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Keeping tabs on the City Council's activities so you don't have to

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 5/13/2009

On the agenda for May 4

Bill 09-0328--Operating Budget for the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2010.

The Read: The $589 million budget was referred to the Budget and Appropriations/Committee of the Whole without comment. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, May 14 at 6 p.m. in the Du Burns Council chamber at City Hall.

Bill 09-0030--Zoning--Video Lottery Facilities. This is the formal ordinance that would allow Video Lottery Facilities (the new, legal kind) and their associated food and beverage operations and their "associated live entertainment and dancing" into M-2 zoning districts. The M-2 district is zoned for light manufacturing.

The Read: The slots parlors will be manufacturing tax revenue, from the perspective of the council members. City Council president Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) announced the "encouraging news" that the entity that won the state's contract to run slots in Baltimore (that would be Baltimore Entertainment Group, the sole bidder, which she did not name) "is going to increase the number of machines," which could mean "property tax cuts sooner rather than later." Rawlings-Blake also lauded the slot parlor's projected creation of 1,000 jobs (that's up from an estimate of 700 The Sun reported in April) with an average salary of $41,000. "We have a chance to really be a leader here," Rawlings-Blake concluded, "to establish ourselves as a great location." (That would be on land south of M&T Bank Stadium, on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, right about where the animal shelter is right now).

Bill 09-0331--Newly Constructed Dwellings--Property Tax Credit--Reauthorization. This reauthorizes and extends the five-year property tax phase in for the live-in owners of new and totally rehabbed houses, and lets some of the people who did not apply by the old deadline apply now and get it.

The Read: This is one of the ironies in Baltimore's housing market: a normal Baltimore rowhouse is worth maybe $120,000 and assessed at something like $75,000, so even with the city's huge tax rate, owners pay something reasonable--in this example, maybe $142 per month. But when someone puts hardwood floors, granite counters and stainless appliances in this house and sells it for $329,000, the tax shoots up to about $600 per month. Some of the people who bought into Canton at the market's peak are seeing tax bills close to three times that. The city's tax relief lets the new owners pay just half of their newly-assessed tax during their first year, 60 percent the second year, and so on until they're paying the full assessed rate. New owners have 90 days to apply for the tax credit, and some of them missed the deadline. The new bill would give them another 60 days after the ordinance becomes effective to file their paperwork. Says Council President Rawlings-Blake: "We can't expect people to move into this city knowing about the property tax credit, not give it to them, and expect that we have done our jobs."

City Council Quote of the Week

"Just to close, Bobby Curran used to wear Shockets' underwear." --City Councilman Nick D'Adamo (D-2nd District), referring to his honorable 3rd District colleague in explaining his announcement last week that he will not run for re-election when his current term ends in 2011. D'Adamo's announcement came at a May 2 celebration honoring his father, Nicholas D'Adamo Sr., on the 3900 block of Eastern Avenue where Shockets, the D'Adamo family store, used to stand.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for June 1 at 5 p.m.

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