The following letter was sent by Roy Whiteley, president of Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation, to each member of the Harford County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, Harford County Council, and Harford County Executive’s Office. A copy was provided to The Dagger for publication:
Over the years you have supported our Marylanders For Fair Property Taxation efforts to help the property taxpayers of Maryland by your introduction and support of legislation to aid in protection of our rights and in developing fair and equitable property tax assessments as well as a better tax assessment appeals process. We are writing to see if you can shed some light on a personal property tax problem that we have that could also be affecting other property taxpayers. We think our civil rights may be being violated by SDAT’s actions but have not been able to get a definitive answer from our lawyers or members of their staff who at one time were Assistant Attorney Generals working for the Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT). Their answer to us so far is “I don’t know”. Our problem, which is exacerbated because of our political activism, has placed a very large target on our back. The result is that as we progress through the three step appeals process we are almost always given “special” treatment by having a high level official from the Baltimore office and/or the SDAT Assistant Attorney General attend our assessor (first level) or Tax Court (third level) hearings. The PTAAB Administrator usually comes in from Hagerstown to attend our second level Property Tax Assessment Board hearings (PTAAB) along with the SDAT AAG. Naturally, we get no relief, BUT, here is the more serious problem to which we seek an answer.
We had an assessor level hearing December 13, 2010 on our Eastern Shore property for tax year 2010 which has been exorbitantly high and appealed each year at the same basic level for the past several years. The value was affirmed by the assessment office. We appealed the decision and are now awaiting a hearing to be scheduled for the second or PTAAB level. In the meantime, new assessments were rendered January 1, 2011 for the next three year triennial assessment period. That new assessment value was minutely reduced by about a 2.8% reduction on a $608,000 valuation where the County average reduction exceeded 12%! To protect our appeal rights we filed an appeal for 2011. The Assessment Office immediately sent us a notice acknowledging our appeal request and stating that an assessor appeal hearing would be scheduled. We wrote back requesting a postponement stating that because the SDAT’s inability to process all appeals in a timely fashion an overlap of tax year appeals occurs. In the past these appeals have been allowed to run the normal course of the three step process before beginning any new cycle of appeals. For some reason, this year the assessment office has twice ignored our request to allow one appeals cycle to be completed in due process before beginning the procedures of a new process. They have now scheduled the second round of appeals staring with the assessor level before allowing us to complete the already filed and not yet scheduled PTAAB hearing or a most likely Tax Court hearing. This second round of appeals would be based on hearings of almost the same identical valuations but if properly sequenced could be based on values reduced by the yet to be heard PTA AB or Tax Court cases. IT APPEARS TO US THAT WE ARE NOT BEING ALLOWED DUE PROCESS TO COMPLETE STEP TWO AND THREE BEFORE EMBARKING ON A NEW ROUND OF APPEALS BEGINNING WITH STEP ONE.
1. IS OUR INTERPRETATION LOGICAL AND CORRECT?
2. IS WHAT THEY ARE DOING LEGAL? (This is where the “I don’t know” answer fits in.)
3. IS THERE A WAY TO STOP THIS INSANITY?
4.. DOES ANYONE KNOW OF ANYONE WHO MAY BE ABLE TO HELP US?
Your help and or referral would be most appreciated.
Thanks Roy Whiteley