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Tax assessments rise slightly

January 06, 1998

Tax assessments rise slightly

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

Property tax assessments for one-third of Washington County property owners will rise an average of 1.7 percent effective July 1, increasing taxes for the average homeowner by about $15 this year.

The county's increase is higher than the state average increase of 1.1 percent and is the 10th highest in the state.

One-third of county properties are reassessed each year. If the assessment goes up, the increase in taxes is phased in over three years.

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Taxes on the properties reassessed this year will increase by an average of 5 percent over three years, or 1.7 percent a year, according to Ronald W. Wineholt, director of the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

That 1.7 percent increase in tax revenue from reassessments doesn't include new construction.

After three years, the increase in the annual tax bill for someone owning a $100,000 home would amount to about $45.

The state has estimated that the total county real estate tax base will increase by 3.7 percent, moving from $2.55 billion to $2.65 billion. That figure includes new construction and increases in reassessments.

Washington and Garrett counties are in a tie for the second fastest tax base growth rate in the state. Only Carroll County, at 3.8 percent growth, ranks higher.

Frederick County's assessments rose .7 percent, and its tax base rose an estimated 1.3 percent, to $4.58 billion.

The actual amount that homeowners will have to pay will be set by the Washington County Commissioners. The commissioners could increase the tax rate, hold it steady which would bring in more taxes, or reduce it to a "constant yield" tax rate, which would keep revenues the same.

The constant yield rates won't be released until February, Wineholt said.

Last year, the Washington County Commissioners raised the property tax rate from $2.21 to $2.31 per $100 in assessed property value, raising an additional $2.5 million.

The eastern portion of the county was reassessed this year, the western portion last year and the northern and central portions will be reassessed next year, according to the state.

Ray Johns, an economics professor at Hagerstown Junior College, said a steadily growing tax base is preferable to a rate that leaps up one year and falls back the next.

"It's a good thing in terms of the stability of the property values in the area," he said.

Paul Wolber, a Hagerstown resident, said he didn't see any justification for levying property taxes higher than the constant yield rate. Wolber said real estate values haven't increased in the county in several years.

"If the assessments go up, the rates should come down by the same amount," he said.



 

Tax assessments have risen in the single digits in Washington County since 1994.

Assessment increases (phased in over three years):

1991 - 33 percent

1992 - 23 percent

1993 - 17 percent

1994 - 9 percent

1995 - 3 percent

1996 - 5 percent

1997 - 7 percent

1998 - 5 percent

Source: Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation

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