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Charles Village Community Benefits District Considers Tax Increase

Last year, the district attempted to increase the surtax charged to homeowners by 1.4 cents per $100 of assessed value but failed.

The Charles Village Community Benefits District is once again considering  seeking an increase in the surtax it charges property owners.

David Hill, executive director of the district, confirmed the Finance Committee has recommended a surtax increase to 12.5 cents per $100 of assessed value for homeowners in the district. Currently, homeowners in Charles Village, Old Goucher, Harwood, Remington and Abell pay 12 cents per $100 of assessed value in surtax.

The Charles Village Community Benefits District is one of four special tax districts in Baltimore City and has the lowest surtax of the four. It was formed in the mid-1990s as a way for the community to provide supplemental security and sanitation services to what the city was already providing. The surtax charged to homeowners has never been altered and last year was the first attempt to do so.

“Everything is on the table at the moment,” Hill said.

He said the process still has a long way to go before any tax increase is officially proposed. He said the district plans to have a Program Committee meeting on March 7 before pulling together a first draft of a recommended financial plan for the benefits district’s board on March 13. A financial plan contains the district’s budget as well as any changes to the surtax.

After incorporating comments from the board, Hill would make a public presentation about the financial plan on March 27, and the board would then take a vote on whether or not to approve it on April 10. The Board of Estimates would decide whether to approve the financial plan in late May or early June.

The benefits district’s charter caps surtax increases so that it cannot generate more than 5 percent of the revenue it collected the year before.

The benefits district projects revenues for fiscal year 2013 to decrease by about $3,000, Hill said.  The district also estimated a $43,000 drop in projected revenue between fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2011.

Last year, the board proposed a tax increase of 1.4 cents per $100 of assessed value to offset the drop in projected revenues. That drop was the result of falling assessments on properties in the district.

Although the benefits district board voted in favor of raising the tax, the Board of Estimates—including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young—voted against raising it.

As a result, the district eliminated two positions through attrition. This year the projected revenue shortfall isn’t expected to cause the district to make such drastic cuts.

“For a cut like that we’d probably be looking at some other relatively small cost cutting measures,” Hill said.

Complicating matters further for the district is that they have been collecting less than what it has been anticipating from the surtax. In fiscal year 2011, the district anticipated collecting $722,367 in revenue from the surtax but only collected $647,980. That loss was mitigated by the city collecting $54,616 in surtax owed from previous years.

“It’s becoming a chronic problem and still another reason why we need to have this increase. It’s almost like a perfect storm,” Hill said. “We’re losing revenue because of decreased assessments at the same time—for some reason that isn’t clear—we’re losing additional revenues because there’s a shortfall in collections.”

Baltimore City residents already pay the highest property tax rate in the state at $2.268 per $100 of assessed value. That’s compared to $1.10 per $100 of assessed value in neighboring Baltimore County.

