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Baltimore Mayoral candidate proposes lowering property tax rate by half

Carl Stokes takes a punch at Property Tax Rate
Carl Stokes takes a punch at Property Tax Rate
GCOMM Media Co.

Council honors Baltimore icon Clarence Mitchell Jr. along with other city leaders

Councilman Carl Stokes (D-12), a former and current Mayoral candidate in Baltimore City and Chair of the Taxation, Finance and Economic Matters Committee on the City Council, has recently proposed a Charter Amendment that would lower the property tax rate by 50% in the state's highest taxed jurisdiction. However, with only one initial co-sponsor, Councilman Warren Branch (D-13), who backed off the bill after reading its contents, the likelihood of the measure passing by the chambers 2/3 majority needed for a Charter Amendment is nil?

Yet Councilman Stokes' proposal, CB-11-0668, would cut that tax rate in half over the next five years, calling for the establishment of one or more continuing, non-lapsing funds to be used for the reduction of the property tax. Citizens and homeowners applaud his proposal however current Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says it is “irresponsible and costly, as it would cost the city $393 -million a year over five to six years.” Other Council members likened Stokes' proposal to that of a fairy tale and being very irresponsible in nature, yet admirable in his intentions.

The East Baltimore Councilman, who took over the 12th district seat of Bernard 'Jack' Young last year when he ascended to the seat of the Council Presidency, says that Baltimore voters' want this and it shall take the legislative will and political leadership of the Council to overcome the rates once felt by cities such as San Francisco and Boston. “San Fran. Cut its property tax by almost 60% overnight while Boston saw its property tax reduced by 75% over two years, resulting in spurred economic development and an increased population in both cities,” said the one-time Mayoral candidate. “Baltimore can have that same sort of renaissance!”

Joining a field of candidates announcing their intentions to run for Mayor, Stokes' sees himself as an immediate front-runner as a former citywide candidate, facing first time candidates Jody Landers (though Landers is a former councilman) and Otis Rolley, and going toe-to-toe with the citywide elected Clerk of the Courts Frank Conaway Sr. and current Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. As most of those speculated to run for Mayor come out of West Baltimore, the East Baltimore native Stokes' has a clear shot at a side of Baltimore that has yet to have a citywide elected President or Mayor since the days of Clarence Du' Burns. Yet Stokes' isn't allowing that tradition to bother him as he sets his sights towards a goal he intended to obtain over a decade ago.

However, with a crowded field of candidates joining the 2011 Mayoral race, all of whom talking about the same property tax issue, Stokes' mere introduction of the bill may give him a leg up in a race that is sure to focus on Baltimore's property rate which is one of the nation's top taxed local jurisdictions in the country. Ranking currently as America's #303 highest property taxed locality behind the likes of counties in New York, New Jersey and Illinois, the Tax Foundation , which has been accessing these rates since 1937, has Maryland's top two majority black jurisdictions [Baltimore City and Prince George's County] as its most taxed localities.

Stokes' proposal would dramatically reduce Baltimore's Property Tax rate by 15 cents per year - which currently stands at approximately $2.268 per $100 of assessed value – starting in 2012 and ending in 2016, leaving the City rate at about $1.10 by FY'17. Property taxes on real estate in Maryland are collected by local (county or city) governments, but a portion of property taxes go to the state of Maryland. Local governments, such as Baltimore City, are responsible for collecting all property taxes, including those for the state of Maryland.

Local governments such as Baltimore send a property tax bill in July or August for the current tax year which runs from July 1 to June 30. Those taxes are due by September 30, although if you pay sooner you can get a small discount in some jurisdictions. Even if you your mortgage company pays the taxes from the escrow it collects in your monthly payment, you should still receive a property tax bill too.

In 2007-08 Maryland property tax rate was $0.112 per $100 of assessed value. Local tax rates, which are in addition to the state tax, ranged from $0.475 to $2.268. Taxes are calculated by multiplying the tax rate by the assessed value of the property and dividing by 100. For example, for a house assessed at $100,000, the Maryland property tax would be $112 (.112 x 100,000 ÷ 100=$112). Stokes' says that if his plan is implemented right, which he offers fifteen various funding sources to cover the cost of this program, than Baltimore would see the people come back in droves, reversing a decades-long loss in residents, and see his plan create hundreds of new jobs, encourage and strengthen community revitalization and business growth while increasing the city’s tax base in a real dramatic way.

Also on last night's Council agenda was a resolution naming March 8, 2011, Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Day in Baltimore, marking the celebration of one of Baltimore's greatest civil rights icons and honoring him on his 100th birthday. Following in the footsteps of two City leaders, Marvin 'Doc' Cheatham and Michael Eugene Johnson, who have been planning a whole week of celebratory events honoring the former NAACP Washington Bureau Chief, City Council officials unanimously passed this long overdue measure.

Mr. Mitchell (March 8, 1911 - March 19, 1984) was born into a humble, working class family in Baltimore, and through hard work and perseverance rose to the halls of the United States Congress, where he became known affectionately as the 101st U.S. Senator for tirelessly pursuing the passage of a comprehensive series of civil rights laws. Mr. Mitchell was the pivotal force leading to Congressional passage of various landmark civil rights laws, including the 1957 Civil Rights Act, the 1960 Civil Rights Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. In 1969 he was honored by the NAACP with the Spingarn Medal, which is awarded annually to individuals who perform acts of distinguished merit and achievement. Mr. Mitchell simultaneously served as the NAACP’s chief lobbyist and regional director for 30 years.

For more information on the Stokes' plan or more email me here, follow me on Twitter, Friend me on Facebook, view past Reporters' Roundtable TV show and services provided by GCOMM Media here.


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