She and her husband, Joseph, bought the house in 1984, the year the subdivision was built south of Green Mount Cemetery. He worked at Sparrows Point, she at a school cafeteria. By 1999, when arthritis and high blood pressure forced her to stop working, she was a widow.

Her home is valued at $92,000, translating to a $2,200 property tax bill this year. The homestead credit knocked that down to $1,280, the amount she paid in December.

But her $16,000 income means that she would have to pay only $420 in taxes — or perhaps $600, if cash support she's gotten from her daughter is factored in.

Artis said she religiously pays $632 a month toward her mortgage, which she'll pay off in two years, and all she can toward gas and electric. But some bills she has to let slide when money runs out. Now, she says, she'll be sure to apply for the tax credit.

Cutting her tax bill by several hundred dollars would be a huge help, she said: "It'd make a lot of difference, a good difference."

Baltimore Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

Homeowners, not homestead

The Homeowners' Property Tax Credit provides breaks to Maryland homeowners with low to moderate incomes. It's different from the Homestead Property Tax Credit, which is open all homeowners regardless of wealth.

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