Tax Credit To Lure Public Safety Workers To Baltimore

BALTIMORE, MD – The city is trying to lure police and firefighters who live in surrounding counties back to Baltimore to live where they work.

The bait is an annual tax credit that’s no small change.

Police and firefighters get paid by city taxpayers, but most choose not to be their neighbors. The tax credit is intended to change that, which one state legislator calls part of police reform.

City police and firefighters can’t be forced to live where they work, according to City Hall. But the mayor thinks they can be persuaded. Thus, the tax credit proposal she announced Tuesday in a city firehouse with the fire and police chiefs at her side.

The credit is $2,500 off the property tax each year for any police officer, firefighter or sheriff’s deputy who is or becomes a city homeowner.

“The importance of increasing the number of first responders who live in the city cannot be stressed enough,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

Currently, 70 percent of so-called first responders who work in the city don’t live in the city, according to City Hall. The highest number of non-city dwellers is in the police department.

“As we looked for police reform, this is one of the issues that really concerns us,” state Sen. Catherine Pugh said.

Will a tax incentive work?

“Some people have some issues with the schools and the taxes. I think this is a great initiative that will bring people, give them the ability to live in the city,” said John Burke, with the firefighters union and a long-time city resident.

The fire department has been working to recruit city residents and the chief said it is succeeding.

“We actually had 143 percent increase of candidates from inside the city of Baltimore,” Baltimore City Fire Department Chief Niles Ford said.

City Hall estimates the tax credit would cost $2.5 million per year. A change in state law is needed then City Council approval, which means it will be up to the next mayor to follow through.


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