The following letter and testimony are from H. LeRoy Whiteley, Jr., president of Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation, and were sent to the members of Harford County’s delegation to the Maryland General Assembly and the Harford County Council. A copy was provided to The Dagger for publication:
On March 11, 2011, we attended the Budget and Taxation committee hearing for SB 498 Task Force Bill for Review of Property Tax Assessment Procedures and the Assessment Appeals Process introduced by Senator Barry Glassman. We wish we could have mustered one-tenth the number of either the proponents or opponents of the gay rights’ bill heard that day. Unfortunately, only five of our supporters attended. Only a like amount of taxpayers submitted written testimony. The poor showing probably will not bode well for our chance of success in seeing a bill passed. The taxpayers are just too apathetic??
Tony Passoro of the Bel Air Tea Party Patriots led off our testimony following introductory remarks by Senator Glassman. After his cheery “I’m Back?!!” opening line, Tony in his admirable style laid out facts about the unfair assessments and cumbersome appeals process. He suggested that if the committee would prefer not seeing him again next year, passage of the bill was the answer to accomplishing that. We presented our attached testimony followed by Bernadette Zgorski’s heart rendering effect of high assessments\taxes on her life after she and her husband have suffered two years of unemployment. Retired schoolteacher, Betty Lebrun, eloquently summarized the points made by the previous speakers imploring the committee to pass the bill onto the floor for further action. Bob Geisler, who travelled from Dorchester County, was unable to verbally present his previously submitted written testimony due to a sign in mix-up. More speakers and warm bodies in the seats would have helped our cause. If you are interested in seeing fair and equitable property assessments and taxation, you must help support our efforts.
IT STILL ISN’T TOO LATE TO MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD? Contact the members of the Budget and Taxation Committee —- e-mail addresses are all in this format followed by @senate.state.md.us
Fill their mail boxes and let them know we want this bill passed from committee to the floor where it can be acted upon by ALL the legislators we elect— NOT JUST A SELECT FEW COMMITTEE MEMBERS!!!! ALSO, contact your respective senators and tell them to sign on to cosponsor and support this legislation.
Remember, Nothing Happens Unless We Make It Happen!!!!!
Please send to your friends!!!!
Support Testimony SB 498 Property Review Task Force March 11, 2011
I am Roy Whiteley, representing Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation in support of Senate Bill 498. This bill is about the creation of a task force to review the property tax assessment system and its cumbersome three-step appeals process, which most taxpayers do not understand and thus avoid.
I’m 84. I served my country during World War 2 and Korea so that folks like you could be elected and put our democracy to work for all us. Creating a task force to study an archaic system that resulted in excess of 20,000 second level taxpayer appeals this year alone. The passage of this bill is long overdue. We respectfully ask that instead of exercising your ability to play both judge and jury you instead look at this and all bills saying in general, does it have merit, can it benefit the taxpayer and the State, is it constitutionally correct, is it legal? If it passes this muster, then let it go to the floor with a favorable recommendation to be voted on by ALL of those we have elected.
For seven years, we have been coming before you to argue these conditions of a property evaluation system that is totally unfair, inequitable, highly subjective, and non-uniform. We don’t know if the matter has ever been voted on. It is time to stand up for the taxpayers and let some daylight in on the system.
We have offered one methodology for consideration to create a fair assessment system to all willing to listen. It would be an automated system based on actual sales made at fair market value and kept current via a computerized sales index. Today, the State derives most of its assessment data using construction cost data. Yet every appeal by law must be argued based on sales data, so why not base the whole system on actual market sales data? Doing so will eliminate questioning the assessed value, for who can argue against the sale price paid under fair market conditions? Initial evaluations project a savings to the State of about $20 million per year while actually increasing the overall assessment base. Our County Treasurer estimates about $80 million would be added to our tax base. Such added assessable base statewide would 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 sure other beneficial changes could be found. Put this task force in place with informed citizens who are experiencing the problems first hand and let us show you solutions. All we ask for is that an inexpensive study by volunteers selected by the delegations from the State’s 24 jurisdictions be allowed to look at this property assessment and appeals system to see if there might not be a better way to achieve fair and equal assessment values. There is nothing to fear. It is a win-win situation – with nothing to lose other than a little time to look at an overwhelming system that is abhorred by taxpayers.
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.
In today’s economy, property assessments and taxes have become a paramount concern and problem. Give us the chance to study them to see if a fair methodology can be derived. Pass Senate Bill 498. Thank you.
Roy Whiteley, Founder