From H. LeRoy Whiteley, Jr., Founder of Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation:
Hope you enjoyed a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and will find 2014 to be a Happy and Prosperous New year!! The General Assembly will soon be back in session, hopefully, doing what they are supposed to do – working for the good of all Marylanders, especially the property taxpayers.
Once again, it’s time for us to get to work to try to stem the tide of the O’Malley/Busch/Miller Committee Chair dictatorship that denies us true democracy. We need your help and support in putting forth an agenda that can benefit ALL of Maryland’s over 2 million property taxpayers by allowing bills to receive full action by ALL of the legislators we elect; not just a few select committee members directed by O’Malley/Busch/Miller.
In the past, we property taxpayers have not shown the interest and support required to convince the legislators that we really need corrective action to be taken to bring property assessment values and associated taxes into sync with actual market conditions. We need help by filling the seats at bill hearings and filling mailboxes to show your support for legislation introduced for the benefit of Maryland’s 2 million overtaxed property owners. If you are interested in participating in any manner, please give us a call or e-mail. Your help can benefit us all.
We are pleased to learn that our stalwart supporter, Senator Barry Glassman, will again lead the legislation efforts. This may be the Senator’s last session as he is running for the office of Harford County Executive. We support this endeavor and wish him well. The Senator has promised to introduce two bills for us this year. They will be cross-filed and supported by Delegate Susan McComas. This is a winning combination that should produce some positive results.
Senator Glassman will introduce the task force study bill. This bill is designed to study the failing, flawed operation of the property tax assessment and appeals system to recommend improvements to this archaic, inequitable, non-uniform, unfair system. The Montgomery County Sentinel reported on December 31, 2013, that a state audit finds that the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) did not follow procedures administering the State’s real property tax laws. Numerous findings including quality assurance process needs to be improved, exterior inspections are not being performed, assessment data is at risk of unauthorized modification and security and control features are sadly lacking. The same article indicates an example of 16,948 accounts out of 60,199 reviewed received questionable valuation changes that could not be explained, rationalized, or documented. Robert Young, SDAT Director, concurred with all of the findings. We have reported these facts for years but Mr. Young repeatedly denied them when opposing us. The audit reinforces the C+ rating given Maryland by the Washington based Council On State Taxation for its Fair Tax Appeal Procedures. We definitely need to address the fact that our assessments are mainly based on questionable construction figures that we taxpayers can only challenge with sales data. Shouldn’t we at least consider a totally sales based system? This is but one plausible option opportunity a proper study could look into.
The Senator will also introduce a bill to allow property assessment worksheets to be accessed via the Internet just as the Real Property Search data sheets are. Anyone who has ever appealed an assessment knows of the necessity of obtaining comparable property assessment worksheets to fully analyze your property versus the State’s so called comparables or your own selected comparables. This bill, if passed, would save all appellants and the State considerable time and money. The State will argue otherwise as they have in the past. Their most ludicrous argument is that putting these worksheets online would violate the privacy of individual taxpayers. The Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) Director Robert Young says this with a straight face while selling all 2 million of our records to a private firm who in turn offers them for sale to anyone with $115 to $225 per county/city.
A drastically amended form of this worksheet Internet accessible bill passed both houses last year without one dissenting vote. Unfortunately, the amendments accomplished exactly what SDAT wanted. It prevented the worksheets from being accessed via the Internet and it rendered the bill worthless. Unreasonable taxpayer requirements remained unchanged. SDAT then laughed all the way back to the office with their domain remaining status quo as they pulled the wool over the eyes of the entire legislature.
Somehow, we must convince the legislature to listen to us and accept the facts admitted to in public forums that the Department is understaffed; down from 230 to 158 assessors but has no ads for employment help that we could find, is unable to keep up with physical property inspections and changes; is unable to keep sales data up to date and openly admits many assessments are therefore in error — as many as 33% and wrong by 20% or more. These statements are quotes from the SDAT Director by various media sources and yet the same Director UNBELIEVABLY testifies, “We are doing a good job?” The Council that rates all States using property assessment /taxation methods rightly rates Maryland with a C for some of its efforts.
Bill details are not yet available. You can access the bills and schedules, when ready, for hearings at www.mgaleg.maryland.gov. As soon as information is available, we will send out notices and post the information on our web site. Please check us out. Notice is often short.
Please pass on to others asking them to help and support these property taxpayer efforts ?
H. LeRoy Whiteley, Jr. Founder