A committee of city lawmakers today advanced a bill that would award $2,500 in tax credits to Baltimore police officers who opt to live inside the city limits. While that step was newsworthy on its own, Council President Jack Young’s choice of words added an extra twist to the story.
The Baltimore Sun’s Luke Broadwater, sitting in on the hearing at City Hall, tweeted this exasperated-sounding quote from Young that employs sexual violence to describe a certain type of financial drain on the city:
.@prezjackyoung, angered that 80% of police don’t live in Baltimore: “We need to figure out how we can force them to live in the city. This is madness. They have the nerve to vote to not sign the contract? They’re raping the city.”
— Luke Broadwater (@lukebroadwater) October 19, 2017
He reportedly said he regretted his choice of metaphor within minutes. However, he stuck by his argument, which was that officers who don’t live in Baltimore but earn salaries funded by taxpayer money are bleeding the city’s coffers.
Asked by WJZ to comment on Young’s gaffe, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis stuck up for him.
Re: "raping the city" Commissioner Davis responds, tells WJZ "I don't believe the council member meant to portray that image" https://t.co/HNu9ujs34u
— Pat Warren WJZ (@PatWarrenWJZ) October 19, 2017
Officials have long condemned the fact that a staggeringly high proportion of police officers pay property taxes in the counties while getting paid by the city. The U.S. Department of Justice even mentioned the trend in its damning 2016 investigative report on the department that helped initiate court-ordered police reform, noting, “Most BPD officers are neither originally from Baltimore nor live in the City, and many commute long distances to work at the Department.”
Only about 20 percent of the city’s roughly 2,500 sworn officers live in the city, according to figures from the city’s finance department. The bill passed out of committee today offers a financial perk to try to bring them in: $2,500 in annual tax credits, applied to to city property taxes.
The proposal has its drawbacks. The same finance report pointed out that depending on participation, the move would cost the city between $1.35 million after one year if around 5 percent of officers decide to buy homes in Baltimore, and up to $2.25 million if around 35 percent of officers participate.
The benefit to the officers is clear. The net property tax bill for a city-dwelling officer under the bill (including other existing credits) comes out to about $2,600, according to the finance department. That means if the proposal is enacted, the average officer would only be on the hook for about $100 in city taxes per year.
Minutes from the meeting indicate four of the committee’s five members – Eric Costello, Leon Pinkett, Sharon Greene Middleton and Robert Stokes Sr. – approved it, while Ed Reisinger was absent.
An amendment added to the bill today would end the deal after 10 years. It now heads to the council for a full vote.
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