The following letter was sent by H. LeRoy Whiteley, Jr., president of Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation, to Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, members of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committe, and the Harford County delegation. A copy was provided to The Dagger for publication:
Dear Chairman Kasemeyer and Members of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee
On Friday March 11, 2011 we had the privilege of addressing the Budget and Taxation Committee for the seventh year supporting a bill that has been introduced to your committee by our Senator Barry Glassman and members of the Harford County Delegation. This year, as SB 498, it is again introduced to create a Task Force to review the property tax assessment procedure and the assessment appeals procedures. It is past time for this bill to receive a favorable recommendation and be released to the floor for action by ALL of our legislators.
We are all aware of the fact that since 2006 the real estate market has plunged, driving property values to 40 to 50% below market value. The Department of Assessments and Taxation has failed to recognize these market conditions until last year. At that time, an 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, by law, 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.
The assessment system is flawed. It is too subjective, unfair, inequitable and non-uniform. We know it can be fixed. We know that when this task force is formed, the citizens involved can produce ideas to reshape the assessment system and the cumbersome three-step appeals process that most taxpayers do not understand and therefore avoid.
We have identified one method of providing a fair, equal, uniform system of setting assessment values with less subjectivity than the present system. It would be automated and could save no less than $15 million per year in salaries alone. Additional savings from less appeals and use of personnel, hearings, and Tax Court would substantially increase those savings, estimated to increase the savings to $20 million. We can also show that total assessments will increase and that tax rates would be able to be decreased while still netting the state and the counties sufficient revenues to meet society needs.
We strongly urge you and your committee to act favorably on this measure. SEND THIS BILL TO THE FULL SENATE FOR ACTION!!! Give this bill, which has little or no fiscal cost to implement, and the Task Force, its 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!!!!
Thank you. Roy Whiteley