• Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has proposed a $2,500 annual property tax credit for police and firefighters who live or will move to the city.
  • The proposal has been embraced by the Baltimore legislative delegation, who promises to move the bill to approval in Annapolis.
  • The credit would take the property taxes on a $200,000 home from $4,500 per year to $2,000.

Baltimore’s mayor wants to make it easier for police officers and firefighters to buy a home within the city’s limits.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has proposed a property tax credit for police and firefighters who buy homes in the city, up to $2,500 per year. The intent of the tax break is to improve the relationship between the community and the safety forces that protect and serve it. The tax credit is designed only for present and future owner-occupied homes.

The intent is to provide relief for any safety force member at any rank or level of seniority but is thought to be most attractive to the demographic that is looking for, or owns, homes in the $150,000 to $225,000 range. For a house worth $200,000, the city property tax burden would drop from about $4,500 to $2,000.

Rawlings-Blake has made passage of the bill at the state level, the next step required for the tax credit to become law, one of her top agenda items for 2016. She hopes the tax break will bring the safety forces back into the city proper, where now only 21 percent of police officers live.

So, far, so good: the Baltimore-based representatives in Annapolis have signed on to support the plan with their colleagues.

More support needed behind Baltimore property tax break

It is expected that proposal will be approved by both chambers before the General Assembly’s current session ends in April. The proposal has the support of the Fraternal Order of Police, and legislative leadership in Annapolis.

It would then need to be blessed by Baltimore City Council.

Across the country, incentives for safety forces and residency requirements vary. Some incentive programs work, and others don’t. In some cities, residency requires are precluded by state law, and in other places, when successful, residency requirements are based on a distance from the city in which the officer is employed.

Some say that police/community relationships are improved when officers live in the city while others opine that safety force public servants, like the rest of us, need some time away from the job. 

In a city that is at a disadvantage in terms of property tax rates, lowering the annual property tax obligation to bring public servants back into the city may well be part of a toolkit that the mayor can use to stem their outward migration.

Email Kimberley Sirk.

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