City officials are vowing to fight a proposed spin-off of several South Baltimore neighborhoods to Anne Arundel County, saying the loss in tax revenue would hurt the cash-strapped city.
The city submitted a written statement of opposition but kept silent at a hearing yesterday in Annapolis on a bill would allow the transfer of several neighborhoods and 14,000 residents in the Curtis Bay and Brooklyn area to Anne Arundel County if the residents approved such a move in referendum.
About 60 residents boarded chartered buses and drove to Annapolis to attend the hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on the bill sponsored by Sen. George W. Della Jr., D-City.
Della acknowledged that the bill stands little chance of success against unified opposition from the rest of the city's Senate delegation.
A fiscal note prepared by legislative analysts said that allowing Anne Arundel County to annex the South Baltimore neighborhoods would cost the city more than $12 million a year in lost taxes. The analysts acknowledged the city would also save money by not having to provide services in the area, but said the extent of those savings would be difficult to estimate.
On the revenue side, Baltimore would lose $3.6 million a year in NTC local income taxes and $8.9 million in property taxes, the analysts said. Anne Arundel County would gain all of the income tax revenue but only $3.7 million in property taxes, because its tax rate is less than half Baltimore's. The county's rate is $2.46 per $100 of assessed value, compared with the city's rate of $5.95.
Doug Brown, a revenue analyst with the city's budget bureau, said in an interview he could not estimate the city's net financial loss, but he felt it would be substantial. In addition to losing income and property taxes, he said, the city could lose energy and telephone taxes, dealing a significant blow to the city's $1.76 billion operating budget.
"Can the city afford to lose $1? The answer is no," Brown said.
"We think it's an idea that's neither timely nor worth exploring," said Peter N. Marudas, a top aide to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. He said the mayor has asked the city's senators to oppose the legislation. "I've not seen any interest in it among the rest of the city delegation," Marudas added.
Residents who spoke at the hearing criticized the city for everything from high taxes to poor police protection.
"We're paying the same tax rate as the people in Guilford and Roland Park, and they're getting the desert and we're getting the garbage," said Don Mawn, vice president of the Concerned Citizens for a Better Brooklyn.
The residents contend that the city has steered dangerous and unsightly industry to their region, leaving it a "dumping ground." The area is home to chemical factories, waste dumps, coal piers and sewage-treatment plants.
City Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, D-6th, who would lose a district to represent if the secession took place, testified in support of the bill.
"The measure is nothing short of the embodiment of the frustration of the people in the area," Murphy said.