Non-profits should contribute to the city's tax base

Baltimore City's belated effort to collect full-rate property taxes on unsold but move-in-ready condo units highlights how much reliance the city places on property owners to shoulder, among other things, the costs of infrastructure and public safety services ("Condos' tax bills see big increases," July 16).

No doubt these experienced developers had budgeted for these taxes and were wondering just how long the heavily discounted undeveloped-property-tax-rate windfall would last. Does an extra step need to be added to the new property development process to highlight that bright line?

Meanwhile, another substantial — and growing — percentage of the city's footprint is owned by churches and non-profit organizations. These groups enjoy essentially tax-free real property ownership. Yet in order to function, they are as much in need of street maintenance, water and sewer pipes, fire and police protection and the full panoply of social services as the rest of us are.

Surely it can't be too much to ask church, synagogue, mosque or other non-profit property owners to contribute something to the city based on the value of their real estate holdings, even if it represents only a fraction of the regular property tax rate.

Requiring a contribution for public services based on real property holdings might cause some of these land holders to shed some or all of their property, hopefully selling some back to the tax-paying sector and thus further alleviating the city's fiscal crisis.

Though I fully appreciate all the social good religious and non-profit organizations do, I nonetheless would encourage the city comptroller to re-examine ways to gently pierce their tax-exempt veil in a way that doesn't violate the First Amendment and Maryland's constitutional equivalent.

Louis Brendan Curran, Baltimore

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