Whiplash Week For City Taxpayers

Oct 10, 2013

The subject of taxes – tax rates, tax collection and other tax-related issues – may have been more galling for Baltimoreans recently than usual. You may remember that Baltimore city residents pay higher taxes than any surrounding county. Much higher.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake says mistakes are unacceptable. So does City Council President Jack Young and Comptroller Joan Pratt and Councilman Carl Stokes. And others, no doubt.

Pratt wants an audit. Not necessary, says the mayor. Oh no, not again. She and Pratt clashed recently over who should be in charge of getting new phones for city hall.  Time and money were wasted while the spat ran its course. Things like that make some people think government shutdowns are a good thing.

They would be wrong. We do need efficient government – especially in the area of taxes. If the confidence of taxpayers is important, of course, an error rate of close to zero must be the goal.

Of course, most of us would rather be hearing about efforts to widen the tax base:  more individuals and businesses would be paying. And, theoretically, the taxes Baltimoreans are paying now could be reduced. Municipal services, at least, could be maintained at a livable level.

Places like the Canton Crossing mall on Boston Street in east Baltimore will help. At the gala opening this week – an event featuring a happy mayor – there was optimism in the air. Here we had a suburban-style shopping venue with an urban look. When it all gets up and running, we’ll have help with paying for city services.

Maybe the taxing system will be up and running – accurately – by then.

Your comments are welcome at fsmith@wypr.org