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Able Baker February 23, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Just a back of the envelope calculation, but providing a single police officer to cover the entire CVCBD district would break down something like this: 1 officer @ $20/hr (starting salary for a BCPD officer) * 2.0 overhead (SS, workman's comp etc,) * 24 * 360 = $345,600 2 officers would be about $700k, which is slightly less than the entire CVCBD budget for last year ($785k). So, you could have one support person in the office, 2 off duty officers patrolling the *entire* benefits district and that's it. My personal feeling is that security patrols are a waste of time and money. The benefits district does a good job with sanitation, so I'd prefer they stick to that, rather than some half-hearted and expensive patrol that doesn't do much.
Stephen Gewirtz February 23, 2012 at 03:44 PM
The proposed budget assumes $35 per hour for an off duty police officer. If CVCBD spends money on almost nothing else, there is money for 2 off duty officers patrolling 24/7. As one who attends a lot of court proceedings involving crimes committed in or near Charles Village, I can see that solving crimes involves a lot of luck. But when there are more officers, there is a lot more "luck." Two officers in a car can patrol a lot of the district. And when the word gets out that officers are patrolling constantly, there is likely to be a deterrent effect. So I think that having 24/7 extra patrols are worthwhile. And most of what CVCBD does in the area of sanitation duplicates what the City does or should be doing. We pay twice for sanitation services. That should stop. So I disagree with Able Baker.
Christian February 23, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Not only does their sanitation efforts duplicate the City's responsibility to provide these services under the "baseline agreement" that all communities in the City have, it is providing these sanitation services at a substanially lower pay level. This duplication could cause a dispute between the City and their unions. The only reason that the CVCBD has been providing duplicative services is that it is their ability to show the city some progress along those lines. It is easy to show that you picked up so many bags of garbage, rather than show to the city that you reduced crime. Instead of having the off-duty in police cars I would think that the community would be better served if the off-duty moved in segways as Midtown has been doing which reportedly has reduced crime in that area by 80%. While you cannot reduce all crime, an 80% improvement would be considerable for this area.
Able Baker February 23, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Ugh, Segways. Yes, let's use a $5000 machine that does exactly what a bicycle does, only more slowly. I'm skeptical of an 80% crime reduction. Based on what?
Able Baker February 23, 2012 at 04:34 PM
$35 per hour is unlikely to cover all the expenses of a patrolling officer, for that matter $40/hr was probably a lowball estimate on my part. Just for reference, the City of Rockville charges $60/hr to hire an officer with a patrol car. You'd likely have to pass a large increase in the surcharge, or seriously restrict the hours of the patrol. The duplicate services argument cuts both ways. We'd be paying for police protection, instead of sanitation services. If your premise is that we shouldn't be duplicating *any* city services, that's a different argument entirely.
kris February 23, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Stephen, thanks so much for the clarification! Now, maybe you can help me with my water bill - I presume you've seen the article re 65,000 people overcharged! Such ineffeciencies in this city!
Christian February 23, 2012 at 05:41 PM
The figures reported earlier with respect to a 80% reduction in crime for Midtown statistics was based on Baltimore City Police Department statistics. About the use of segways, it is an alternate way of moving quietly through the streets of Baltimore and gives the off-duty police officer an advantage in getting from one area to another. A bicycle is an alternative, but in-as-much as Midtown had such a success using segways, why not? About duplicate services in respect to hiring an off-duty police officer, isn't the entire Benfits District an entire duplication of services ? At least this duplication of services may just save someone's life. As property owners are supposed to take care of the areas outside their houses anyway, why do we need the Benefits District to do what we are already obligated to do legally? The Benefits District is currently cleaning up most areas where absentee landlords are not, so simply fine the owners of these property and save a lot of money.
Able Baker February 23, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Uh, ok. You have some reference for these stats, other than your say-so?
John February 24, 2012 at 01:12 AM
I'd be willing to volunteer to patrol from 11pm to 5am for 2 nights a month. Anyone else?
Christian February 24, 2012 at 01:46 PM
John, that is very nice of you to offer your services, however, in order to be an effective deterrent to crime, the off-duty police would have the ability to arrest an individual caught in the performance of an illegal act. I don't know your background, but having an unqualified individual walking the streets with another individual is not safe and not being trained could get seriously hurt or killed. We don't need another death in this community, there are too many already. The Benefits District was established on the fact that it would deter crime though 24/7 safety activities and since that time there have been a significant number of deaths in the area. Thus, this clearly indicates that it has been ineffective in the performance of its duties and now is the time to try alternate solutions. To Able Baker, simply review the BCPD's statistics and you will see the results that I have given as to 80% decrease in crime. Or, alternatively you can contact the Administrator from the Midtown Benefits District who will advise you of the results in that community.
Able Baker February 24, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Right, so I'll file your "statistics" in the Extraordinary Claims folder along with cold fusion and perpetual motion.
Christian February 24, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Well, I guess it is better for you to make a rude statement like that than to actually check the statistics yourself. On a subject that is so important to this community as a whole, I would have hoped that you would have refrained from such comments. You seem to dispute everything that everyone else has stated only to be insulting and rude. The statistics are there, you only have to review them, or alternatively you can contact the Midtown Community Benefits District and speak with the Administrator. The solution to the issue is simple, but your goal is not to resolve the statement but to argue about it. I don't feel it necessary to do your work for you.
Able Baker February 29, 2012 at 12:08 AM
You're the one making the claim, it's up to you to provide the evidence.
Christian February 29, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I can see no reason to do your work on this issue as I have already suggested a solution to the problem, therefore why should we continue this discourse? Apparently with your quips you think that it is more important to argue, rather than to seek a solution to the crime issue in this community. I don't know if you live in the area or not but I feel there are more important things in life than arguing with you about this when a solution has already been proposed.
