Mayor appoints panel to distribute $3M to property owners whose tax bills were wrong

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has appointed a three-member panel to distribute up to $3 million to the owners of historic properties whose tax bills in coming years will be higher than what government officials told them to expect.

Retired Baltimore City Circuit Judge John M. Glynn, City Auditor Robert McCarty, and City Solicitor George Nilson will decide which owners will get the checks, which will cover portions of up to nine years of future tax bills. About 75 property owners submitted applications that could make them eligible to receive the checks, city officials said. The committee will begin deliberating this month. 

"They will have the responsibility to decide who gets the recompense [payments] and who doesn't," said William Voorhees, the city's director of revenue and taxation. He added the committee will be independent from the finance department, which will cut the checks. 

"The people who have an interest at stake shouldn't be sitting in judgment," Voorhees. 

The checks are intended to compensate property owners who were awarded erroneous and excessive 10-year credits for renovation or restoration of historic buildings. Such owners bought their property after they received faulty information about the tax bills -- and later saw their bills spike. 

The Baltimore Sun has detailed problems with the historic tax credit program, in which the full value of approved home renovations goes untaxed by the city for 10 years. Last year, about 315 city homeowners saw significant increases in their property tax bills after officials discovered that previous tax breaks were larger than they should have been. City and state officials have been trading blame over who bears responsibility for the errors.

After the Sun's report, Rawlings-Blake said she wanted to help property owners with their spiking bills, and announced her so-called recompense plan in January. 

"These are families who were told their tax bills would be one thing, and now they're finding out they're expected to pay thousands more," Rawlings-Blake said at the time. "During these tough economic times for families, this is particularly harsh and unfair."

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