A new report released by the Abell Foundation urges changes to the tax sale process in Baltimore City.
As reported by the Baltimore Sun,
The report calls on Baltimore officials and the Maryland General Assembly to add protections for owner-occupied homes and simplify a city system that often confuses homeowners, enriches investors and adds to the number of vacant properties that line neighborhood streets.
Tax sale reforms have been raised in the past and statewide legislation passed in 2008 to provide additional protections to homeowners and to improve the fairness and accountability of the tax sale process generally. However, the fair application of public taxes and charges necessitates that these be paid by all taxpayers – sporadic or uneven implementation simply permits some to avoid paying while the vast majority bears their fair share of the costs of public services. Property taxes are the primary source of revenue for government budgets and holding or the potential of a tax lien sale is an effective way for local governments to collect the money to pay for critically needed local services, such as education, police and fire protection.
From the Sun story, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake noted the City’s multiple advances on these fairness issues:
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she’s committed to finding ways to make sure residents can stay in their houses, but her administration sees the $250 threshold as constructive by forcing homeowners to address the debt before it grows any larger.
Rawlings-Blake pointed toward multiple programs the city has in place to help low-income and elderly residents, including discounts on water bills, savings accounts for future tax bills and energy assistance. She said the city also has an early warning system in which city agencies reach out to identify residents at risk of losing their homes.