Able Baker March 01, 2012 at 02:18 PM
You've suggested a solution that has no basis in fact. I'm not going to make your argument for you.
Christian March 01, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Are you employed by the Benefits District and/or on the Board of the Benefits District? I have given you the means in which to find the answers and now you want me to do your work for you. Quite frankly, inasmuch as the news is old there is no further need for discussion on this matter.
Able Baker March 02, 2012 at 02:17 PM
So I'll mark it down as an unsupported assertion. Thanks.
Christian March 02, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Able Baker, thanks for keeping this on the front burner, because of you I can respond and tell you that the Benefits Distrist is not following its legislated mandate in that it does not provide 24/7 security as promised, nor does it provide marketing of the community and has no parks and recreation functions. All it has managed to do is clean up the area, with the assistance of the City. The City has mechanical sweepers who come and clean up the streets, and the Benefits District simply takes credit for it. To think that we the community have contributed almost $12,600,000. since its inception to have our streets cleaned which the City is already cleaning to have the Benefits District duplicate much of the city's services in sanitation. To insult the residents even further, the Administrator of the Benefits District advises our City that they are the voice of the community when they are our employees and have no say about what takes place in the community. So thank you Able Baker for helping me get the word out loud and clear about the Benefits District, because without you I would have not been heard.
Able Baker March 02, 2012 at 07:15 PM
...and still no support for your 80% reduction in crime assertion. Thanks for playing.
Christian March 02, 2012 at 07:49 PM
...and still no answer from you regarding employment and/or whether you are on the Board of the Benefits District, so I guess we are even. I don't consider approximately $12,600,000. being thrown down the drain as playing, when that money could have been used for more important things, such as providing some safety net for those who have died in the community, or had their cars stolen, or houses broken into. Have a good day.
Able Baker March 03, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Still waiting...
Christian March 03, 2012 at 04:16 PM
And so am I.
Able Baker March 03, 2012 at 04:20 PM
The difference being is that I'm just asking you to support your (most likely false) assertions. You're looking for a reason not to, because they're made up.
Christian March 03, 2012 at 04:31 PM
I did not make them up as these statistics were reported to me by a city official who advised me that they came from the police statistics. If you doubt it, go to the police statistics and report your findings. But still you haven't answered my question. Why do you hesitate to do so?
Able Baker March 03, 2012 at 05:02 PM
So "heard it from some guy" is your source. Thanks for that then.
Christian March 03, 2012 at 08:07 PM
I don't know what language you are talking in because "heard it from some guy" versus a "city official" is somewhat different in English. However, you refuse to answer my question, so I have to presume you are employed by the Benefits District and/or you are on the Board. So let's quit boring the readers and end the conversation.
Able Baker March 05, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Apologies, heard it from "unnamed city official" then. Dogcatcher? Garbage man?
Ian Charles April 05, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Does an organization that pays its security forces to ride around on $2,500 Segway bicycles need to charge higher taxes? Walmart bicycles cost $150. Does that fact that the CVCBD 2013 budget shows $0 from contributions show that the community supports higher taxes? Does a tax increase seem like a wise way to stimulate property investment and home-ownership in a City whose property taxes are among the highest in the Nation? CVCBD pays $110,680 in "contract labor", but offers the community no detailed accounting for that expenditure. Are contract wages comparable to City wages for the same work? Are these people CV residents? Should CVCBD ask the community for higher taxes without full transparency? CVCBD wants to spend $8,000 in 2013 for uniforms. Does that seem like a reasonable cost for T-shirts? How many T-shirts does $8,000 buy, and what does that number say about employee turnover? Why so many new uniforms? Does that expenditure demonstrate a need to increase taxes on residents? SAY "NO" TO HIGHER TAXES FOR SERVICES THAT SHOULD ALREADY BE PROVIDED BY BALTIMORE CITY DISBAND THE CVCBD
J D April 05, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Each of these questions could have been easily answered by looking at the charlesvillage.org website, attending a public meeting, or making a phone call or email to the CVCBD office: 1. "The CVCBD would provide ... an individual mode of transportation for each such as a segway, bicycle, or scooter (but NOT an automobile)." No one has suggested spending tax dollars for Segways or scooters, only possibly asking a foundation to buy some for the community. 2. The proposed budget (http://www.charlesvillage.org/board_directors/fin_plan/Grant_Funded_Projects_Recommended.htm) anticipates $255,000 in donations above & beyond JHU contributions, from foundations, area residents, and a local businessman. 3. Contract labor is spelled out in the budget (http://www.charlesvillage.org/board_directors/fin_plan/Budget_2012_2013_Draft_6.htm) to include a seasonal leaf removal team, Waverly Main Streets enhanced cleaning, rat abatement, off-duty police patrols, and a 2-week temp office worker. All of these contracts (likely with Tuerk House, Regional Pest Management, and BWI) were discussed in numerous public committee meetings, and in the presentation to the public last week. 4. The uniforms provided for sanitation workers include multiple t-shirts, shorts, pants, cold weather overalls / jackets / hoodies, along with limited weekly laundering. It's a perfectly reasonable expense that was discussed at length in public meetings in 2009 when the uniform program started.
Christian April 05, 2012 at 02:38 PM
With all due respect to JD, the budget was a hasty presentation at the hearing that lasted approximately 15 minutes as stated at the outset. The information posted by the CVBDMA about the budget was finally put on the web after a number of community residents requested same from David Hill and was placed on the site 3 days before the hearing along with a seven page promotional insert. The anticipated $255,000 in donations seems unrealistic indeed considering FY 2012's budget which included $65,000 in grants was not met in the proposed FY 2013 budgets. In fact thre is no mention of any attempt to secure $255,000 in grants in the budgets. The program revenues, in particular the CSX contract is really unfortunate when you consider CSX paid the former contractor $13,500 for the 9 month period that they cleaned up the area and the benefits district is only getting $2,700. Uniforms are one thing; these are bulletin boards advertising the Benefits District where a simple vest would be more than suitable. Lastly the Fall leaf, WMS, Rat Abatement, targeted security and receptionist for two weeks are all addtional expenses that were not in place in the FY 2012 budget. In fact the benefits district is getting $14,400 income and paying $14,000 in expenses according to the budgeets presented.

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