Elected officials, union groups and progressive activists launched a coordinated campaign Tuesday against a proposed measure to cut Baltimore’s property tax rate, calling themselves the “Baltimore City Is Not For Sale” coalition.

The charter amendment they oppose, pushed by a group of politicos and economists, would gradually reduce Baltimore’s property tax rate each year through 2031. The movement organizes and fundraises under the moniker Renew Baltimore.

Outside a Pigtown firehouse, union staffers said the loss of property tax revenue the proposal would cause would obliterate city services. Gesturing to BCFD Engine 55, Truck 23, Medic 22, research analyst Chris Meyer of the Maryland Center on Economic Policy said the cuts would lead to closure of such firehouses.

“We would have to gain 325,000 new residents in just seven years for the [Renew Baltimore] plan to pay for itself. That is a fantasy,” Meyer said.

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Baltimore has the state’s highest property tax rate; homes are taxed at 2.248% of their assessed value. Revenue from these taxes made up $1.14 billion of city’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Renew Baltimore calls for the city’s rate to be nearly halved to 1.20% over the next seven years. Anne Arundel County’s rate is .98%, Baltimore County’s rate is 1.10% and Howard County’s is 1.014%.

Renew Baltimore activists say that the city’s tax rate drives away residents and businesses seeking better deals in surrounding counties. Vocal supporters of the proposal include former Mayor Jack Young and former City Council members Carl Stokes and Rikki Spector. Renew Baltimore has been gathering signatures for months, but elections officials could not confirm Tuesday that the measure will appear on Baltimore ballots this fall.

Donors contributed more than $238,000 to the ballot measure in 2023. Real estate and landlord industry groups were among the heftiest donors. Former mayoral candidate Mary Miller gave $10,000; real estate developer Jack Luetkemeyer Jr. gave $2,500.

“What good is a tax break on your mortgage that cuts off your job?” asked Kenya Campbell, the president of AFT-Maryland, the state teachers union.

Organizers include the Metropolitan Baltimore Council of AFL-CIO Unions, which represents more than 100 local unions; AFSCME, which represents city workers; Baltimore Firefighters IAFF Local 734; and AFT Maryland, a teachers union. Activist groups Jews United for Justice, the NAACP Baltimore chapter and Progressive Maryland are also lending support.

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Supporters of the Baltimore City Is Not For Sale coalition also took time to rail against a ballot measure that asks voters if the council should be reduced from 14 districts to eight.

Councilman Zeke Cohen recalled knocking on doors citywide as he campaigned for City Council president and asking what they needed from City Hall. “You know what I didn’t hear, even once? ‘I want less representation on the City Council,’” he said.

The measure is supported by People for Elected Accountability and Civic Engagement, or PEACE, a committee bankrolled largely by Sinclair executive chairman and Baltimore Sun owner David Smith, and is slated to appear on ballots this fall.

In 2022, the same group funded a successful charter amendment to cap City Hall elected officials to two four-year terms in office. For such a dramatic measure, the charter amendment received limited public pushback.

Officials and their aides were quick to disparage the term limit measure behind closed doors, but there was a lack of organized opposition until the month before the 2022 election, after enough signatures were collected to put the question on the ballot.

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This time, opposing forces of both Renew Baltimore and the council reduction measure are moving earlier.

Elected officials including council members Sharon Green Middleton, Odette Ramos, James Torrence and John Bullock attended. Mark Parker, who won the Democratic primary to represent Southeast Baltimore’s 1st District, was alongside them. Marvin James, Mayor Brandon Scott’s top aide, attended on behalf of the administration.

Anna Humoso, an organizer with Progressive Maryland, said the coalition will launch doorknocking, canvassing and social media campaigns “to reach everyone in our city.”

She said the groups are recruiting hundreds of shifts for the upcoming election in November to canvass voters “right outside of the voting booth and let them know to vote against this ballot question.”

Organizers have until July 29 to submit enough valid signatures to elections officials to place their initiatives on November ballots.