From Roy Whiteley, Founder, Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation:
The 2012 General Assembly session is over. Another wasted 90 days where O’Malley, Busch, Miller and the Democratically controlled General Assembly passed the default “dooms day” budget giving Maryland’s taxpayers an additional $500 million of increased taxes. Once again, the Committees have failed to recognize the failed bureaucracy of the Department of Assessments and Taxation and denied aid to two million property taxpayers by defeating the four bills submitted on the taxpayers’ behalf by our Harford County delegation members. The bills were supported with excellent testimony backed up with volumes of articles from print media such the Baltimore Sunpapers and Gaithersburg Gazette, each of which often confirmed the quotes of the SDAT Director who freely admitted to many “assessment errors and discrepancies.” The General Assembly Committees chose to ignore millions of property tax dollars being wasted, misappropriated, and misapplied. Here is a quick summary of our issues we supported for ALL Maryland property taxpayers.
SB 86 Right to Record – Sponsor – Senator Barry Glassman
Last year this bill passed out of committee and then passed the Senate 46 to 0. This year the Budget and Taxation Committee killed it bowing to the SDAT Director’s lies that it has never prevented taxpayers from recording their hearings. Our testimony of having to take SDAT to court over being denied our right to record our Harford County hearing obviously fell on deaf ears. SDAT also promised to issue written orders to their staff clarifying this right “that has always been allowed”. We urge all who appeal their assessments to test the waters and record their hearings. It really is a good learning tool to prepare you for additional hearings.
Voting record — ALL 13 MEMBERS OF THE BUDGET AND TAXATION COMMITTEE VOTED FOR AN “UNFAVORABLE” RECOMMENDATION FOR THIS BILL. How can you possibly figure the thinking of these people particularly in light of last year’s action?
SB 215 = HB 789 Internet Access to Worksheets – Sponsors Barry Glassman; Delegate Susan McComas; Cosponsors Bates, Dwyer, Elliot, Howard, Kach, Krebs, B. Robinson, Stocksdale
In the Senate version, SDAT Director Young falsely testified that a 40-year old law prevented placement of these records on the Internet for privacy reasons yet he has sold those same records to SpecPrint (SpecPrint.com) a commercial firm that sells all 24 jurisdiction’s worksheet records via the Internet for $115 to $225 per jurisdiction. That really protects our privacy?? He also testified it would cost $200,000 to develop a searchable database. He testified in the House version that same task would cost $940,000?? His explanation was the added cost to digitize “cards” and “worksheets”. Larry Giammo, former Mayor of Rockville testified that per Young’s own letter to Giammo, cards and worksheets are the same documents and also that the searchable base already exists for how else does SDAT staff locate any of the over 2 million properties in their database. Larry, who operates a taxpayer assessment appeal service (Propertytaxpros.com) uses the SDAT data from SpecPrint and has developed a specialized search engine meeting his specific needs in less than two months time and at a cost well below $100,000.
Young also testified that less than 3000 requests per year are made by taxpayers for copies of worksheets. We suggest that all of Maryland’s 2 million property taxpayers request copies of their worksheets just to check the correctness of the data thereon. Several sources indicate that the error rate exceeds 33%. Your worksheet is FREE. Request it and check it carefully. It could save you money. Also be sure to check if you are entitled to and are receiving your “Homestead Tax Credit” That’s big bucks?? Check http://sdatcert3.resiusa.org/rp_rewrite/
Voting Record of Budget & Taxation Committee—Unfavorable — Supported Bill – Colburn & Edwards; Opposed bill – DeGrange, Robey, Peters, King, Manno, Madaleno, Brinkley, Jone-Rodwell, Currie, McFadden, Kasemeyer. Chairman Hixson allowed no vote to be taken by the Ways and Means Committee.
The Caroline County Commissioners provided written opposition to the bill while the Harford County Council and County Executive provided written support.
HB 880 Property Tax Credit for Individuals at least 60 Years Old – Sponsor – Delegate Glen Glass; Cosponsors Bates, Botler, Frosh, Hough, Love, McComas, McDonough, Myers, Stocksdale
Delegate Glass introduced this bill as an amendment to existing legislation reducing the enabling age to 60 years in lieu of the existing 65 years. The bill, even if passed, only enabled local government to use it if it so desired. With today’s economic conditions it is highly unlikely that any local government would have allowed the reduction to be used. Chairman Hixson once again played God, judge, and jury by not even allowing a vote in Committee where it died.
HB 881 Task Force to Review Property Assessment and Appeals System – Sponsor –Delegate Glen Glass; Cosponsors Impallaria, McComas, McDonough, Mitchell, Otto, Ready, Szelgia, Vitale
Delegate Glass introduced this bill this year in hopes that a fresh approach might bear fruit. As usual the SDAT lobbyist worked the halls of the House securing enough votes to assure blockage of the bill. They therefore did not even offer verbal testimony in opposition to the bill. The fact that the media and our supporters testified to numerous examples of waste, errors, and millions of dollars of lost assessable base; the Committee ignored all facts. Chairman Hixson once again played God, judge, and jury by not even allowing a vote in Committee where it died. Harford County Executive David Craig and the Harford County Council via President Billy Boniface submitted written and verbal supportive testimony.
Unfortunately, we got what we deserved — NOTHING?? We say that because we property taxpayers obviously do not care enough about any of these issues since most have done little or nothing to support them. We witnessed a delegate introduce her bill on watershed protection and proudly announce she had 700 e-mails in support of her proposed legislation. Conversely, when we check the packages the committee members are given for documentation and review we find that other than testimony from the few of us that show up to testify we see only one or two supportive emails and letters.
It is hard for us to fathom that the majority of property taxpayers are so well off, or so satisfied to be fleeced by an agency that openly admits it has problems allowing millions of dollars in homestead credits to be falsely obtained, to have millions of dollars in reduced assessments granted to high rollers, to have millions of dollars of erroronous assessments to exist because their staff is ill equipped to perform the work the law mandates they are to do to make assessments uniform, fair, and equal to fair market value or to correct assessments that an independent firm randomly evaluated and found over one third of them to be over or under assessed by 20 to 50 percent.?? More likely we are just too apathetic to care or to take the time to contact those who supposedly represent us. You realize we do not send legislators to Annapolis and ask them to do our bidding without letting them know how we want them to act. It is called INTERACTION and we need to do more of it??
Whether you agree or disagree with any of the positions or actions defined herein we urge you to express those views in November when you VOTE.
REMEMBER THOSE WHO HELPED AND THOSE WHO IGNORED THE PROPERTY TAXPAYER. IT IS OUR DUTY TO DO SO. LET’S ALL DO IT!!!!
Remember Nothing Happens Unless We Make it Happen??
Roy Whiteley, Founder