Midtown Benefits District Considers Tax Increase
UPDATE, 4/5: Remington resident Joan Floyd emails to say she went to the meeting and the big proposed increased failed: “in the end they voted for the 5% increase that is already allowed [under the district's charter]. But I’m not sure they actually had enough votes to approve that. The vote was close, and I know that in some districts you have to have a supermajority to approve a surtax increase.”<-
The Midtown Community Benefits District is proposing a sharp increase to the district’s surcharge in order to fund a surveillance camera system and more security patrols. The Sun had the piece last night—just in time for tonight’s board of directors vote on the plan at 6:30 p.m. at MICA. Looks like the board is going to go for it. Greg Baranoski, a 19-year Bolton Hill resident and former board member, called City Paper to repeat his opposition to the increase and critique the Sun’s coverage.
“What I wish I had seen,” he says, “is the Sun doing a call to central district police to find out what through-the-roof crime spike justifies a 40 percent increase in our assessment.”
The proposal is here.
The average assessment would increase by just $125 a year, proponents say—“just 34 cents a day.” But of course, the average $250,000 assessment includes some vacants and a lot of condos, Baranoski counters: “If you’re in Bolton Hill and your house is assessed at $600,000 or $700,000, as many are, it’s a lot more than $125 a year.”
The matter, if passed by the board tonight, will have to get approval from the Board of Estimates.
Midtown Benefits District Board Chairman Jason Curtis says the district’s surtax income “has declined since the introduction of the Homestead and other tax credits and due to drops in district property values.” By Baranoski’s calculation, the assessment increased by 194 percent over the past seven years as property values increased, even as the actual levy remained at 13 cents per $100 valuation.
Though there are occasional muggings and other crimes in the central neighborhoods (the District covers Mt. Vernon, Bolton Hill, Madison Park, Midtown-Belvedere, and Charles North), the crime rate is much lower now than it was 20 years ago, Baranoski says. He doubts the camera system will help suppress crime further, and says increasing the assessment when the city and state are contemplating various tax increases makes little sense.
“We’re already living in the highest tax neighborhoods in all of Maryland,” he says.