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Mayor offers plan to provide $2,500 annual tax credit to city police, firefighters, sheriff's deputies

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and Fire Chief Niles Ford announce a new program that will encourage more first responders to live in Baltimore City. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun video)

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, looking to encourage more first responders to live in the community that they serve, announced a bill Tuesday that would give Baltimore police, fire and sheriff's department employees a $2,500 annual tax credit on homes purchased in the city.

"Our first responders are a crucial part of keeping Baltimore safe," Rawlings-Blake said at a news conference Tuesday. "There is a shared and common desire for them to help us rebuild our communities, and to improve the overall quality of life in our city."

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About 72 percent of Baltimore's police officers and 64 percent of its firefighters live outside the city, according to an Abell Foundation report cited by the mayor's office.

To become law, the tax credit must be approved by the City Council and by the General Assembly. If approved, it would be available to about 5,000 police, fire and sheriff's employees beginning in 2018.

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The credit would come on top of the $5,000 available to city employees in down-payment assistance on home purchases in Baltimore and other incentives offered by the city and state.

"Rebuilding Baltimore is not an easy fix," Rawlings-Blake said. "Encouraging homeownership and investment to improve our neighborhoods requires time, it requires commitment and a reason to be a part of Baltimore."

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called the credit a "positive step."

Fire Chief Niles Ford said it would boost his department's efforts to hire city residents.

Ford said increased recruiting in the city has yielded a 143 percent increase in candidates.

"It's extraordinarily important," he said, "not just for public safety reasons, but we want our young people to know that there's opportunities out there."

Michael Campbell, president of the fire officers union, applauded Rawlings-Blake's efforts.

"I think it's a good initiative," he said.

State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, who chairs the Baltimore delegation in the General Assembly, said she would support the legislation in Annapolis.

"It really concerns all of us," said Pugh, who is running for mayor. "We'll be doing everything we possibly can to make sure this legislation passes."

An earlier version misstated where the majority of Baltimore first responders live. The Sun regrets the error.

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