute meetings, also with budget director Edward Gallagher and finance director William Brown, are scheduled to run tomorrow through Saturday in each of the six councilmanic districts.

Yesterday, some council members were displeased that the mayor failed to notify them about these meetings with their constituents.

"At some point we need to all start working together, and I don't think that this is working toward that," said 1st District Councilwoman Lois Garey, who found out about the meetings from a constituent while attending a community meeting this week.

Mr. Schmoke and the City Council are locked in what is expected to become a two-month war over balancing the city's $2.3 billion budget. Yesterday he met with the council to discuss the budget. He will meet with the council again tomorrow afternoon.

For more than a week, the mayor has said that his proposed increase in the piggyback tax would avoid deep cuts in the budgets of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Enoch Pratt Free Library and Department of Recreation and Parks.

He wants to require residents to pay the city 55 percent of their state income tax instead of the 50 percent now collected by the city.

Mr. Schmoke says that the increase will generate about $10 million yearly.

The proposed increase would virtually offset savings realized from three nickel cuts in the property tax rate enacted in the past few years. The mayor has said that income from the piggyback tax is more likely to increase over time than income from city properties, which has been flat or in decline.

Council members, balking at the idea of raising taxes, have started to develop alternative plans that they claim are less painful to city residents.

Fourth District Councilwoman Sheila Dixon wants to revive the beverage container tax, which is scheduled to be phased out by next year.

First District Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr.wants to add a $1 surcharge to every Orioles and Ravens ticket sold, to generate more revenue.

"He is on the trail to really explain to people what the budget looks like and what the city's finances look like," said the mayor's press secretary, Clinton R. Coleman.

Mr. Schmoke has been on the defensive after an outpouring of calls from residents who oppose the tax, council members said.

"If he can get the constituents to understand and convince them [to support the proposed piggyback tax], and they tell me they want to do it, then I will change my mind," said 2nd District Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch.

Hilda Ford, vice president of the Coldspring Community Association, said yesterday that she plans to keep an open mind during her Saturday meeting with the mayor.

"I am going to listen to the facts," Mrs. Ford said yesterday. "Most people look at one half of it and see that they are taking more money away from me, but we need to find out why" the mayor wants the piggyback tax increase.

Pub Date: 4/24/96

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