The following letter was sent by Roy Whiteley, president of Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation, to Maryland state senators. A copy was provided to The Dagger:
For the past several years, a bill has been introduced to the Budget and Taxation committee by Senator Barry Glassman and the Harford County Delegation only to be shoved in a drawer never to see the light of day or debate. It is time to change that stonewalling action. This bill needs to be acted upon by all of the Senators we elect. Many of your constituents strongly support that position. This year, as SB 458, the bill is again introduced to create a Task Force to review the property tax assessment and assessment appeals procedures. WE NEED YOUR HELP AND SUPPORT TO MAKE THIS BILL RECEIVE A FAVORABLE COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION AND BE RELEASED TO THE FLOOR FOR ACTION BY ALL OF OUR LEGISLATORS. WE URGE YOU TO SUPPORT THIS MEASURE. PLEASE JOIN IN BY COSPONSORING THIS VITAL PIECE OF LEGISLATION AND WRITE TO THE COMMITTEE SUPPORTING THIS BILL.
The creation of this task force to review the property tax assessment procedure and the cumbersome three-step appeals process, which most taxpayers do not understand and therefore avoid, is long overdue. Taxpayers are being ignored by incompetent staff that administers the flawed, outdated assessment and assessment appeals system that ties down assessments in three-year increments, has different house rules in each office such as placing short hearing time limits and prohibiting the recording of the hearing. Thus, many taxpayers are being treated rudely, unprofessionally, unfairly, unequally, and with total disregard for actual market conditions which govern the value of our property. We are all aware of the fact that since 2006 the real estate market has plunged, driving property values 40 to 50% below market value. The Department of Assessments and Taxation has failed to recognize these market conditions until this January. At that time, a statewide average 19.7% reduction in assessments was granted to about one third of Maryland property taxpayers. What about the remaining two thirds of us? Did we not suffer the same drastic decline? The Director of the Department of Assessments and Taxation is supposed to assess all property UNIFORMLY and EQUITABLY. It is within his power and duties to call for reassessments on any and all properties when such disparities exist. Instead, he has decided to wait for the normal triennial assessment cycles to take place to make any further adjustments. The sad fact is that if our economy should turn around, as we all hope it will, the remaining 1.4 million taxpayers will never see our assessments adjusted to proper levels.
In past testimony, the Department of Assessments has told of the wonderful job they are doing. If that were true, why did assessment appeals from just the second level appeals process increase last year from about 900 to over 16,000? They tell you there is no need for this task force, how its size is too large, which incidentally is the same size as our County Executive’s financial advisory committee, on which we successfully serve. No audit of the Department has been made available since 2007 so they and you have no idea of what or how they are performing. We taxpayers do!
The assessment system is flawed; broken. It can be fixed. Changes can be made that will be beneficial to both the state and the taxpayer. We have identified simple changes in the assessment process that can easily save $15 million per year. We can show change that could actually increase the overall assessment base, allow tax rate reductions, and still net the state and counties ample revenue to meet constant yields and support the needs of our society. We are certain many more beneficial changes can be found. Put this task force in place with informed citizens who are experiencing the problem first hand and let us show you solutions. With all due respect, the Legislature and the Department has failed us taxpayers because there is no accountability from the Department.
The State continues to spend money we taxpayers don’t have and cannot afford. We are literally being assessed and taxed out of our homes, farms, and businesses. Changes must be made to make assessments and associated taxes fair and equitable while reflecting current market conditions.
We want Senate Bill 458, which has little or no fiscal impact, out of committee and before the full body of Senators we elect statewide. We are certain you will do what is right for the state and its taxpayers by passing this legislation, thus giving the task force a just chance to study the matter and arrive at cost savings reforms that could be beneficial to both the state and its taxpayers.
You have nothing to lose; IT’S A WIN-WIN SITUATION!!!! We taxpayers need it and deserve it.
Roy Whiteley, Founder & President