The property tax assessment process in Maryland is broken, and a task force will find ways to fix it. That’s the thinking behind proposed legislation getting a push from elected officials and tax-payer advocates in Harford County.
With Senator Barry Glassman and Delegate H. Wayne Norman as lead sponsors in the State Senate and House of Delegates respectively, identical bills entitled: “Task Force to Review Property Tax Assessment Procedure and the Assessment Appeals Process.” were recently cross-filed in the Maryland General Assembly.
The co-sponsors of the House bill, HB 204, include every member of the Harford Delegation.
Here’s how Delegate Norman explained the purpose of the task force bill in a letter to his colleagues:
“Under HB 204, the task force would be comprised of Maryland residents with substantive and professional experience in property evaluations. The task force members also would represent all parts of Maryland and have firsthand knowledge about the State’s 24 local jurisdictions.
The ultimate goal of the task force would be to recommend an assessment system that (a) is more uniform, equitable and transparent, and (b) provides Maryland property owners with greater confidence in the State’s ability to conduct property assessments fairly, accurately and consistently.”
The bill calls for recommendations to be made to the Governor no later than January 1, 2011.
A hearing for HB 204 is planned for Thursday, February 4 at 1 p.m. before the House Ways and Means Committee. Harford County Council President Billy Boniface told The Dagger that he plans to attend the hearing in support.
Harford County Executive David Craig will send a letter of support for the house bill and plans to attend the senate hearing when scheduled, according to his Chief of Staff Aaron Tomarchio.
Harford County resident Roy Whiteley owns property in three Maryland counties and regularly challenges his property tax assessments. As the president and founder of Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation, Whiteley plans to support HB 204 with testimony saying that the assessment process can be fixed:
“WE HAVE IDENTIFIED SIMPLE CHANGES IN THE ASSESSMENT PROCESS THAT CAN EASILY SAVE $15 MILLION PER YEAR. WE CAN SHOW CHANGE THAT COULD ACTUALLY INCREASE THE OVERALL ASSESSMENT BASE, ALLOW TAX RATE REDUCTIONS, AND STILL NET THE STATE AND COUNTIES AMPLE REVENUE TO MEET CONSTANT YIELDS AND SUPPORT THE NEEDS OF OUR SOCIETY.”
Bel Air Tea Party organizer Tony Passaro and Dave Schwartz from Americans for Prosperity are organizing a bus trip to the hearing. So far, Passaro says they have 20 people planning to attend, but there’s room on the bus for more. Passaro wrote in a e-mail:
“On February 4, at 13:00 hours we will be testifying on behalf of the Property Tax Reform Task Force….Join Billy Boniface, David Craig, Pat McGrady, Dave Schwartz, Dave Prodgeon, Joan Ryder, Tony Passaro, Roy Whiteley and a multitude of Patriots speaking out on behalf of HB 204. This essential legislation will ultimately benefit all Maryland Tax Payers.
Busses will leave the Green Turtle Parking lot at 11:00 AM, lunch and beverage will be provided, and return by 4:00 PM. Fare, $25.00 per person.
Call Sylvia DeLong 410-382-4774 for your reservation.”
Similar task-force legislation died last year, but Del. Norman says he hopes this time will be different, citing the changing political climate and the emergence of the Tea Parties. Norman told The Dagger, “We put it in because it was a real problem then, and it is a bigger problem now and tax payers need and deserve a break, even if it is just in dealing with the system by way of a task force. “
Here is the full text of Whiteley’s planned testimony:
“I AM ROY WHITELEY, REPRESENTING MARYLANDERS FOR FAIR PROPERTY TAXATION IN STRONG SUPPORT OF HOUSE BILL 204. FOR SEVERAL YEARS, VERSIONS OF THIS BILL HAVE
COME BEFORE YOU ONLY TO BE SHOVED IN A DRAWER NEVER TO SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY OR DEBATE. IT IS TIME TO CHANGE THAT STONEWALLING ACTION. THIS BILL NEEDS TO BE ACTED
UPON BY ALL OF THE REPRESENTATIVES WE ELECT. MANY OF YOUR AND THEIR CONSTITUENTS ARE HERE TODAY TO REINFORCE THAT POSITION.
