Antiquated System Allowing Developers to Abuse City Tax Credits
Updated: Tuesday, October 8 2013, 01:38 PM EDT
A lapse in oversight has led to city developers obtaining money they didn't deserve by using tax credits which are supposed to stimulate development in poor neighborhoods and preserve historic buildings.
At a hastily-arranged press conference on Monday City Hall confronted the issues. The error-plagued system has allowed millions in unwarranted credits that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she is committed to fixing.
"The errors have frustrated tax credit recipients, and have caused many to lose confidence in the government's ability to do one of its most basic functions," Rawlings-Blake said. "I realize how upsetting these errors can be."
The mayor says her solution to fix the problem lies with technology. City officials recently discovered that the process for granting special tax credits is antiquated.
Baltimore City Finance Director Harry Black says the credits were reviewed and calculated by hand, a system that was error prone and will be upgraded.
"We are in the process of developing an automated system that will support this program," Black said. "There are too many hands actually touching the process."
There were also concerns that an administration which has allowed millions of dollars in undeserved tax breaks needs more oversight – and quickly. City Comptroller Joan Pratt says her agency wants to prioritize a fiscal audit of the finance department to insure the new system will be both accurate and fair.
"What I want is to be sure that the citizens are being billed properly and that the citizens are paying the city in a timely basis as they should," Pratt said.