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Baltimore City Council to consider giving property tax credit to lowest-paid city workers

Baltimore janitors, clerical workers and other city employees who are among the lowest-paid municipal staffers would get a $2,500 yearly property tax credit under legislation introduced Monday.

City Councilman Ryan Dorsey introduced the bill, which would provide some financial relief to those who are among the 25% lowest-paid, full-time city workers. The tax credit is similar to one the council approved two years ago for Baltimore police officers and firefighters who live in the city.

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The roughly 1,200 people who would be eligible for new tax credit make no more than about $38,000 each — less than the city’s median household income of $46,641.

“If you’re working full-time for the city of Baltimore,” Dorsey said of such employees, “we owe you.”

The General Assembly passed legislation this year that allows the city to adopt such a credit. A fiscal analysis of the bill determined it could result in a $3 million annual decrease in revenue for the city.

There are about 13,500 full-time city employees, of which 3,375 are designated as low-income under the bill. But nearly half of Baltimore’s low-income employees live outside the city and about 1 in 5 rent their homes.

Dorsey, a Democrat, has been pushing for this kind of credit since 2017, when he was the sole vote against the $2,500 property tax credit for public safety officials. That legislation was part of a longtime effort to get more officers to live in the city.

Dorsey said at the time that he didn’t believe it would result in a meaningful change in officer residency and that the increased borrowing power a tax credit allows would mean much more to low-income city workers, who could use that boost to become homeowners.

“You know who could use that? The people on the bottom end of the spectrum,” he said in 2017. “That’s what’s good for communities — not more police officers.”

The new legislation has broad support on the council, and a majority of members stood beside Dorsey as he held a news conference ahead of Monday night’s meeting.

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“It’s time for us to give back to those who work hard every single day,” Democratic City Council President Brandon Scott said.

In crafting this legislation, Dorsey said he was thinking about neighborhoods like Westport in South Baltimore. The median home purchase price there is $39,000, according to the nonprofit Live Baltimore, while the estimated rent is $1,135. If city workers who rent in such neighborhoods could access this tax credit, Dorsey said it would help bridge a “capital access gap.”

Trevor Taylor, 37, was born and raised in the city and has long rented a home in West Baltimore. The Department of Public Works laborer said the credit would help him buy his first home, and allow him to own a piece of the city.

“We don’t make a whole lot,” he said, “but we do a whole lot for the city.”

Democratic Del. Stephanie Smith of Baltimore sponsored the enabling legislation in the General Assembly.

“The least we can do for the people who work in our city," she said, “is give them a leg up.”

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