THE CREATION OF THIS TASK FORCE TO REVIEW THE PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT PROCEDURE AND THE CUMBERSOME THREE-STEP APPEALS PROCESS, WHICH MOST TAXPAYERS DO NOT UNDERSTAND, IS LONG OVERDUE. TAXPAYERS ARE BEING IGNORED BY INCOMPETENT
STAFF THAT ADMINISTER THE FLAWED, OUTDATED ASSESSMENT AND ASSESSMENT APPEALS SYSTEM THAT TIES DOWN ASSESSMENTS IN THREE-YEAR INCREMENTS, HAS DIFFERENT HOUSE
RULES IN EACH OFFICE SUCH AS PLACING SHORT HEARING TIME LIMITS AND PROHIBITING THE RECORDING OF THE HEARING. THUS, MANY TAXPAYERS ARE BEING TREATED RUDELY,UNPROFESSIONALLY, UNFAIRLY, UNEQUALLY, AND WITH TOTAL DISREGARD FOR ACTUAL
MARKET CONDITIONS WHICH GOVERN THE VALUE OF OUR PROPERTY. WE HAVE BEEN IN ADECLINING REAL ESTATE MARKET SINCE 2006, WITH SKYROCKETING FORECLOSURES, BUT ITWASN’T UNTIL JANUARY, 2010 THAT THE DEPARTMENT RECOGNIZED THOSE CONDITIONS AND
FINALLY MADE SOME REDUCTIONS IN ASSESSMENTS TO ABOUT ONE-THIRD OF THE STATE’S 2.1 MILLION PROPERTY TAXPAYERS. WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US? DID WE NOT SUFFER THE SAME DECLINING CONDITIONS? WE ARE STILL BEING UNFAIRLY ASSESSED AT VALUES 40 TO 50 % MORE THAN THE ACTUAL VALUE OF OUR PROPERTY.
IN PAST TESTIMONY, THE DEPARTMENT OF ASSESSMENTS HAS TOLD YOU OF THE WONDERFUL JOB THEY ARE DOING. IF THAT WERE TRUE, WHY DID ASSESSMENT APPEALS FROM JUST THE SECOND LEVEL APPEALS PROCESS INCREASE LAST YEAR FROM ABOUT 900 TO OVER 16,000? THEY TELL YOU THERE IS NO NEED FOR THIS TASK FORCE, HOW ITS SIZE IS TOO
LARGE, WHICH INCIDENTALLY WILL BE THE SAME SIZE AS THIS COMMITTEE, AND IS THE SAME SIZE AS OUR COUNTY EXECUTIVE’S FINANCIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE, ON WHICH WE SERVE.
NO AUDIT OF THEIR DEPARTMENT HAS BEEN MADE AVAILABLE SINCE 2007 SO THEY AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA OF WHAT OR HOW THEY ARE PERFORMING. WE TAXPAYERS DO!
THE ASSESSMENT SYSTEM IS FLAWED; BROKEN. IT CAN BE FIXED. CHANGES CAN BE MADE THAT WILL BE BENEFICIAL TO BOTH THE STATE AND THE TAXPAYER. WE HAVE IDENTIFIED SIMPLE CHANGES IN THE ASSESSMENT PROCESS THAT CAN EASILY SAVE $15
MILLION PER YEAR. WE CAN SHOW CHANGE THAT COULD ACTUALLY INCREASE THE OVERALL ASSESSMENT BASE, 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 CERTAIN MANY MORE BENEFICIAL CHANGES CAN BE FOUND. PUT THIS TASK FORCE IN
PLACE WITH INFORMED CITIZENS WHO ARE EXPERIENCING THE PROBLEM FIRST HAND AND LET US SHOW YOU SOLUTIONS. WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, THE LEGISLATURE AND THE DEPARTMENT HAS FAILED US TAXPAYERS BECAUSE THERE IS NO ACCOUNTABILITY FROM THE DEPARTMENT.
THE STATE CONTINUES TO SPEND MONEY WE TAXPAYERS DON’T HAVE AND CANNOT AFFORD. 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.
WE WANT HOUSE BILL 204 OUT OF COMMITTEE AND BEFORE THE FULL BODY OF LEGISLATORS WE ELECT STATEWIDE. WE ARE CERTAIN THEY WILL DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR THE STATE AND ITS TAXPAYERS BY PASSING THIS LEGISLATION. WE URGE YOUR APPROVAL RECOMMENDATION AND PASSAGE OF HOUSE BILL 204. WE TAXPAYERS NEED IT AND DESERVE