County Executive Allan Kittleman and County Councilman Calvin Ball have both filed legislation that would create a tax credit for first responders who live and work in the county.
Ball, a Democrat who represents District 2, and Kittleman, a Republican, are both running for county executive in 2018. Ball is a former Howard County firefighter and EMT.
Kittleman said he had been working on the tax credit “all year,” and that he wants “to encourage first responders to live in Howard County.”
The proposed legislation is made possible by a law passed last year by Maryland’s General Assembly allowing local jurisdictions to create tax credits for first responders of up to $2,500 annually. The credit’s potential recipients include only a small number of the county’s total first responders, however. Of the county’s over 470 police officers, only 32 percent live in Howard, and 36 percent of sheriff officers live in the county. A mere 16 percent of career firefighters live in the county, and just 10 percent of correctional officers, 15 people, live in the county.
While the credit may not help a large number of correctional officers, who make a median salary of approximately $51,500, Department of Corrections director Jack Kavanagh said he was pleased the group was included in the tax credit program proposal.
“That is something that has really helped our staff, they now feel like they’re part of the public safety community,” Kavanagh said. “We’re a pretty good location in that we’re right off I-95, and so officers can live all over the county and see what might fit for them. Anything is better than nothing. If this might just be the edge that helps them pick a place in the county over something else, then that’s a good thing.”
Kittleman’s tax credit, when fully implemented, would allow the county’s police, sheriff, firefighters, correctional officers, emergency medical personnel and volunteer firefighters to receive a $2,500 property tax credit.
Ball’s bill caps the credit at $750,000 and does not include volunteer firefighters, while Kittleman’s bill includes volunteer firefighters who have served in the county for at least 10 years.
“Having first-responders living in our neighborhoods reinforces our community policing policies, assists in emergency situations and helps reduce criminal activity,” Ball said in a released statement.
In its first year, the credit is estimated to cost the county approximately $700,000, and once fully implemented in 2020, it is expected to cost $1.6 million, according to county spokesman Paul Milton. County administrators have budgeted for a 9 percent increase in the number of first responders living in the county by the end of 2020.