By Scott Calvert, The Baltimore Sun
11:11 AM EDT, July 14, 2013
More than a year ago, Maryland's assessments agency acknowledged making chronic miscalculations on certain tax breaks for big commercial properties in Baltimore — errors that cost the city more than $1.5 million in potential taxes.
On July 6, 2012, a state official emailed the city information necessary to revise tax bills for several properties, which the state concluded had received unduly steep discounts following historic rehabilitations.
A year later, the city Finance Department says it has not issued any revised bills to correct the errors. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's office offered no explanation of how it planned to address the issue.
City Councilman Carl Stokes, who chairs the council's taxation committee, said he can't understand the silence and evident inaction from City Hall: "It's frustrating to the council members that we can't get these things resolved in a manner that will allow taxpayers to get the full benefit of what should rightfully be in our coffers."
Stokes added: "Let's go get our money."
A Baltimore Sun analysis uncovered the errors in spring 2012, and the state Department of Assessments and Taxation subsequently confirmed the mistakes. In some cases, historic rehab credits were not reduced over time as required; in others, the wrong values were used. In some cases both errors were made.
Two downtown apartment buildings, the Atrium and the Munsey, were underbilled by more than $500,000 each, The Sun found, and several other commercial properties got windfalls as high as six figures. Year after year, the city failed to catch the errors, which began in 2004.
Last fall, Deputy Finance Director Henry J. Raymond told The Sun the city wasn't ready to act.
"We are in our continuous audit process," he said, "and will not take any action until all accounts can be reviewed and we can approach these errors with a standardized procedure and communication."
Rawlings-Blake spokesman Ryan O'Doherty has said he is waiting for the Finance Department to provide more information about the matter.
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