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March 23, 2010; Baltimore Sun | The 230-page report of incoming Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake doesn’t simply take aim at city agencies, as the headline “Report Swipes at City Agencies” from the Baltimore Sun would lead one to believe.

Amid dozens of recommendations to help the nonprofit sector form better-working partnerships with the city is a very clear statement on page 67: “Roughly 33% of real property located in Baltimore City is noncontributing to the property tax. A formula should be developed whereby all nonreligious based 501(c)(3) entities within Baltimore City contribute a share equitable to services rendered by the City on their behalf. Also, individual religious based 501(c)(3) entities should be reexamined for validity and eligibility.”

There are many promising recommendations for nonprofits in the transition report, including the improvements in the system for delivering resources to children and youth and fixing dysfunctional elements in the Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs (such as late pay reimbursements in CDBG and unclear guidelines causing nonprofits not to participate in HOME) for nonprofit developers, with a new focus on community building rather than just housing production.

But Baltimore is cash-strapped, like many big cities. That open-ended recommendation to grab tax revenues from tax exempt property owners, likely to be a priority of the Department of Finance compared to the likely reluctance of the Department of Housing and Community Development and other housing agencies called on to change their business models, is nothing short of ominous news for the nonprofit sector of the Charm City.—Rick Cohen