The Baltimore County Council was warned Tuesday that it risks losing police and corrections officers and firefighters to nearby counties if it doesn’t give them a tax break.
The council is weighing whether it’s worth the millions the county would lose in tax money.
Councilman Wade Kach’s proposal would phase in a property tax credit over three years and would max out at $2,500. Kach said other nearby counties, like Howard and Anne Arundel, are giving tax breaks, and that puts Baltimore County at a disadvantage in attracting and retaining first responders.
“We must ensure that we are going to get the best people as firefighters, as policemen, as correctional officers,” Kach said.
The Council heard from the various unions that represent officers Tuesday. They said the tax break would make it more affordable for their members to live in the county. Cole Weston, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #4, said people like having police officers living in their neighborhoods and that it’s good for the county’s economy as well.
“We don’t want our people going to Bel Air and Westminster and going to the movies there and shopping there and get gas there and going to the restaurants there,” Weston said.
But the three-year phase in of the tax credit would cost the county nearly $13 million and officials have been saying for months that Baltimore County is strapped for cash. Councilman David Marks is suggesting that perhaps the Council could pass the legislation, but have it expire some years down the road. Marks said that would give them the opportunity to see whether the tax credit was fiscally worth it.
“Is this successful in retaining and recruiting new public safety professionals and volunteers? A sunset provision could help us determine that,” Marks said.
The proposal would include volunteer, as well as professional firefighters.
The council is expected to vote on the tax break August 6.