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Quick and Dirty

Hear This

By Van Smith | Posted 3/16/2005

During last spring’s oh-so-short debate over creating new city taxes on phones, energy, and real-estate transactions, what never entered the discussion were the preliminary findings of a then-draft study by the Abell Foundation, a local research and grant-making outfit, called “A Costly Problem.” The problem, the study ultimately concluded, was that the city isn’t getting its due from existing real-estate taxes because nonresidential properties appear to be systemically underassessed—a point that would have been highly relevant to the erstwhile new-tax debate.

City Paper, in a move that perturbed Abell, got the story out before the study was published (“Tax Break,” Oct. 13, 2004), and plumbed the exasperation of a key city councilman—Keiffer Mitchell Jr. (D-11th District), chairman of the council’s Taxation and Finance Committee—over being left in the dark about the situation.

Abell’s study, which took almost three years to complete, was finally released last November, and Mitchell—as he promised in City Paper’s coverage—promptly called for a hearing to sort out its conclusions. At first scheduled for Feb. 24, the hearing was postponed due to snow. Now it’s on the council agenda for March 30 at 5 p.m. The meeting will be held in the City Council’s chambers, and it will be broadcast on Channel 21, the city’s cable station. This is a chance for Baltimore property owners to learn the details and react as taxpayers should—by making their opinions known to city leaders.

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