I'm pleased to provide you with another segment in the Greater Baltimore Committee's (GBC) "In Their Words" series as the June 2 Primary Election in Baltimore City draws near.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, campaigning has shifted to a virtual approach as widespread closures and physical distancing measures remain in place. For that reason, sharing information about the election with GBC members and Baltimore City residents has become even more vital.
The GBC does not endorse candidates; however, we are committed to inform voters about the upcoming election.

As part of that effort, the GBC began a series called "In Their Words." The series, which is now in its fifth week, has shared questionnaire responses of leading candidates for Mayor and City Council President. It has covered such topics as ethical leadership, public safety, workforce development, and transportation and mobility.

This week's edition highlights leading candidates' viewpoints on reforming Baltimore City's property tax structure.
Full questionnaire responses and other important details regarding the election can be found on the special Baltimore City Election section of our website as part of our election education outreach campaign.

We hope you find this installment of the series informative. Feel free to share the series with your networks. All prior editions can be found on our website .
We encourage all city voters to vote in the June 2 election.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at .
Be safe, stay healthy and positive.
Donald C. Fry
Donald C. Fry
President & CEO
Policy Priority

Implement strategic and inclusive economic development strategies to attract and retain businesses and residents.

Question: Do you have ideas or suggestions to reform the property tax structure in the City?

"Given that our current property tax rate of $2.248 per $100 of assessed property is the highest in the state, and nearly double of surrounding jurisdictions, we have to be strategic and aggressive at offering our citizens some much needed financial relief while also remaining fiscally prudent and maintaining our AAA bond rating. Knowing that our property tax revenue accounts for nearly a ⅓ of our nearly $3 billion annual budget, almost a billion dollars, we would need a significant amount of revenue if we offer up any kind of significant relief to the citizens by way of tax cuts. Now dependent on how existing tax credits are treated once entering office, I would lobby the Governor and the Maryland General Assembly to offer up a Property Tax Assistance Initiative that would call on the state to lend the city enough money to lower our rate for homeowners closer to the $1.10 rate of Baltimore County, or roughly half of the current rate homeowners are paying for one adjustment period, giving us the necessary revenue to make up for this significant tax break but putting us more in line with surrounding counties, and thereby making us more attractive as a city overall to citizens looking to move into the city, as well as Fortune 500 companies that currently don’t exist in Baltimore. However, the priority should be stabilizing and increasing our population, in turn, having a steady increase in revenue without raising taxes."

"Baltimore is overly reliant on property taxes in a city where one third of our land area is tax-exempt. As a consequence, our property tax rate is elevated and uncompetitive with surrounding counties. In response we have a confusing array of property tax credits and payments in lieu of taxes that don’t seem to have any common standard. As Mayor I would undertake a comprehensive review of our tax structure to develop a responsible plan for making the city more competitive. Our goal should be a fairer tax system that allows the city to grow its way into a lower property tax rate. At the same time, we should strive to rebalance our tax revenue towards income taxes by raising income levels in the city with living wage jobs. Proposals for cutting our property tax rate dramatically to stimulate growth are appealing, but need to be developed with a clear understanding of the fiscal consequences and a safety net for transition."

"As a life-long Baltimorean, I understand and share residents’ frustrations with the high property tax on Baltimore City homeowners and businesses. It puts us at a competitive disadvantage, when compared to surrounding counties. High property taxes not only dissuade potential home buyers, but cost those who do choose to buy in the city potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost equity over a homeowner's lifetime. This is deeply inequitable to the City’s homeowners.
However, our City's budget is heavily dependent on property taxes to fund basic city services. That is why I am looking forward to the study that the Department of Finance has commissioned from Ernst and Young to evaluate our City's tax structure, as well as their reform recommendations. I also commit to revisiting the Blue Ribbon Committee on Taxes and Fees Report from 2007.
But I must be clear, any changes to the property tax structure must be holistic and reasoned, particularly in the face of the proposed Kirwan Commission's $330 million contribution to Baltimore City Schools by 2030."

"I am currently reviewing pathways to a fiscally responsible tax decrease for Baltimore. As part of my plan, we are reviewing city owned assets for potential sale in an effort to offset the upfront expenses of a tax cut. We will also put forth legislation for special increased taxes on those who are holding onto dilapidated and vacant properties. A tax cut in Baltimore is akin to a stimulus package. This is more than necessary and worthwhile and it can offer a stop gap to people and businesses who are fleeing the city because of taxes. I am confident that we are devising a responsible path to meaningful tax cuts."

"Yes. I have pledged to cut Baltimore City's property taxes in half in ten years using a plan described by former WYPR President, Tony Brandon, as 'visionary and actionable.' We will reduce the current property tax by $0.11 per $100 of assessed value each year for ten years—until it equalizes with the county rate. We will expect agencies to collectively cut $40 million in wasteful spending, knowing there is likely hundreds of millions in waste that forensic audits would expose. Moreover, to further compensate for the risk of reduced revenue, we will raise taxes on abandoned property to prompt owners to develop the land or to sell it to someone who will. Finally, we will seize and sell uninhabited property with unpaid taxes or excessive code violations. A ten-year preset scheduled of property tax reductions will prime the market for investment, impose a level of fiscal discipline that Baltimore City has sorely lacked, and will encourage families and businesses to stick around knowing that city leaders are committed to making sense of what is currently an irrational and unsustainable tax rate."

"As Mayor, I am focused on a tax structure that best serves Baltimore, as well as delivering quality city services that make our residents feel like their tax dollars are working in the best way they can. It is imperative people feel like their tax dollars are being put to good use.
In cities across the country, we have seen voters approve increased taxes when they feel that the city services and public amenities that these taxes fund meet the level of service that citizens deserve. We must, rather than looking for the magic formula to lower property taxes, demand and put in place systems and leadership that ensure that Baltimore’s city services are second to none, throughout the state and throughout our country."
Connect with GBC