Charles Village residents could see their taxes go up if a recommended surtax increase is approved.
The Charles Village Benefits District board of directors has recommended a budget for the coming fiscal year that increases the surtax it charges property owners by 1.4 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Currently property owners are charged 12 cents per $100 of assessed value on top of city property taxes. If the increase is approved it would be the first surtax hike since the district was created in 1995.
Baltimore City residents already pay $2.26 per $100 of assessed value in property taxes, twice as much as Baltimore County residents, who pay $1.1o.
According to its website, the benefits disrict's mission is to "provide Charles Village with sanitation and safety services, while empowering the community and educating residents on ways to keep the neighborhoods safe and clean."
The district's board is recommending the increase because declining property tax assessments are expected to reduce revenue by about $43,000, forcing the district to reduce services, said David Hill, CVBD executive director.
Without the proposed increase, the group's next budget would be about $680,000, according to an e-mail from Charles Village Civic Association President Jennifer Erickson.
However, the hike in the surtax will enable the district to prevent cuts in service and provide hourly employees with what Hill called a "living wage" of about $12 an hour.
Hill said previously in the late 1990s when the neighborhoods faced falling property tax assessments the district decided not to raise the surtax and had to reduce services. He said the reduction in services angered many residents.
"We don't want to repeat history. We want to learn from it," he said.
The district will hold a public meeting on its fiscal year 2012 budget on March 29 at Lovely Lane Church. At that meeting, two alternative budgets will also be presented to the public.
The presentation will also include options to increase the surtax to 12.7 cents per $100 of assessed value and leaving the current surtax rate in place.
He said the board believes input from residents on the budget is important.
"We'll see what the public says," Hill said.
Any increase in the surtax would have to be approved by the CVBD's board of directors and by the city's Board of Estimates.
Hill said that following the public meeting he expects the board to take action on the budget during its April meeting, and that it would be on the Board of Estimates agenda by the first week of June.
The district provides sanitation and security services for about 100 blocks in the Charles Village area.
Some residents are already voicing their opposition to an increase in the surtax.
Stephen Gewirtz has been a continued critic of the CVBD and said he feels the proposed surtax increase isn't needed.
"I never really thought we needed a benefits district in the first place," Gewirtz said.
He said the benefits district's accomplishments do not justify the additional taxing of property owners.
Gewirtz criticized a program where the district put trash cans on the street to reduce littering. He said the only result has been residents putting household trash in the mesh wastebaskets that allow rats access to the contents.
According to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, the Charles Village Benefits District is one of four special tax districts in the city.
The other three are:
The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore: 21.3 cents per $100 of assessed value
The Midtown Community Benefits District: 12.2 cents per $100 of assessed value
The Waterfront Management District: 17 cents per $100 of assessed value